Business and technology themes typically drive IP and innovation conversations. We seek to answer questions like, what does this mean for the bottom line or the race to exclusivity? But there is no more critical forward-looking focus than how IP plays a role in cultivating the spirit of innovating for a better future.
Therefore, it is a great privilege to join the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in celebrating the theme of IP and Youth: Innovating for a Better Future for World Intellectual Property Day 2022. The organization highlights, “across the globe, young people are stepping up to innovation challenges, using their energy and ingenuity, their curiosity and creativity to steer a course towards a better future.”
We have all benefitted from the imagination and innovation of young people—from the invention of the Popsicle to more recent action on sustainability. To honor youth innovation and recognize World IP Day 2022, we’re highlighting stories of inspirational young inventors and pledging our dedication to fostering responsible innovation for all.
Young innovators from history
In 1865, at the age of 16, Lewis Howard Latimer started work with a patent law firm. His talent for patent drawings earned him promotions and he went on to patent many inventions. His first, granted at the age of 26, was an improved toilet system for railroad cars.
In 1905 Frank Epperson, 11, mistakenly left a cup with soda powder, water and a stir stick on his porch overnight and found a delicious frozen treat in the morning. He applied for a patent on his Eppsicle in 1923 and later changed the name to Popsicle after his children began using that name.
Louis Braille lost his sight at the age of 3. In 1824 the 15-year-old invented the raised series of dots, consisting of a code of 63 characters, that make up the Braille alphabet. Braille is now the universally accepted system of writing used by and for blind persons.
Caresse Crosby, also known as Mary Phelps Jacob, was the inventor and patent holder of the first modern bra. In 1910, at the age of 19, she came up with the corset replacement while preparing for a debutante ball.
One of the very youngest inventors, Robert Patch, created a toy truck when he was 5. He was awarded a patent for his toy truck design when he was 6—it helped that his father was a patent attorney who recognized that the invention could be patentable.
The SDGs and innovating for a better future
Sustainability is a mandatory topic when discussing the future and how we foster responsible innovation for our youth.
Enter the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The agenda—adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015—lays out 17 goals ranging from ending poverty and other deprivations to tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.
While the sustainable development goals are essential to all of us, they are critical for children and young adults as they look at their lives well past 2030. According to the UN there are “1.8 billion people between the ages of 10-24—they are the largest generation of youth in history.”
The WSA is a unique awards system that gives special recognition to young social entrepreneurs taking action on SDGs, highlighting how the youth can be a driving force in creativity, leadership, and implementation of sustainable solutions.
2021 Young Innovators winners include:
Healthbotics: a health technology solution startup based in Nigeria. The company describes itself as a “youth-led holistic blood supply solution, aiming to solve the persistent shortage of blood and blood products in Nigeria by tackling the issue systematically and addressing root causes.” Their award-winning product, Lend an Arm (LAA) is an app that connects donors and hospitals directly to blood banks, allows donors to chat with one another and create their own blood drives, and to find the closest bank in real-time.
Colibri Charity: based in Hungary the organization has the mission to “empower all to support the world’s causes without limitation.” Colibri is a platform and web browser extension that automatically donates a part of online spending to the user’s favorite cause. The Colibri system shows if a company is sustainable and which companies are Colibri partners.
Find the full list of winners here.
Our commitment to responsible, forward-looking solutions
“A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.” — Greek Proverb
As a forward-thinking organization that believes whenever a person works on a patent and understands the future trajectory of a specific technology, they have the potential to change how society operates, we are aware of the influence IP has on the younger generations. We are all models for the children around us, and they depend on those before them to set them up for success.
In the spirit of developing mindful solutions, last year, we launched a new sustainable innovation measurement framework enabling organizations globally to objectively track and report on innovation’s contribution to the SDGs.
We also led the democratization of examiner statistics with the launch of a web browser add-on that makes examiner statistics free and available at the point of need on USPTO PAIR and Patent Center, promoting equity and expanding access to valuable data.
We wish all innovators a happy World Intellectual Property Day! Keep on innovating for a better future!