During Black History Month this October, one of our IP & ME committee members Abdulmalik Lawal published the article below about the things he’d learned from media coverage of the occasion, including about Black inventors. He’s kindly agreed to share that post with the wider IP Inclusive community.

Abdul is a patent and trade mark attorney and Director at Franks & Co (Mancunium) Ltd. His article first appeared on LinkedIn here.

Abdul writes:

As we come to the end of Black History Month, it has been interesting to see how institutions in the UK have highlighted, promoted and/or celebrated the achievements of people from the Black community. The BBC, Film 4, the UK Government to name a few.

It has been amazing to read about people I have heard of and those that I have not. It highlights my understanding that “I know what I know, and don’t know what I don’t know”. And there is a LOT that I don’t know.

The movie Hidden Figures was educational on many fronts.

Things come into my sphere of knowledge predominantly from the people I know and the activities that I do. We all have busy lives and the width of our sphere of knowledge can be quite constrained by our daily activities. I guess that is why they recommend that we try to know and make friends with people who are not just like us, and to continually expand our minds.

Ah, but we all prefer to stay within our comfort zone and we tend to be more comfortable around people like us. I’ll hold my hand up to this; I like my little bubble.

Working in the patent industry, it’s always nice to hear about the contributions that Black inventors have made or are making to society.

Elroy J Duncan is believed to have invented and manufactured the first hot comb/heated metal straightening comb in America, and Madam C J Walker invented a range of hair products and accessories for African-Americans to help straighten their hair. It’s amazing to see how from its humble roots, the hair straighten industry has exploded in this day and age.

Dr Samuel Achilefu is someone I recently became aware of. He is a Nigerian-born radiologist who invented high-tech infrared goggles which enable surgeons to see cancer cells during surgery. He has come up with many innovations and is listed as an inventor on over 50 patent families. Wow.

Diversity House has published a list of Black inventors that we may not have heard of. It is an interesting read.

As Boris Johnson said in his 1 October 2020 speech to mark the month, “Black history is our history – so let’s learn from it, and build a better future for us all.”



Page published on 9th November 2020
Page last modified on 9th November 2020
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