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Honoring Invention: the World’s Only Inexhaustible Resource

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President Obama with receipients at Meddal Award ceremony.

Guest blog post by David Kappos, Under Secretary For Intellectual Property and Director, United States Patent and Trademark Office, Department of Commerce

At a ceremony at the White House Friday, I had the pleasure to join President Obama as he honored recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation—the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on our nation’s brightest innovators and inventors.

Whether unraveling the information intertwined in a DNA helix, improving the safety of air travel, or digitizing the way we capture memories of loved ones—the medal recipients have offered humanity new tools to tackle some of the toughest challenges we confront as a planet. Moreover, by improving our understanding of the world around us, they have rewritten textbook fundamentals—and inspired a new generation of thinkers to explore unfamiliar terrain.

Much like the thousands of patent and trademark applications, the Commerce Department's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) carefully examines each and every day, the National Medal of Technology & Innovation serves as a reminder that our nation continues to be built by those willing to challenge traditions—willing to push the boundaries of convention and willing to test new limits in design and thought.

This year our new laureates join the esteemed ranks of the creator of the refrigerator, the visionary behind the LED,  the inventor of the microphone, and even the late Steve Jobs—the pioneer of the personal computer. These medal winners do not just boast historic scientific contribution and achievement—their endeavors fundamentally reimagine the way we interact with one another.

They have changed the way we eat, they’ve changed the way we care for the sick, they’ve changed the way we do business, and they have even changed the way we gaze into the farthest depths of the universe. 

It is through a firm belief in the transformative power of American creativity and mettle that this administration has made investments in research and experimentation a priority; and it’s even why President Obama recently signed a historic new patent reform law that makes it easier to protect and market breakthrough technologies.

The body of work of the laureates we honor demonstrates that the curiosity to experiment and invent will navigate us through the toughest roads ahead, inspire the next great industries and promote the next wave of jobs.

  • Dr. Rakesh Agrawal (West Lafayette, IN) for his many innovations relating to liquefied gas production, which have resulted in significant energy and cost efficiencies and advanced the science of electronic device manufacturing while enhancing the supply of industrial gases for a wide range of industries.
  • Dr. B. Jayant Baliga (Raleigh, NC) for the development and commercialization of a range of power semiconductor devices that are extensively used today in  lighting, medicine, and renewable energy generation systems, including hybrid and electric vehicles and solar energy sources.
  • Mr. C. Donald Bateman (Redmond, WA) for developing and championing flight-safety sensors that are used in aircraft worldwide, including ground-proximity warning systems and wind-shear detection systems.
  • Ms. Yvonne C. Brill (Skillman, NJ) for innovation in rocket propulsion systems for geosynchronous and low earth orbit communication satellites, which greatly improved the effectiveness of space propulsion systems.
  • Dr. Michael F. Tompsett (Murray Hill, NJ) for pioneering work in materials and electronic technologies including the design and development of the first charge-coupled device imagers.

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