May 8, 2018

WPI touts record-high number of patents

Photo | Courtesy
The commissioner of patents at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Drew Hirschfeld, left, and WPI President Laurie Leshin, right, stand with WPI students who were honored for submitting patent applications in the past year.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute has set its own new record for number of patents in the past year, with 16 issued.

Patents have also been filed for potential approval by 42 students this year, another all-time high.

"We've had a big uptick in student innovation," said Todd Keiller, WPI's director of intellectual property and innovation.

The achievement was marked with an event Monday featuring the commissioner of patents at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Drew Hirschfeld.

Hirschfeld helped honor the 42 students, as well as seven faculty members who were inducted into the WPI chapter of the National Academy of Inventors. Hirschfeld honored a mechanical engineering professor, Diran Apelian, as a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. Apelian is the founding director of WPI's Metal Processing Institute.

The number of patents at WPI has jumped in recent years. Until 1990, the school had only one, according to United States Patent and Trademark Office records dating to 1969. There were still never more than a few each year until the number hit six in 2007.

"It's really been booming," Keiller said. When he joined WPI six year ago, he added, there wasn't a single licensed technology on campus. There are now 53, he said.

"I keep thinking, we have to plateau at some point," Keiller said. "This is crazy."

Among recently licensed patents is a shoe helping prevent anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, tears. That was licensed to a Worcester company, Sports Engineering. Another was licensed to Worcester's Battery Resourcers, which is developing a lithium battery recycling technology.

The process to approval of a patent application can take years, Keiller said.

In Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has by far the most patents, with 216 as of 2012. Harvard University, Boston University and Tufts University are among the highest with at least two dozen each.

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