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.