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Celebrating female inventors on World IP Day!


26th Apr 2018

The theme of this years WIPD is “Powering change: Women in innovation and creativity”. In a statement, WIPO Director Francis Gurry explains that the day is for “celebrating the talents and accomplishments of women inventors and creators around the globe”. Some important female inventors in IP that we should all know include:

  • Mary Phelps Jacob (the bra, 1871)
  • Maria Beasley (life raft, US226264, 1880)
  • Letitia Mumford Geer (one-handed operated syringes, US622848, 1899)
  • Mary Anderson (windscreen wiper, US743801, 1903)
  • Josephine Cochrane (dishwasher, US1223380, 1917) 
  • Stephanie Kwolek (Kevlar, 1966)

What about modern day female inventors?

Dr Ann Tuskmaoto, co-inventor of a method for isolating human haemopoeitic stem cells (HSCs) capable of regeneration and differentiation in culture (US5061620, 1990). HSCs are adult stem cell that go on to form the red and white cells of the blood. The ability to isolate and grow these cells in the lab has facilitated important research into lymphoma. HSC transplantation is also now a widely adopted lymphoma therapy.

Dr Laura van‘t Veer (Merck), winner of the 2015 European Inventor award and the 2014 European Women Innovators Prize, is a researcher in the field of personal medicine, and part of the team responsible for a gene based breast cancer test that evaluates tumour tissue for the 10-year risk of cancer recurrence (EP1410011). The test allows women to make informed decisions about whether to opt for surgery or chemotherapy. 

In the field of pharmaceuticals, notable inventors include Rachel Fuller Brown and Elizabeth Lee Hazen, co-inventors of the first anti-fungal Nystatin (Mycostatin). Nystatin is the penicillin equivalent for fungal infections, and can be used to protect immuno-compromised (e.g. AIDS) patients and burns victims from devastating fungal infections. Brown and Hazen donated the 13.4 million USD royalties from the Nystatin patent to a nonprofit research foundation: Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement. Brown and Hazen were the first women to receive the Chemical Pioneer Award from the American Institute of Chemists.

Mandy Haberman, vice chair of IPAN, is the British inventor of the Anywayup Cup (GB 2266045) a baby cup that does not spill, a case study in how to successfully protect and market your invention against large industry players. Haberman successfully took a leading manufacturer of baby goods Jackel International to court for patent infringement (Haberman v Jackel International [1999] FSR 683).

Ann Lambrechts, winner of the 2011 European Inventor Award and head R&D of Building Products at Bekaert, played a pivotal role in the invention of Dramix steel fibers for increasing the strength and stability of concrete. The Dramix fibers improve the bending strength of concrete by 32%, opening up a new world of exciting architectural possibilities, particularly in the mining and tunnel industries.

The importance of education

In other news this week, the suffragist Millicent Fawcett became the first female to be honoured with a statue in parliament square. Millicent Fawcett was also the co-founder of Newnham College Cambridge, only the second college in Cambridge to admit female students (after Girton College). A reminder that access to education has not always been straightforward for those with two X chromosomes.
This article appeared on IPKat on Thursday 26 April 2018.
This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking any action in reliance on it.

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Rose Hughes
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