22 February 2019

Women's lost intellectual property

US patent and trademark office releases report on trends and characteristics of women inventors, echoing findings from IWPR report.

The report shows that women still comprise a small minority of patented inventors. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) report, entitled Progress and Potential: A profile of women inventors on US patents, covers trends and characteristics of US women inventors named on US patents granted from 1976 through 2016.

Small minority

The report shows that women still comprise a small minority of patented inventors and highlights an untapped potential of women to spur innovation in the United States. The report delivers several important findings. The share of patents that include at least one woman as an inventor increased from about 7 percent in the 1980s to 21 percent by 2016. Even with this increase in patent counts, women inventors made up only 12 percent of all inventors on patents granted in 2016. Gains in female participation in science and engineering occupations and entrepreneurship are not leading to broad increases in female inventors earning a patent. Technology-intensive states, as well as those where women comprise a large percentage of the state’s overall workforce, show higher rates of women inventors. Women inventors are increasingly concentrated in specific technologies, suggesting that women are specializing in areas where female predecessors have traditionally patented rather than entering into male-dominated fields. Women are increasingly likely to patent on large, gender-mixed inventor teams, and are less likely than men to be an individual inventor on a granted patent.

National dialogue push

Under secretary of commerce for intellectual property and director of the USPTO, Andrei Iancu said, ‘it is important for the United States to broaden its innovation ecosphere demographically, geographically, and economically. America needs more inventors participating in the many benefits US patents can provide. The USPTO will continue to push the national dialogue on this issue and do what we can to spur real change.’ Deputy under secretary of commerce for intellectual property and deputy director of the USPTO, Laura Peter said ‘women inventors have made and continue to make key contributions. We look forward to working with industry, academia, and other government agencies to identify ways to increase the number of women inventors in all sectors of our economy.’ The full report can be found here.

Finding an echo

The findings echo a report from last July from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) , which suggested that women-owned businesses have less access to capital, fewer intellectual property rights, and much lower revenues. That report stated women-owned businesses that have a patent pending have average revenues 16 times higher than firms without intellectual property and have the smallest revenue gaps when compared with men-owned firms. The IWPR report  can be found here.