IBM Inventor Chieko Asakawa Named Inventor of the Year at IPO Education Foundation 2019 Awards Dinner
Dec. 13, 2019
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
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.