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Celebrating intellectual property and the innovative spirit

world intellectual property day
(Left to right) Nick Armington, second-year law student and co-chair of the Intellectual Property Society; Susan Barbieri Montgomery, executive professor of law and business; guest speaker Bill Silver, co-founder of Cognex; Dan Fleisher, second-year law student and co-chair of IP Society

Former President Abraham Lincoln once referred to intellectual property as “adding the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.” But according to Susan Barbieri Montgomery, executive professor of law and business at Northeastern, most people aren’t familiar with the remainder of this quote, which continues, “in the discovery and production of new and useful things.”

This part of the quote is important, Montgomery says, because innovation must be driven by real-world challenges.

On Thursday evening, Montgomery and the student-run Intellectual Property Society joined students, faculty, alumni and guests for the School of Law’s 3rd annual celebration of World Intellectual Property Day, a global celebration led by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Bill Silver, co-founder of Cognex, a leading manufacturer of machine vision systems, software and sensors, was the featured speaker at the event. He recalled his personal experience as an innovator of new technology and the role of intellectual property in business strategy and decisions.

Silver’s comments echoed Lincoln’s sentiments that the discovery of creative and “useful” solutions is the key to true innovation. He noted, “One of the first things to understand about innovation, at least the successful kind, is that it generally starts when you have a business problem to solve.”

Montgomery said that the day’s theme — celebrating visionary innovators — was particularly relevant. She said, “Behind every great innovation, either artistic or technological, is a human story — a tale in which new pathways open as a result of the curiosity, insight or determination of individuals.”

Northeastern’s commitment to fostering entrepreneurship and innovation is evident through grant funding, speaker series, research expositions and a wide range of academic degree programs. Two student-run organizations also play a central role in supporting the university’s entrepreneurial spirit: the Entrepreneurs Club and IDEA, Northeastern’s Venture Accelerator.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Commerce Department released a report that found IP protections have a direct and significant impact on the U.S. economy. The report, entitled “Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus,” noted that IP-intensive industries support at least 40 million jobs and contribute more than $5 trillion to, or nearly 34.8 percent of, U.S. gross domestic product.