IBM Inventor Chieko Asakawa Named Inventor of the Year at IPO Education Foundation 2019 Awards Dinner

“We must change the dialogue surrounding IP and create a new narrative that defines IP by the brilliance of inventors, the excitement of innovation, and the excitement it brings to society.” – Andrie Iancu

Chieko Asakawa

Chieko Asakawa, 2019 IPOEF Inventor of the Year.

Last night at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, the old home of the original Patent and Trademark Office, the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation (IPOEF) held its annual Awards Dinner. The IPOEF Awards Dinner is one of the great industry events; an unapologetic celebration of innovation. Each year, this Awards Dinner recognizes the Inventor of the Year, as well as recognizing an IP Champion, Executive of the Year and youth winners of the IP Video Contest.

Manny Schecter, Chief Patent Counsel for IBM and president of the IPOEF, began the awards program segment of the evening by saying what is undeniably true: this evening gives us the opportunity to put aside our differences and disagreements and “remember why it is that we do what we do and celebrate innovation.”

Inventor of the Year: Chieko Asakawa

Chieko Asakawa was named IPOEF Inventor of the Year, an award that recognizes the world’s most outstanding recent inventors and how they benefit the nation’s economy and quality of life.

You may already know Chieko Asakawa without realizing it, or at least you may have become acquainted with her story. Asakawa is an IBM researcher featured in recent television commercials that briefly explains her work, which relates to improving the lives of those with visual impairment.

After losing her sight at the age of 14, Asakawa spent her life improving the lives of others like her. Thanks to advances in technology and the improvement of visual user interface and multimedia content, Asakawa has developed an artificial intelligence powered guide that uses IBM Watson to help those who are visually impaired navigate the world, which is already working in cities like Tokyo, Japan and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

In 1997, Asakawa also invented the Home Page Reader to enable a voice control system to navigate the Internet. With the assistance of her team, she has also developed many other pioneering technologies such as the aDesigner, which allows web designers to anticipate design flaws and make their systems more user friendly. Asakawa has been instrumental in stimulating innovation and furthering research in accessibility software.

Asakawa has numerous U.S. patents, including patents for methods, devices and computer programs for mapping moving direction by sounds (see U.S. Patent No. 8,589,067), a content creation, graphical user interface system (see U.S. Patent No. 7,877,260), and a system simplifying web contents, and method thereof (see U.S. Patent No. 7,058,695).

“The unique needs of people with disabilities spur innovation,” said Asakawa during her brief but inspiring remarks at last night’s awards dinner. “Please listen to the needs of those who are diverse.”

IP Champion: Andrei Iancu

USPTO Director Andrei Iancu

USPTO Director Andrei Iancu

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Andrei Iancu received the IPOEF IP Champion Award, an award given to an individual who has demonstrated extraordinary leadership advocating for the value of intellectual property.

Iancu has led the USPTO since February 8, 2018. During that short time, he has vigorously advocated in every fora for strong, reliable U.S. patent rights, explaining how and why they are necessary in order to boost the U.S. economy and provide incentives to invent and invest.  Over the past year in particular, Iancu has been the only one leading the charge to do anything relating to patent eligibility reform at a time when the Supreme Court, Federal Circuit and Congress all seem unwilling to do anything other than steer the U.S. innovation economy straight for a not so proverbial cliff. Indeed, while some may wish he would do more on certain issues, at times it feels as if Director Iancu is the only government official who truly gets what is at stake.

In the video montage introducing Director Iancu, former Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Paul Michel cited Iancu’s “boundless courage to push back against the courts” as being unique compared with his predecessors.

In his remarks at the awards dinner, Iancu said that “we must change the dialogue surrounding IP and create a new narrative that defines IP by the brilliance of inventors, the excitement of innovation, and the excitement it brings to society.” While there’s little debate that innovation and invention are good for humanity, Iancu said it is less well-accepted that intellectual property is a necessary part of the equation. “It’s this gap we need to constantly work to close, to explain, and to educate that innovation without IP is actually not feasible. This is what the IPOEF does so well. We must all be engaged, we must all advocate and persist.”

Iancu separately reiterated to IPWatchdog Founder and CEO Gene Quinn prior to the ceremony what an honor the IP Champion award is for him and said that the IP community needs organizations like IPOEF to “continue to educate the public about the importance of IP to spur  innovation.”

Executive of the Year: Charles Dadswell

Charles Dadswell was named IPOEF Executive of the Year, an award given to an individual for their commitment to the creation, promotion and protection of intellectual property.

Dadswell is currently Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Illumina, Inc. Illumina has become a global leader in genomics, positively impacting the industry by making advancements in genetic solutions more accessible. Illumina owns or has exclusive licenses to more than 250 patents granted in the U.S., and many more patents around the world. In addition to Dadswell’s role leading legal and IP matters at Illumina, he is also Illumina’s Chief Compliance Officer, President of the Illumina Corporate Foundation, and serves as a member of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors for Biocom.

During his remarks Dadswell spoke of the uncertainty surrounding patent eligibility, citing the rare occurrence of agreement at the Federal Circuit. Although there is little agreement at the Federal Circuit relative to patent eligibility as a substantive matter, Dadswell said the Athena case demonstrates that they all agree either the Supreme Court or Congress must step in and provide answers.

IP Video Contest

The IPOEF holds a video contest each year to encourage young adults to consider the value of the U.S. patent system by submitting original videos that illustrate how intellectual property impacts upon their passions.

This year, IPOEF did things a little differently. Two winners (Daniel Cha of Marlton, NJ, and Darren Penuliar of Paramount, CA) each won a $5,000 cash prize. Adam Koch of Grimes, IA, also won $5,000 to donate to a charity of his choice, and his cash prize will go to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. Brad Kendrick received the most likes on Facebook and received a $1,500 cash prize. You can view the winners’ videos at 2019 IP Video Contest Winners.


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Join the Discussion

12 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for mike]
    December 15, 2019 09:33 pm

    Angry dude:

    Yes. I’m currently taking Chinese with my son. I do it not for me, but for him.

    Unless Congress takes action, the (Chinese) writing is on the wall.

  • [Avatar for Concerned]
    December 15, 2019 07:23 pm

    I tried to cut and paste the phrase “To the morgue” in Chinese characters on a different thread just to give Angry Dude a laugh.

    This website did not recognize the characters and just posted three question marks.

  • [Avatar for angry dude]
    angry dude
    December 15, 2019 04:46 pm

    mike @8

    “Learn. Chinese”

    Dude, have you ever tried to say or write just one Chinese word ?

    Chinese is one of the hardest languages to learn for a non-native speaker – much harder than Russian or German
    It’s a tonal language and their writing is just mind boggling – forget about Russian Cyrillic alphabet – its orders of magnitude harder than that

    But I’d like to see not the Wash DC corrupt critters but their grand(grand)children taking mandatory Chinese lessons from their Chinese school master who would periodically discipline them with a whip if they mispronounce or misspell (if the notion of “spelling” is even applicable to those Chinese characters)

  • [Avatar for Concerned]
    December 15, 2019 07:20 am


    I am not sure how this patent mess will end. I am confident that it will not continue forever, just like the sub prime finally ended when financial collapse was imminent.

    A person did not need to be an expert to realize people without financial means really did not qualify for a 360 month note. That their qualification for a loan was to serve as a straw man so the originator could earn fees while sticking the bad paper in the secondary market.

    A person does not need to be an expert to realize money, time and original thought will not be put at risk forever in this patent environment. I paid good money to the USPTO just to feel like I have been slighted and double dealt. My wife was at a community event a couple months ago and a person told her patents were a complete rip off. This person had no idea of my involvement with an invention, it was a random comment.

    I have no idea when the bad patent environment will end, perhaps after it will be of any benefit to me. It was a good experience to know that I luckily discovered a process to help people and tried to help people regardless of being kicked in the teeth by the disingenuous rejections I keep getting.

    I hope Paul Morinville is wrong. I hope it will not take the Chinese to hijack our aircraft carrier(s) before change comes to United States’ patents. Whatever the triggering event, the politicians will gather in the Rose Garden for a press conference, tell us they had no involvement in the mess, and they are quickly fixing the problem. And of course, it was THE mess everyone knew about for a long time.

  • [Avatar for mike]
    December 15, 2019 06:05 am

    Two words for you angry dude, and everyone else:

    Learn. Chinese.

    If you want to stay relevant this century, Learn. Chinese.

  • [Avatar for angry dude]
    angry dude
    December 14, 2019 05:10 pm

    Talking about IBM a little more … (actually IBM is one of my favorite big tech companies … unlike Google or Apple)

    Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) was co-invented and publicized by Cooley (of IBM) and Tukey in 1965
    (IBM decided not to patent it – maily because Tukey was not with IBM I believe, but also IBM had false beliefs about upcoming proliferation of personal computers and the relative importance of hardware vs software – they placed emphasis on hardware sales to the benefit of Bill Gates and the rest of SV looters)

    FFT is ubiquitous nowadays in all kinds of tech gadgets and has great many military applications
    it’s so important that without it many technologies of today simply would not exist

    Now imagine that some dude (aka “independent inventor”) invented FFT in his basement and, given current situation with patents in the US, decided to disclose his invention to communist China’s patent office and not to USPTO

    So China would have much superior military technology in a relatively short time

    This would be a great threat to US national security

    Another unrelated example – RSA cryptography algorithm invented by MIT scientists

    Could as well be invented by some schmuck out of his basement – its just a couple of very simple formulas – trivial in some (not so smart) people’s view
    Had he decided to disclose the algorithm to communist China first (or Soviet Union back in the days) it would constitute a tremendous threat to US national security

    Stuff like that keeps happening nowadays (in all fields, AI for example) – its just not publicized

    Where is Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute the HIGH CRIMES against the Constitution of the United States of America and US National Security ???

    This is not a game of looting and stealing from small guys anymore – it is a real threat to US National Security

    Where is Special Prosecutor ???

  • [Avatar for angry dude]
    angry dude
    December 14, 2019 02:42 pm

    mike @5

    Years ago Greg Aharonyan did a study on IBM patents and concluded that while IBM technology was generally (still is?) pretty solid (I am wondering why?) their patents are complete junk…

    Some indian dude from IBM Research won the title “IBM inventor of the year” years ago by being listed as FIRST inventor on over hundred of IBM semiconductor patents in less than one year period

    If he just wrote the abstracts for all those patents he would be busy 24 hours a day…

    Don’t they still have a legal requirement that only TRUE inventors can be listed on the face of the issued US Patent ?

    The US Patent system is a big stinking fraud

    And considering the fact that it ALREADY AFFECTS national security it is also a HIGH TREASON

    Where is Special Prosecutor ??????

    Those folks need to be in jail, not in high offices

  • [Avatar for mike]
    December 14, 2019 10:17 am

    So who wants to pony up some money and challenge Asakawa’s patents at the PTAB? You’ll likely need to wait until Iancu is no longer Director prior to doing so; he has power to deny institution. But perhaps no. If the challenge is denied, contrasting that with other patents that were instituted, that might make a case for a showing of clear bias at the USPTO.

    If I had the resources, I would challenge all these patents that are “celebrated”. Asakawa’s are prime. The 10,000,000th issued patent would be good to challenge too. Doing this will show the world how ludicrous our post issuance patent challenge system at the PTAB is. Funny thing is, any party can challenge.

    This is the system they created.

  • [Avatar for Concerned]
    December 14, 2019 07:25 am

    Angry Dude:

    Unfortunately you are correct. Ms. Asakawa’s invention would not get to first base at the USPTO.

    My invention also helps people with disabilities and their caregivers. The process helps people live in the communities with their folks, their friends and their citizens via the savings of illegally paid Medicaid dollars by the states and the rightly awarded monthly benefit to the person. No longer is the person warehoused in a $400 a day facility, the person lives in his hometown for $100 per day or much less, sometimes $5k per year with dad and mom.

    Even if my invention did not deserve a patent, emotionally a patent should be granted just on general principles. But for the examiner to admit my process solves a problem, a problem the official record shows existed since day one of the program’s existence (1956) and the examiner states no practical application of my process is troubling.

    The examiner says my process solved a business problem, not a computer hardware problem. WRONG! My process solved a people problem and brings the benefit adjudication into legal compliance of Congress, the very practical application of ensuring the law!

    The basic dna of our society are people, not computers, and the USPTO would be well served to remember who they serve. Have the nerve to approve my patent, the authority is right in the official record. Let the infringer pony up the evidence for a refreshing change and good luck with that thought. I placed documents from all 50 states into the official record that proves no state uses my process, or any single step of my process. Suppose American Axle would have placed documents into their official record showing no competitor used their method since the invention of cars, not a single step of their process?

    Yet, the USPTO knows that preceding fact regarding those documents, so what is really going on?

    And Congress. Even if you have no respect of your very own s101, what about your laws regarding Medicaid? Is there just no respect at all for the rule of law?

  • [Avatar for angry dude]
    angry dude
    December 13, 2019 10:39 pm

    Pro Say @2

    I read the above mentioned patents – they would not advance past PTO examiner’s first office action on 101 rejection if she were truly “independent inventor” …
    No PTAB needed… just ask Concerned … he knows…

    May I remind folks here that even garage door opener and drive shaft are abstract nowadays

    “…a system simplifying web contents, and method thereof ” my a$$ :):):)

  • [Avatar for Pro Say]
    Pro Say
    December 13, 2019 05:20 pm

    Had a similar thought angry @ 1.

    And we all know what would happen if the obviously very smart and talented, award-well-deserving Ms. Asakawa owned her patents . . . and dared to have the temerity to nicely request reasonable royalties from those companies who are using her inventions . . .

    If the innovation-killing PTAB didn’t find a way to wipe her patents from the face of the Earth . . . alleging they weren’t patent-eligible . . . some district court and/or the CAFC would likely be only too happy to do so.

    Congress: Where? Are? You?

    What are you waiting for?

  • [Avatar for angry dude]
    angry dude
    December 13, 2019 02:35 pm

    “IBM Inventor” named “Inventor of the Year”

    How exciting !

    Name ONE independent US inventor the “Inventor of the Year” and award him permanent injunction against the likes of Apple or Amazon … then I will believe that things are starting to change for the better

    Until then… fool me once – shame on you, fool me twice – shame on me