C.A.G. Insights

Women Inventors—Does this group comprise you?

By Samie Leigh

Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Samuel Morse, Henry Ford, Bill Gates—the list of famous male inventors that many Americans can recite from memory are endless.  Mary Kies, Hedy Lamarr, Bette Graham, Josephine Cochrane—do any of these names sound familiar?  These are just a few among many women who hold U.S. patents and have contributed significantly to science, engineering and technology.  In observance of Women’s History Month, we recognize these trail blazers and their contribution to the U.S. and to the world.

Nineteen years after the passage of the Patent Act of 1790, Mary Dixon Kies was the first woman inventor to receive a U.S. patent for her method of weaving straw with silk or thread.  Her patent, describing a new technique for making hats, was signed by President James Madison and was recognized by the First Lady as a source of aid to the American economy.

Hedy Lamarr was a famous Austrian actress who co-invented a “Secret Communications System” used to prevent messages from being intercepted by enemy personnel during WWII.  The invention involved frequency-hopping at irregular intervals between sending and receiving. Lamarr was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for the invention.

Bette Nesmith Graham was a secretary at a Texas bank who invented white correction fluid used to cover up typing mistakes.   She later led a multi-million dollar international business called Liquid Paper based in Dallas.  Recently, the New York Times honored Graham in an obituary entitled, “Overlooked No More: Bette Nesmith Graham, Who Invented Liquid Paper.”

Josephine Cochrane invented a dish-washer showcased at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair that received an award for its ingenuity.   Cochrane eventually founded the company KitchenAid®, part of the Whirlpool Corporation.  Although the dishwasher did not find instant success, it is now a common appliance used in most U.S. homes.

Women inventors and entrepreneurs continue to make moves in the intellectual property arena. However, in a recent United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) study, the growth of patents issued to women over the last several decades has lagged in comparison to women representation in the work force.  Moreover, the USPTO director has brought attention to the disparity between female and male applicants and has called for more patent applications to be filed by female inventors.  This lag in progress need not be an ongoing trend, especially in view of rises of women in the workplace and in the political space.

At Carstens & Cahoon, we can advocate for issuance of your patents while preserving the scope of protection that you are entitled to. Please contact Carstens, Allen & Gourley, LLP if you would like to join the ranks of women inventors.