Patents – No, Not Leather!
The first woman to file for a patent was Mary Dixon Kies in 1809 who invented a process for weaving straw with silk or thread which revolutionized hat making. Let’s first be clear about something, though. We’re not talking about patent leather, that shiny stuff summertime shoes are made of which shine as if just waxed. We’re talking about legal protection and recognition of an invention.
In 1798 Betsy Metcalf had invented a new way to weave straw which was also used in making hats. Betsy failed to patent her method, however. When the United States Patent Office opened its doors in the late 1790’s, it opened them to anyone. In most states, though, women were prohibited by law from owning property so many failed to file a patent. Betsy Metcalf was asked why she had not patented her process and she answer: “I did not want my name being sent to Congress.”
Mary Dixon Kies had history and great timing to thank for her success. Napoleon was waging war on the European continent and the United States had stopped importing such goods. Even the wife of the US President noticed Mary Dixon Kies’ process and the resulting hats.
Fast forward to 2010 and meet a battery storage expert who holds more than one hundred and forty patents. Esther Takeuchi has more than one hundred and forty-five patents. One of her more famous ones is for the battery that allowed cardiac defibrillators to be implanted in the human body.
Earning a Ph.D. in Organic chemistry, Esther Takeuchi did post-doctoral work in electrochemistry as well. Though much of the focus of her work has been with biomedical batteries, she has branched out into other applications with needs for battery storage. Now at Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory, she continues to develop better batteries for better living. “When we think about batteries, we think, ‘Maybe the battery wears out because it ran out of active material.’ That can happen. But oftentimes there are other reactions taking place inside the cell. We call those parasitic reactions. Those reactions are either causing damage or increasing resistance, creating other conditions inside the cell on top of just wearing out the active materials. The lessons learned from the biomedical arena — that those parasitic reactions can be critical in determining battery lifetime — can be applied to other types of batteries.”
Another prolific inventor works at IBM. Lisa Seacat DeLuca holds more patents than any other female inventor with the number topping four hundred at the present time. Succinctly put, Lisa DeLuca incorporates technology into daily living and seeks to find ways to make both more efficient. For example, one night she was doing laundry but really did not want to sit around for the cycle to be complete. So, she built an app that uses a cell phone to send an alert to someone doing laundry to tell them when it is time to switch their clothes from the washing machine to the clothes dryer. Me, I just eat a brownie; Lisa creates and patents an app!
Some of Lisa Deluca’s other patents are for such things as a way to alert people on multi-user conference calls that tells them when someone else starts talking or when the subject matter of the conversation has changed. She also has a patent for a system that lets cell phone users know where to walk so that they can keep talking without losing service connections. She has invented a locator service for cars to help track items, things that might fall under the seat, etc. One of my favorites of her patents is for a necklace that lights up every time a specific Twitter hashtag is used.
Lisa Deluca often files her patents through her employer but she has done a few all on her own, one such patent being her idea for a sports ticket that allows someone to see the game from other vantage points besides their own seat. “Everyone has an inventor inside of them,” Lisa explains. Ashe is proff of that!
I agree with Lisa Seacat DeLuca in that we all actually are inventors. We all invent ourselves and our living every day. To what lengths we go depends on us. Life is ours for the living. All we have to do is…well, live it! Too often we get bogged down in thinking we are not good enough or our life is not flashy enough. Every patent application is accompanied by a description and some of them are very dull. In fact, some of the most successful inventions seem mundane on the application.
No one else can live your life except you. Nobody will ever be a better you than whatever you make of yourself. Someone may seem to be smarter but they are living their life and you are unique. Don’t try to be a carbon copy. Be an original and invent the best life for yourself that you can. The world is waiting.