Inaugural Conference of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI)

Dates: February 16 – 17, 2012
Location: Tampa, Florida

The current special issue of “Technology and Innovation-Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors” (http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/cog/ti/2012/00000014/f0020003;jsessionid=1t6cqwj25extf.alice), is devoted to presentations from the Inaugural Conference of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), which was hosted by the University of South Florida, Feb. 16-17, 2012.

“This conference brought together inventors, researchers and leaders from universities, nonprofit research institutions, national laboratories and government institutions to discuss issues pertaining the technological development and commercialization,” said Paul R. Sanberg, senior vice president for research and innovation at the University of South Florida and president of the NAI.

The goal of the conference, said Sanberg, was to encourage and recognize the value of academic invention and entreprenuership. Presenters spoke on a wide range of topics, including global patent harmonization; job creation through innovation; innovative technologies for surgery; potential therapies for Alzheimer’s disease; and legal and intellectual requirements in innovating and inventing, among other topics.

In the conference’s first keynote address, David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), discussed the mission and changes enacted by the USPTO since his appointment by President Obama in 2009. Thomas J. Fogarty, who was inducted as the first Charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, was the second conference keynote speaker. Fogarty invented the cardiac balloon catheter. His keynote presentation focused on overcoming institutional barriers to innovation.

The conference featured oral and poster presentations by representatives from National Academy of Inventors Charter Member Institutions. This special issue of Technology and Innovation, volume 14 nos. 3-4, includes a section featuring the oral and poster presentations.

Global Patent Harmonization

Alex Camarota, of the Office of Innovation at the USPTO, spoke on efforts to “harmonize” patent offices around the world to ensure standardized methods of measuring patent quality and, at the same time, help spur global innovation.

“The potential for robust digital collaboration among the world’s patent offices remains largely unrealized,” said Camarota. “This is not surprising as patent systems, like the nations they serve, embody different languages, cultural values, policies and legal systems.”

For Camarota, reconciling these differences represents a “Herculean task,” yet it must be done to better ensure the future of innovation.

“Perhaps the most difficult and immediate barrier to harmonization is the lack of a system for measuring patent quality,” he said. “Without standard patent quality metrics, collaboration between IP offices is difficult.”

He described a partnership between the USPTO and the European Patent Office (EPO) called the “Cooperative Patent Classification” (CPC) project charged with building and maintaining a jointly managed patent classification system using the best practices from each system. The new system, launched Jan. 2, 2013, will be used by 45 patent offices and 20,000 patent examiners worldwide.

Job Creation through Innovation

According to Daniel Daly, director of the Alabama Innovation and Mentoring of Entrepreneurs Center at the University of Alabama, higher labor costs, shrinking margins, and a growing aversion to the risks of longer term research and development appear to play significant roles in job loss in the U.S., especially among chemists. Daly presented a case study in which the American Chemical Society (ACS) responded to help its members, who are highly skilled and highly paid workers, to overcome unemployment, much of it due, according to Daly, to the pharmaceutical industry’s trend toward moving its U.S. manufacturing facilities “offshore.”

“Unlike during any other time in its 135 year history, the ACS had an opportunity to help its members,” said Daly. “The ACS responded by forming an Entrepreneur Resource Center and Training Center to serve as a virtual accelerator providing resources and services to chemical startups. The center provides tools and important networks.”

With the help of the ACS center, start-up companies, explained Daly, receive the “invaluable training, advice, and business connections that it would have taken them years, or decades, to acquire on their own.”

The second annual conference of the National Academy of Inventors will take place February 21-23, 2013, at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Tampa, FL. The inaugural class of NAI Charter Fellows will be inducted at the conference.