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With twinkling eyes and an infectious smile, Lawrence Udell is a perfect guy to have as an advocate. And as a champion of small inventors, that’s what his job has been for the last 50 years. Udell has helped launch more than 20 companies, established various organizations to educate and promote inventors, lectured at universities, and served as a consultant for a variety of companies as well as the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and the World Intellectual Property Organization. “At a very early age I realized the plight of American inventors,” Udell said. He recalled a popular cartoon of the 1930s and ’40s that made a lasting impact on him. The “Crazy Inventions” series by Rube Goldberg connoted how various contraptions work as a result of a series of silly chain reactions. Udell said these cartoons were part of the reason “news media looked at inventors as [being] crazy.” Udell, 70, got into the business of invention through his father, who invented several tools for the U.S. government during World War II, including a high-speed camera that could take millions of frames a second. His father also was part of the team that invented the gyroscope on torpedoes. In the early 1950s, Udell founded the International Inventors Association and produced a new products exhibition. Udell is still thrilled that the event made it to the front page of The Wall Street Journal in 1957. Since then he has founded several organizations, such as the California Invention Center and the Center for New Venture Alliance, which holds workshops for government agencies and corporations. And last year he co-founded the Silicon Valley chapter of the Licensing Executives Society, a networking and educational group for companies and attorneys interested in licensing intellectual property. Along with his work with government agencies, Udell has put together a program for WIPO to help get innovations off the ground in developing countries and served as a consultant for the Egyptian patent agency. He also has helped found numerous companies, such as Jump Sport LLC in Saratoga, Calif., which makes protective cords for trampolines, and linked inventors up with various companies. “California has been able to recognize and exploit the entrepreneurship of small inventors largely because of what Larry’s built,” said Brad Friedman, director of intellectual property at San Jose’s Cadence Design Systems Inc. “He’s an amazing individual with an enormous heart.” “He’s a guider of inventors, almost a spiritual adviser” as well as an honest broker who people trust, said former PTO Director Q. Todd Dickinson, who is now a partner at Washington, D.C.-based Howrey Simon Arnold & White. James Fergason, the inventor of liquid crystal display, which is used in computer screens, watches, calculators and numerous other applications, also praised Udell’s contribution to small inventors. “He’s a catalyst who puts people together and gets things done,” Fergason said. Udell’s latest project is getting corporate sponsors for the Wright Brothers Centennial, a yearlong celebration set to begin in January 2003. In honor of the first powered flight, a series of events will be held, including a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum, a commemorative stamp from the U.S. Postal Service, a commemorative coin from the U.S. Mint and air shows throughout the world. The organizer of the centennial, Roger Richman of the Roger Richman Agency Inc. in Beverly Hills, Calif., met Udell at a licensing show in New York and was impressed with his contacts. Working with Udell is “a natural fit because his career has been working with inventors like the Wright Brothers,” Richman said. For Udell, such projects are a wonderful opportunity to promote entrepreneurs. “I have three criteria in life,” Udell said. “Have fun in what you’re doing, help people whether or not you know them, and make a couple of bucks along the way.”

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