Diversity In Patenting: Current Landscape And Insights From USPTO Report

Author:Mr Christopher King
Profession:Fenwick & West LLP

The Study of Underrepresented Classes Chasing Engineering and Science Success Act (SUCCESS Act) of 2018 tasked the Director of the U.S. Patent Office with preparing a report that (among other things) identifies publicly available data on: (1) the number of patents annually applied for and obtained by women, minorities and veterans, and (2) the benefits of increasing these numbers. The USPTO was also charged with providing legislative recommendations on how to promote the participation of these groups in entrepreneurship generally and in patents specifically.

The USPTO, which transmitted its report to Congress on October 31, 2019, concluded that there is a limited amount of publicly available data regarding the participation rates of women, minorities and veterans. Additionally, the information that does exist indicates that women and minorities are underrepresented as inventors named on U.S.-granted patents, the report found. Most of the studies analyzed by the USPTO focused on women. Relatively few studies focused on minorities, and none focused on veterans.

The USPTO report estimated that the share of women inventors on granted patents increased from approximately 4 percent in 1870 to approximately 7 percent in 1940, and that the "women inventor rate" increased from approximately 4 percent in 1976 to approximately 12 percent in 2016. Despite showing a growing women inventor rate, the report also found that in 2015 women made up about 28 percent of the workforce in science and engineering, compared to which the estimated 12 percent women inventor rate pales. (For more data on gender diversity in patenting, see Fenwick's previous article exploring findings from a Yale School of Management study.)

According to the USPTO, a study of inventors on "valuable" patent applications from 2011 to 2015 indicated that many minority groups are vastly underrepresented as patent...

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