Two Centuries of American Innovation and 10 Million Patents

Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, in collaboration with the Antonin Scalia Law School’s Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property (CPIP) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invite you to a panel discussion at the National Museum of American History.

Two Centuries of American Innovation and 10 Million Patents

Wednesday, June 20, 2018
1:00 – 2:30pm

Smithsonian National Museum of American History
12th & Constitution Ave, NW, Washington, DC
Coulter Performance Plaza (1st Floor West)

(This event is open to the public–there is no registration.)


Signed by President George Washington, the first US Patent was issued in 1790. This June, the USPTO will issue patent number 10,000,000. These ten million utility patents represent two centuries of breakthroughs that transformed the United States into the world’s innovation leader even as inventors from around the world have sought US patent protection.

During the course of the 19th century, pioneers such as Samuel Morse (telegraph), Cyrus McCormick (mechanical reaper), Isaac Singer (sewing machines), Alexander Graham Bell (telephone), and Thomas Edison (phonograph, light bulb, and others) shifted the nation from an agrarian economy into an industrial powerhouse. In the 20th and early 21st centuries, inventors such as Frederick McKinley Jones (refrigeration), Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (personal computers), and Feng Zhang (CRISPR gene editing technology) transformed America into a services and knowledge economy.

Panelists will discuss the importance of patents to the work of inventors and explore how, over the past 200 years, inventions have moved from basements, garages, and university, government, and industrial labs to everyday use. Yet, throughout this history, women and minorities have been dramatically underrepresented in the invention and innovation ecosystem. The panel will discuss what is changing about who invents and what is needed to unleash greater creativity across the United States and worldwide.

Hear from inventors, gain insights on the patent system, see rare original materials from the national collections, and join us as we celebrate ten million US patents!


1:00-2:30 PM Panel Discussion

  • Susie Armstrong, Senior Vice President of Engineering, Qualcomm, and inventor of methods that permit your cell phone to connect to the Internet
  • James West, Research Professor, Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering, previously at Bell Labs and inventor of the foil electret microphone
  • Drew Hirshfeld, Commissioner for Patents, USPTO
  • Adam Mossoff, Professor, Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University
  • Moderator: Arthur Daemmrich, Director, Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation