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Lisa Seacat DeLuca, Software Engineer, Advanced Cloud Solutions; IBM Master Inventor

Lisa Seacat DeLuca, Software Engineer, Advanced Cloud Solutions; IBM Master Inventor

By Chris Nay


Notice a pattern in these codes? Don’t feel bad if you don’t. They’re from 1994’s “Pac Man 2: The New Adventures.” The kids playing the game in the mid-1990s knew that they unlocked hidden levels, but probably didn’t notice a pattern either. But 12 year old Lisa DeLuca did. To the point she could correctly predict, and enter the next code without playing the game.

“Figuring out these codes made me think: I want to be around this kind of thing [when I grow up],” Lisa said.

What that “thing” turned into almost 20 years later is programming and patenting at IBM. Today, Lisa is a two-time Master Inventor with more than 300 patents filed, working on next-gen cloud applications for IBM’s Advanced Cloud Solutions.

Seven years in the making

Lisa had yet to file a patent when she joined IBM’s Austin lab in 2005 to develop Java applications (this after two summer internships with the company; one in Rochester, MN and another in Raleigh, NC. The old cliché “I’ve Been Moved” even applies to students!). While some of her fellow interns tried, the whole process seemed intimidating. And at a giant company, where do you start?

Patent Prowess
315 patents filed
102 patent plateaus
79 patents issued

“When I moved to Austin, a group of Extreme Blue alumni met a couple times a month to brainstorm about patents – from ideas to patent, to figuring out how to patent something. When I discovered that I just needed to fill out a three-question form to pitch an idea to IBM’s patent review board, I thought ‘I can at least do that.’ So, I submitted an idea,” Lisa said.

Her idea for “output styling in an IDE console” went over so well that the review board accepted it after her first in-person pitch. So put patent number 8,302,070 on the resume, right? Not so fast. Putting the “patented” stamp on a console that looked like a browser window, so that developers could apply some HTML-like stylings such as different colors and fonts to their code, would have to wait, and wait, and wait some more.

After the positive review in August of 2005, the board officially accepted it in July, 2006 (when #8,302,070 became officially protected). If that seemed to take a while, the US Patent and Trademark Office didn’t issue the patent until 2012! Their usual turnaround is a mere four years.

“Looking back, I was actually lucky. For the board to accept a first ever invention idea pitch is not that common. Knowing what I know now, I made a lot of mistakes in how I wrote it up.  The best way to learn, however, is to jump in head first,” Lisa said.

Patience and planning pays off 314 more times

Just like those old Pac Man codes, Lisa started to figure out how to pattern her work and interests into patents. Here are a few things she’s learned over the last few years and hundreds of patent board pitches.

  • Do your homework. Find out if something else has parts of your idea, or if it’s completely taken. Then, you can use these other ideas to defend your new idea and become a subject matter expert.  A good inventor does this prior art search.  A great inventor modifies their invention based on what they find to make their original idea even stronger.

    Advancing the Cloud

    Lisa is on a team looking at new ways for businesses to use the cloud. Their Cloud First Factory, built on top of OpenStack, lets users develop their own solutions in the Cloud.

    Cloud meet mobile

    The team also started building mobile cloud apps for their development and test environments. The apps utilize command-line interfaces so that users can download private keys to their mobile device and manage their cloud instances.
    “We’re now working on how to visualize big data that’s stored in the cloud – that can be shown and analyzed over mobile,” Lisa said.

  • Form brainstorming groups with colleagues. A diverse perspective on a challenge can often spur new ways to solve a broader problem.

“I had gotten to know several colleagues over patent brainstorming conference calls well enough to invite them to my wedding. These were people I had not met in person – and they all came!” Lisa said.

  • Don’t take it personally. Disconnect yourself from your idea when you’re defending it. Review boards are looking for ideas that may be valuable to the company; a rejection is not an indictment on you.
  • Join the experts. Sit in on your company’s patent review board meetings as an evaluator. Get to know what they are looking for in patent write ups and defense pitches. Doing this will help you better understand the process.
  • Be patient, but don’t wait. Be patient with individual filings, but try to have as many ideas in the different phases of review so you don’t watch the clock.

Lisa, now based on the East Coast, is the first woman to reach IBM’s 100th patent plateau – a point system that rewards patent filings and issuances. And at 30 years old, maybe the youngest. “I made reaching the 100th plateau a goal. But when it happened and the balloons and confetti didn’t fall from the ceiling, I thought ‘well, I’ll just keep thinking of new patent ideas,’ but without a specific number of filings or plateaus in mind.”

“Ok, it would be nice to reach 200.”

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Why the balloons and confetti didn’t fall from the ceiling? What happens to IBM?

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Impressive numbers: 300 patents filed and 100 plateaus (so I assume you have 300 publications to get to 1200 plateau points).
So 600 disclosures (assuming 0% closed) in 7 years (which is about 1500 working days). An average of one patent or publication every 2.5 days, sustained for seven years.
How do you manage to do that? What percentage of your time do you dedicate to patents? (it looks like it could even exceed 100%)

Posted by: Roberto Ragusa
May 16, 2013
9:04 am

congratulations! very inspirational to youngsters.Key points made here are awesome.Thank you for posting them.

Posted by: bharatesh Benni
May 16, 2013
7:23 am

Congrats!!!! on reaching 100 and all the best for the 200th and many more to follow

Posted by: Srinivas
May 16, 2013
7:14 am

Splendid! Its wonderful to hear…Wish to hear more nd more frm u.

Posted by: Pankaj
May 16, 2013
5:52 am

Congratulations :))

Posted by: Ayhan Karaman
May 16, 2013
3:00 am

Congrats Lisa, Splendid , impressive work keep up, Cheers

Posted by: Roopa
May 16, 2013
2:11 am

Congratulations Lisa. Its an inspiration to all.Way to go ahead.

Posted by: Payal
May 15, 2013
2:23 pm

Congratulations Lisa. You make it all seem possible and easy (somewhat). Thanks for joining IBM! Two internships – in two different locations? That within itself is great. As one commenter stated earlier – You Rock!!!

Posted by: Patricia lovett
May 15, 2013
12:56 pm

Muchas felicidades Lisa, muy inspirador!

Posted by: Minor Gomez
May 15, 2013
12:52 pm

Congratulations Lisa! Truly inspiring…G’Luck on all your future endeavors..May the force be with you!.

Posted by: Prakash Mathrani
May 15, 2013
11:53 am

Awesome!!!! Really inspiring Lisa

Posted by: Ambily Viswanathan
May 15, 2013
11:52 am

Awesome!!!!!!!! Really inspiring Lisa

Posted by: Ambily Viswanathan
May 15, 2013
10:52 am

Magnificent work Lisa!

Posted by: Sunita Gudgeri
May 15, 2013
10:13 am

Very inspiring! Having the courage to take that first step into a new adventure and willing to learn from your shortcomings. AWESOME!!

Posted by: Sherry Bennett
May 15, 2013
6:30 am


Posted by: Abhijit Paul
May 14, 2013
10:53 pm


Posted by: Catherine Chavez
May 14, 2013
10:52 pm

Great accomplishment Lisa… about 630? :-)

Posted by: Asheet
May 14, 2013
9:57 pm

Congratulations Lisa!!!

Posted by: Ravi Mani
May 14, 2013
9:19 pm

congratulations :-)

Posted by: Dima Rekesh
May 14, 2013
7:37 pm

Congratulations Lisa :) Very proud to see my former teammate featured on w3! You continue to rock!

Posted by: Melissa Foetsch
May 14, 2013
6:17 pm

Lisa you are an inspiration for some of us who have grown our information technology & inventing interests from the time period when the video game industry was evolving (in the late 70s through around the early-to-mid 90s). It is great to read of your continuing success inventing @ IBM!

Posted by: Mark G Matel
May 14, 2013
3:06 pm

Brilliant! Really great to see somebody so young achieving at this high level.

Posted by: Justin Douglas
May 14, 2013
2:19 pm

Lisa that is SO inspiring and impressive!! No doubt we’ll soon be reading of your 200th patent! Keep reaching, keep doing.

Posted by: Monica Santos
May 14, 2013
2:18 pm

Congratulations Lisa, I am proud of you and your exceptional talent and you are a credit to our gender. You make it sound so easy fill in the steps and do the work.

Posted by: Jamie Hughes
May 14, 2013
1:31 pm

Really, amazing! Congratulations, I bet you deserve that and more than that.
Kind regards.

Posted by: Gaston
May 14, 2013
1:30 pm

Awesome!! Great Job Lisa!!

Posted by: James Layton
May 14, 2013
1:16 pm

Congratulations Lisa! Outstanding!

Posted by: Ivan Cantu
May 14, 2013
12:53 pm

Congratulations, Lisa.. I am very impressed by your accomplishments and at such a young age. All the best to you in your future career.

Posted by: Rhonda Smith
May 14, 2013
12:50 pm

Congratulations, Lisa. I am very impressed by your accomplishments and at such a young age. Best of luck to you.

Posted by: Rhonda Smith
May 14, 2013
12:04 pm

Congratulations Lisa! You totally deserve this recognition.

Posted by: Carla Brice
May 14, 2013
11:07 am

Fantastic! Keep us posted on what’s next for you. Can’t wait to see.

Posted by: Linda Zimmer
May 14, 2013
10:45 am

To top it all, Lisa is really down to earth and has a fun sense of humour!

Posted by: Geetika Lakshmanan
May 14, 2013
10:38 am

Congratulations, Amazing!

Posted by: Doug Paulson
May 14, 2013
10:05 am


Please share the Patents so that me and my team can works toward filing Patents with your support and guidance

Posted by: Satish Gangadhar
May 14, 2013
9:15 am

I’ve had the chance to see Lisa present her ideas to patent review boards. She’s fantastic – I’m always eager to hear what she’s come up with this time (and it happens a lot – she’s prolific!). She’s also really encouraging to others – there’s a team of inventors that she’s been growing around her. It’s cool to see them branch out on their own, too.

Congratulations, Lisa – 100 plateaus is incredibly impressive.

Posted by: Brian Snitzer
May 14, 2013
6:31 am

Well done Lisa, you are an inspiration

Posted by: Jonathan Dunne
May 14, 2013
5:11 am

Congrats Lissa, That’s very inspiring!!

Posted by: Raghavendra
May 14, 2013
5:10 am

Lisa, you are absolutely outstanding!

Posted by: Fei Luo
May 14, 2013
3:53 am

Congratulations Lisa!
To call this a mindblowing achievement would be an understatement.
You are now part of the list of distinguished people all of whom I am fortunate enough to know during my lifetime.

Posted by: Max Manivan Arivarasu
May 14, 2013
3:46 am

I am really impressed and inspired. I hope I can submit at least 1 patent.

Posted by: Ray-Ann Bulala
May 14, 2013
2:18 am

Congratulations!!! This is amazing….

Posted by: Amit Bohra
May 13, 2013
10:58 pm

Amazing! You are really a role model for making the job fun!

Posted by: Eliot Shao
May 13, 2013
8:39 pm

Congratulations Lisa. Need some help from you on my patent.

Posted by:
May 13, 2013
8:38 pm

Lisa, congratulations. Need some help from you.

Posted by: Ram
May 13, 2013
4:49 pm

Amazing story and thank you for sharing. Good luck Lisa on your continued jouney!

Posted by: Brenda Gentry
May 13, 2013
4:34 pm

What an exceptional achievement! Congratulations.

Posted by: Soufiane Azizi
May 13, 2013
4:14 pm

Very inspiring for wannabes!!! At this rate, one can only assume that Lisa will hit another 336 milestone in about 7 years for a total of about 800 patents by the time she’s a 15-year veteran with the company; assuming she keeps cranking about 4 patents every month! Truly amazing…

Posted by: Bisi Adedokun
May 13, 2013
2:34 pm

The number of patents are intimidatingly high coming from a 30 yr old. May you have an exceptional future.

Posted by: Arindam
May 13, 2013
2:14 pm

Congratulations Lisa!!! It’s great to have this type of professionals at IBM.

Posted by: Roberto Alvarez
May 13, 2013
1:29 pm

Hey Lisa –
This is one of those ‘I knew her when’ moments :)
Congratulations on your awesome achievements! It was so fun to pull up w3 this afternoon and see your face smiling back as part of a feature story!!

Posted by: Marcy Swain
May 13, 2013
1:02 pm

Wow, I thought I was doing well at 27 plateaus. Congratulations – keep inventing.

Posted by: Ken Goodnow
May 13, 2013
12:27 pm

Hi Lisa, what an incredible achievement !!
Keep up your excellent work :-)
Wish you all the best in further reaching your ambitious goals.

Posted by: Frank
May 13, 2013
12:04 pm

Inspiring. Congratulations.

Posted by: Erika
May 13, 2013
10:37 am

Wow! COngratulations Lisa!

Posted by: Julieta C. Reyes
May 13, 2013
10:26 am

Congratulations Lisa!! You have been so amazing to have as a mentor!! You have accomplished so much already and I can’t wait to see what the future brings for you. Congratulations again!

Posted by: Shelbee Eigenbrode
May 13, 2013
10:09 am

Great work Lisa! Amazing!

Posted by: Jared Camilli
May 13, 2013
10:03 am

Best hire I ever made ;)

It has been an honor working beside Lisa and watching her growth!!!

Looking forward to your great contributions going forward.

Thank You Lisa

Posted by: Al Sanchez
May 13, 2013
9:55 am

Super motivating. Congrats!

Posted by: Elizabeth Young
May 13, 2013
9:47 am

Wounderfull – Excellent contribution sharing your experience..

Posted by: Igor
May 13, 2013
9:44 am

Wow and congratulations! Amazing achievement reaching 100th Plateau. Wish you many more in the future.

Posted by: Jane Fisher
May 13, 2013
9:26 am

Amazing !!

Posted by: Alfredo Diaz
May 13, 2013
9:08 am

WOW! – Fantastic.

Posted by: Paul
May 13, 2013
8:51 am

It should have said: Patience and planning pays off (pi*10^2) more times !

Posted by: Federico
May 13, 2013
8:47 am

wow, Congratulations Lisa!

Posted by: LAF
May 13, 2013
8:47 am

Love the story — Lisa’s enthusiasm and positive attitude is contagious. Very impressive.

Posted by: Cathy Litchfield
May 13, 2013
8:16 am

Lisa, very impressive! Congratulations!

Posted by: Pamela Borgen
May 13, 2013
7:55 am

Lisa, Congratulations & best of luck getting to 200 and beyond!

Posted by: Steve Corcoran
May 13, 2013
4:30 am

Wow. Congratulations Lisa.

Posted by: Nagabushan
May 13, 2013
3:51 am

Congratulations…. Really Impressive!!

Posted by: Rajkumar
May 13, 2013
3:27 am

Amazingggg!! congratulations and wishing you to continue your successful journey :)

Posted by: Vishnu
May 13, 2013
3:25 am

Awesome achievement!! you are truly inspirational.

Posted by: Nawin
May 13, 2013
3:01 am

Congratulation Lisa.. Wish you all the best to achieve your future endeavors.

Posted by: Pramod Raghuwanshi
May 13, 2013
2:58 am

Mindblowing..many congratulation on this tremendous achievement. Hope to connect up with you to learn about this journey of patent creation.

Posted by: Sairam
May 13, 2013
2:49 am

Congratulations !!!!! Lisa for this exemplary and outstanding accomplishment to reach your 100th patent plateau at the age of 30!! Amazing and mind boggling least to say. I wish you all the very very best and I hope you reach the 200th milestone soon.

Can you also share some secrets behind this amazing achievement.

Posted by: K.Subramani.
May 13, 2013
1:41 am

wow! really impressive

Posted by: Samir
May 13, 2013
12:56 am

Congratulation Lisa on the Amazing achievements. Your achievements are outstanding and Wishing you all the Best on your newly set goal to touch 2oo patent milestone.

Posted by: Shivaprasad B.A.
May 12, 2013
11:47 pm

I’am going to stop lecturing my kids on wasting time playing games on the net :-)

Posted by: PRAVEEN
May 12, 2013
10:54 pm

Brilliant acheivement . Great work and you are an inspiration. All the best for 200 and Congratulations !!

Posted by: Saravanan Shanmugam
May 12, 2013
3:54 pm

I’ve met inventors with 15 plateaus and 50 patents and they are impresive. 100 plateaus and more than 300 patents filed… that’s more than amazing!!!

Posted by: Mauricio Villalobos
May 12, 2013
3:13 am

Congratulations! Amazing achievement reaching 100th Plateau! Wish you many more ahead :)

Posted by: Anu Bhamidipaty
May 11, 2013
2:01 pm

Lisa, I am thoroughly impressed with your accomplishments and realm of possibilities that await you in the future. I encourage you to be (or continue to be) a role model for young girls and women in middle school and high school to take interest and pursue academics in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math). You are an inspiration to the next gen of women technologists. Go Girl!

Posted by: Sandra Kataoka
May 11, 2013
7:52 am

Way to go, Lisa. I am so proud to have such an amazimg person as a fellow IBMer. Good luck on reach 200 patents. You can do it!

Posted by: David Haubert
May 11, 2013
7:25 am

Wow Lisa, great story and inspiring for sure! Thanks for the great things you are doing at IBM !

Posted by: Mercedes Escala
May 11, 2013
1:36 am

Congratulations Lisa!
Good wishes to you for your bright future.

Posted by: Amol Kagde
May 11, 2013
1:34 am

Congrats Lisa. Really Proud Of You !!!

Posted by: Aravind
May 10, 2013
7:36 pm


Posted by: Ed Shockley
May 10, 2013
6:44 pm

Congratulations !! What an outstanding accomplishment to reach your 100th patent plateau at 30!! You have an exciting future ahead of you.

Posted by: Karen Kurple
May 10, 2013
6:30 pm

Congratulations Lisa. Impressive!

Posted by: Alan Ernst
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