Why I Write About Patents

Why write about patents?

It’s easy to pat ourselves on the back and say, “We’re so innovative!” But looking at the number and nature of patents granted to local inventors gives some hard numbers to back that up.

These records give undeniable evidence that our region is a hotbed of innovation. The greater Rochester area routinely ranks among the annual leaders in patents issued per capita, according to the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Since last summer, I’ve been writing each week about patents issued to local inventors, the research behind them, and the commercial products that will result. Folks ask me why I’m so interested in telling these types of stories, given my very different background as a database journalist and sports writer.

I spent years as an editor of the Baseball Encyclopedia and other sports reference books, documenting the accomplishments of great athletes. Willie Mays and Joe Namath weren’t just in the business of winning ballgames. They created memories that lived on in people’s minds, connecting them to their past in an important way.

Research scientists don’t do their work in front of a cheering crowd. Their pictures don’t appear on trading cards, and their accomplishments aren’t glorified in slow motion highlight reels.

And that’s a shame.

When I talk to someone like George Daddis of Omni-ID, an RFID company that just relocated to Rochester, I’m struck not just by his obvious talents but by the passion he brings to his work.

The same is true of Kyle Schmackpfeffer, who heads up the team at ITT Exelis that builds imaging systems for satellites. He’s not just one of the world’s leading experts in his scientific field, he’s driven by the knowledge of how his work makes a meaningful impact on the lives of people every day.

These guys haven’t just developed new products and new technologies. Their work has helped create whole new industries, and with it, jobs for local people. These are just two examples of the unknown and unheralded superstars driving our new economy. And I want to tell their stories.

As part of the Democrat and Chronicle’s expanded coverage of local innovation, I’ll take a look at patents that have been issued to local inventors and highlight the new technology that they’ve developed.

Hundreds of new patents are issued to local inventors every week, and I’ll continue to update our database of local patents online. Taken as a whole, these patents show both the significant investment in research in our area, and the cutting edge technology which could fuel future growth.


This article originally appeared in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle