Author: Ralph H. Cathcart | Practices: , | Tags: , , , ,


Div IP 2019Ladas & Parry LLP considers diversity and inclusion as core values and principles that provide access to opportunity and ensure 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 honored to have been asked to pay tribute to the remarkable IP pioneers before me, who overcame significant obstacles to excel, even when the playing field was not even. Celebrating these individuals enriches our history and sheds light on the truth and the magnitude of the contributions made by these great men and women.”
Ralph H. Cathcart – Partner, Ladas & Parry LLP



Gladys West is a true pioneer and inventor. She is an African American mathematician born in 1930. She provided calculations that led to the development of global positioning system technology (“GPS”). Her discovery was made during her tenure at the male dominated Weapons Laboratory – Dahlgren in Virginia, where she worked for 40 years. GPS is utilized in missile defense systems, the U.S. Space Program and by hundreds of millions of smart phone and computer owners and navigation systems throughout the world. In 2018, the U.S. Air Force awarded her the “U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Award”. The award recognizes “the leaders of the early years of the Air Force space program” and salutes “the innovators whose vision and perseverance overcame the obstacles of the unknown”. Her achievements are an inspiration to all Americans and perhaps especially girls and young women with an interest in math, science and space technology.


(1848 – 1928) Lewis Howard Latimer was the son of escaped slaves from Virginia. In 1864, at the tender age of 16, Mr. Latimer lied about his age so he could enlist in the United States Navy and fight with the Union against slavery. After the Civil War concluded, he accepted a menial job at the Crosby and Gould Patent office in Boston. Given his undeniable intelligence and intellectual curiosity, the partners at Crosby and Gould promoted him from “office boy” to a Draftsman. This was no inconsequential achievement at the time for a young black man. Latimer quickly learned and then mastered mechanical drawing. Over his career he worked closely with Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. Latimer helped Bell to draft the patent for Bell’s design of the telephone. Inventor Latimer was also responsible for achievements in incandescent lighting. He became an indispensable partner to Thomas Edison and later his chief competitor, Hiram Maxim. Although Edison and Bell are largely viewed as the first inventors of the telephone and lighting, many modern historians believe that Latimer likely deserved much more credit for such inventions. In 1890, Latimer published a book entitled, “Incandescent Electric Lighting: a Practical Description of the Edison System.”


Karyn Temple is the Acting Register of Copyrights. She is the first African American woman to hold this position, and is also the Director of the United States Copyright Office. She has served in this capacity since 2016. Previously, she held the title of Associate Register of Copyrights and Director of Policy and International Affairs. Ms. Temple has overseen various efforts to modernize the Copyright Office and to educate the public about its practices and in 2017, she began a blog to support this effort. In 2016 the Copyright Office provided a study on software-enabled consumer products and then in 2017 the office released its findings on a study on the measures of technological protections of Section 1201. Ms. Temple has served as a leader in helping the Copyright Office to be a force in policymaking.


(1856-1910) Granville Woods, known as the “Black Edison”, was an engineer who developed many important electrical inventions. He was born in 1856 and attended school until he was 10 years old after which he began working in a machine shop fixing railroad equipment. At age 20 it is said that he attended a technical college where he studied mechanical and electrical engineering. After having difficulty finding a job, he would eventually start his own business.

Railway Telegraphy (U.S. Patent No. 388,803), is considered one of his most important inventions. This invention made communication possible between trains and train depots. Thomas Edison, who claimed to be the creator of this invention, filed a lawsuit. Woods challenged his claim and won. Afterwards, Edison offered him a position in his company Edison Electric Light Company in New York. Woods did not accept the offer. Over the course of his life, Granville Woods was granted over 35 patents mostly for railway communication and technology.


Each year, The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce gives out the Alice H. Parker Women Leaders in Innovation Award to honor the memory of Alice H. Parker, an African American woman from Morristown, New Jersey who is known for designing a gas furnace that paved the way to modern heating systems and thermostats. Though Ms. Parker was a graduate of Howard University (1910) she did not have training in this area and yet she received a U.S. patent (US1325905A) for her design on December 23, 1919. At the time of her design, most homes in Morristown were heated with wood or coal.

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