Arab American inventors were responsible for filing approximately 8,786 patent applications during the timeframe of 2009-2013, according to the Harvard Business Review. This accounted for 3.4 percent of all patents during that time. 

Throughout history, Arab Americans have made major intellectual property contributions to society. In honor of Arab American Heritage Month, let’s get to know several Arab American inventors, their innovations, and their IP contributions.  

Michael DeBakey

The medical profession has seen its share of significant Arab American contributors, Dr. Michael DeBakey is perhaps one of the most well-known and revered. He was central to the development of an artificial heart and was the first to perform many heart related surgeries, including the first successful patch-graft angioplasty.  

Dr. Debakey was born in Louisiana to immigrant parents from Lebanon. He attended Tulane School of Medicine, where he began to revolutionize the field. Dr. Michael Debakey’s many contributions in the medical field include advancing surgical techniques, improving standards in healthcare, and helping establish the Veterans Administration.

Farouk El-Baz

When Apollo 11 is mentioned, many Americans identify Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong as the most important figures associated with the event. The moon landing would not have been fully realized, however, without the work of Dr. Farouk El-Baz. 

A scientist and geologist, Dr. El-Baz worked with NASA to plan the Apollo landing. He studied the geology of the moon and identified landing sites for the astronauts. Dr. Farouk El-Baz also led initiatives in space imaging and remote sensing technology, which he used to search for groundwater sources, particularly in drier environments.

Taher Elgamal

The Internet may not be 100% free of security issues, but thanks to one Arab American, it is a lot safer than it once was. Taher Elgamal invented the Secure Sockets Layer, known as SSL. The an internet-based security protocol became the foundation for Transport Layer Security, which is prominently used on the Internet today. 

As eCommerce has become a way of life, many of us use SSL on a daily basis. For example, when purchasing items online, we are often told to ensure the website has “https,” rather than “http.” The reason for this is because https indicates the website s is using SSL/TLS, making our purchases safer thanks to Taher Elgamal.

Rana El Kaliouby

Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming the world, and Arab American inventors are helping to ensure it is used for good purposes. Dr. Rena el Kaliouby is leading the charge by using AI to foster closer relationships through technology. 

The “emotional hearing aid,” created by Dr. el Kaliouby and her team, is a tool that allows children with Asperger’s Syndrome to better read and respond to facial expressions while interacting with others.  

Continuing her theme of “humanizing technology before it dehumanizes us,” Dr. Rana el Kaliouby co-founded Affectiva, a company that has pioneered a movement known as “Emotion AI,” which uses machine learning to “detect complex and nuanced human cognitive and emotional states.” It is used in many areas of market research, including advertising and the entertainment industry.

Anthony Fadell

Apple’s iPod changed how we listen to music and is often considered one of the most significant inventions of the last few decades. One of its key inventors is an Arab American named Anthony “Tony” Fadell, an engineer who had a vision for a better digital music player. 

Fadell’s company, “Fuse,” sought to bring the product to life, but unfortunately they ran out of funding. Determined to bring the product to market, Fadell presented the idea for his music player to Steve Jobs at Apple, where he was hired to oversee the production of the iPod and a new online music store. The rest is history, and Tony Fadell, now coined one of the “fathers of the iPod,” would go on to bring many other products to market. 

In the fields of medicine, technology, internet security, and music. Arab Americans have clearly made significant contributions to the world. For their substantial contributions to intellectual property, we honor Arab Americans this Arab American Heritage Month, and every day. 

The Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property, an initiative of the Michelson 20MM Foundation, provides access to empowering IP education for budding inventors and entrepreneurs. Michelson 20MM was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned spinal surgeon Dr. Gary K. Michelson and Alya Michelson. To learn more, visit