What is a Patent?

Patents are "the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention in the United States or importing the invention into the United States." A patent lasts 20 years and is not renewable.

  • Large percentage of technical information only accessible in patent literature.
  • There are important differences between patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets.
  • Patents can be utility (mechanical, electrical, chemical), design, or plant. Utility patents may be a process, machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter, or improvement on any of the previously mentioned.
  • Since 1995, it is possible to file "provisional patents" (have up to 1 year to finalize)

Cornell Engineering Alumni Inventors


Practice searching  Google Patents with the names of the following Cornell alumni. What are they famous for? Answers are below.

  1. Jeffrey C. Hawkins (B.S. 1979, EE)

  2. Willis Carrier (M.E., 1901)

  3. Meredith Gourdine (B.S. 1952, EP 1953), Inventor and Olympic Silver Medalist

  4. Leroy Grumman, (M.E. 1916) was inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in 2003

  5. Laurens Hammond, (M.E. 1916)

  6. Wilson Greatbatch (B. E.E., 1950), inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in 1986.

  7. Allyson D. Yarbrough (M.S. 1985, Ph.D. 1988, EE)

  8. David M. Lederman, (Ph.D. 1966, EP)

  9. Robert S. Langer (B.S. 1970, ChemE)

  10. Jerry M. Woodall (Ph.D. 1982, EE)

  11. David F. Welch (Ph.D. 1985, EE)

  12. Thomas Midgley, Jr. (M.E., Engineering 1911)


  1. Jeffrey Hawkins - personal digital assistant, Founder of Palm, now Chairman, Handspring
  2. Willis Carrier - air conditioning
  3. Meredith Gourdine - electrogasdynamics
  4. Leroy Grumman - retractable landing gear, folding wing.
  5. Laurens Hammond - Hammond Organ and other electronic devices
  6. Wilson Greatbatch - implantable cardiac pacemaker
  7. Allyson D. Yarbrough - micromachined electronic and electromechanical systems
  8. David M. Lederman - artificial heart, CEO Abiomed
  9. Robert S. Langer - biomedical applications of polymers
  10. Jerry M. Woodall - compound semiconductor materials and devices
  11. David F. Welch - pioneer in semiconductor laser and optoelectronic technology
  12. Thomas Midgley, Jr. - discovered freon and developed fuel additive

Engineering Librarian

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Jill Powell
103E Carpenter Hall
Engineering Library
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
Subjects: Engineering