Author: Bharati Bakshani | Practices: , , , , , | Tags: , , , , , ,


Ladas & Parry LLP considers diversity and inclusion as core values and principles that provide access to opportunity, maximization of expertise and a range of perspectives and ensures excellence, particularly in the IP field. We salute those who have helped shape the world and would like to shine a light on these pioneers who sometimes receive little or no credit.

“I am pleased to honor and celebrate the contributions of women throughout history. I would like to pay special tribute to the achievements of women who have broken barriers, shattered stereotypes, and paved the way for progress in various aspects of society. Let us create a world where every woman can thrive and be supported. Together, we can continue to build a society that is more inclusive and equitable for women”. 
Bharati Bakshani, Partner, Ladas & Parry LLP

SYBILLA MASTERS  (c. 1676 – 1720)

Sybilla Masters was born around 1676 in Bermuda and emigrated to the United States and lived in the British colony of Pennsylvania in 1687. Eventually she married and lived there with her husband.

Ms. Masters is noted for inventing a process for cleaning and curing corn as well as a process for making hats and bonnets. Unfortunately, because of the practice of coverture (the common law practice where a married woman was considered under the legal and economic protection and authority of her husband), she was not able to obtain patents for her inventions in her own name.

However, Ms. Masters traveled to London in 1712 and in 1715, and became the first person living in the American colonies to be awarded a patent. The patent was issued by King George I for Ms. Masters’ invention of a process for “Cleaning and Curing The Indian Corn Growing in the several Colonies of America.” The Letters Patent expressly acknowledged that the patent covered “a new Invention found out by Sybilla.”

Ms. Masters’ second patented invention (also issued in her husband’s name) was for the “process for making hats and bonnets out of straw and palmetto leaves.”

MARY KIES  (1752 – 1837)

The Patent Act of 1790, the first patent statute passed by the newly formed federal government of the United States of America, allowed “any person,” man or woman, to protect his or her invention. Accordingly, on May 5, 1809, Mary Kies became the first woman to apply for and receive a U.S. patent, covering a new method of weaving straw with silk. Using Ms. Kies’ invention, women were able to make cost-effective work bonnets in their own homes, boosting the New England hat making industry.

Ms. Kies received a personal letter from First Lady Dolley Madison praising her invention and contribution to the local industry. Unfortunately, the original patent file covering Ms. Kies’ invention was destroyed in a fire at the Patent Office in 1836. In 2006, Ms. Kies was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

RADIA PERLMAN  (1951 – )

Radia Perlman, also known as “The Mother of the Internet”, has been a major player and innovator in the development and advancement of the internet and making routing for the internet dependable as well as adaptable. She is most famous for Spanning-Tree Protocol (STP), which is said to have revolutionized the Ethernet (a way in which computers are linked together in a local area network (LAN)).

Ms. Perlman began her career in math and science in the 1960’s and 70’s at MIT, where she received degrees, including her Ph.D., and where she was one of only a handful of female students. Ms. Perlman is also an author of popular texts on cryptography (a way to secure information and communication methods that are made by the use of algorithms) as well as network bridging and routing. She is the holder of 100+ patents and was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2016.

MARY ANDERSON  (1866 – 1953)

It’s hard to believe that at one time in history there was no such thing as windshield wipers on motor vehicles. However, a woman named Mary Anderson changed all of that.

On a trip to New York City, Ms. Anderson saw that street car drivers had to open their windows so they could see where they were going when it rained.  Ms. Anderson developed a moving arm device that contained a rubber blade that the driver could operate from inside the vehicle.

At first, people were wary of Ms. Andersons’ invention, believing the wipers would be a distraction, however by 1916, windshield wipers had become standard equipment on the majority of vehicles.

Mary Anderson received a patent (No. 743,801) for her device in 1903.

BETTE NESMITH GRAHAM  (1924 – 1980) 

Before Microsoft WORD and other word processing devices, there was a device called the electric typewriter.  While the electric typewriter was definitely faster and neater than the manual typewriter, it was still very difficult to fix typos with a pencil eraser due to their carbon-film ribbons. Secretaries at that time often had to retype an entire page to fix minor errors on a page. However, a woman named Bette Nesmith Graham invented a way around this problem.

Ms. Graham, a secretary at a bank, discovered that painters decorating the bank windows for the holidays removed their mistakes completely by covering them with a coat of paint. The observant Graham mimicked their technique by using a white, tempera paint to cover her typing mistakes.  When the other secretaries found out how well it worked, they came to her for a supply of their own.

Graham, now famous, sold her first batch of Mistake Out in 1956, and then began working at home full time to produce her product. However, Graham continued experimenting with her product by combining paint and other chemicals until she felt she had achieved the perfect combination and replaced the name Mistake Out to Liquid Paper in 1958.

Demand for her product sky-rocketed and Graham applied for a patent and a trademark during that year. Graham’s Liquid Paper Company was a success and by 1967, the company had a corporate headquarters and a production plant and was selling over a million units per year.

In 1975, Graham moved her company to Dallas and then sold her company to the Gillette Corporation.

MICHELLE K. LEE  (1965 – )

On March 13, 2015, after being appointed by President Barack Obama, Michelle K. Lee became the first woman to head the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). She served as Director until June 6, 2017.

Ms. Lee was born in 1965. She received her B.S. degree in electrical engineering and her M.S. in engineering and computer science from MIT (where she worked in the Artificial Intelligence Lab). She earned her J.D. from Stanford Law School. She also served as a clerk for the Hon. Vaughn R. Walker of the Northern District of California and the Hon. Paul R. Michel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Ms. Lee was also a partner at Fenwick and West before joining Google in 2003 as Deputy General Counsel. At Google, Ms. Lee served as the first head of Patents and Patent Strategy and was responsible for formulating and implementing the company’s worldwide patent strategy.

Ms. Lee is currently the Founder, CEO and Principal Advisor of Obsidian Strategies.

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