Yes, his middle name is “Starkes”
My first foray into Intellectual Property was at the Global IP Law Firm Giant Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP (ranked Number 2 for Intellectual Property Law Firms). As a temp, I was quickly asserted into research for a case dealing with fiber optics and the rote transfer of data by size and parcel. The inventor of the patent was Larry Smoot, a fellow at Bellcore that now has merged with Telcordia. I remember being amazed at the amount of detail and innovation the invention covered as digital infrastructures were being deployed on a global level. Recall, this was pre-wireless ubiquity, in fact dial ups were still in effect within most homes. In fact DVD players were just being introduced in laptop computers as CD Roms were the more suitable technology. Meanwhile Hotmail was the boss of all email and Google was in thesis form being used as a primer for Yahoo. CD players where all the rage and flat screen televisions were for the rich and famous – social media wasn’t even born yet.
As I dove deeper into the research, I remember my supervisor running in the room one day.
Sheila: Newkirk! Guess What!
Me: What’s up?
Sheila: Lanny Smoot is a BROTHER?
Now for some of you out there this might not be a big deal – brother meaning African American Man. But for those within the sector that was a big deal as most of our clients were assumed to be white males. Again, this might not be a big deal so some but for me it changed my life.
I took a look at his files and true indeed he was a brother. I remember heading home that week and talking to my then girlfriend on the matter. She suggested that I look further into how many African Americans had patents.