IWPR Statement on New USPTO Report on Diversity and Inclusion in Patenting

Press Release

Contact: Jennifer Clark, clark@iwpr.org, 202-785-5100

Washington, DC—Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) released a new report that shares more information on the demographics of inventors applying for patents. The report presents findings of the USPTO’s study of the gender and racial gaps in rates of patenting and the impact of these gaps on small businesses and entrepreneurship.

Previous research published by IWPR found that fewer than one in five of all patents have at least one woman inventor. Although the applications filed by women and men primary inventors were accepted at similar rates, the number of patent applications with a man listed as the primary inventor was more than triple the number of applications with a woman listed first. At the current rate, IWPR has projected that women will not reach parity in patenting with men until 2092.

IWPR’s research has also connected women’s intellectual property holdings to entrepreneurship. Women-owned businesses with employees are less likely than businesses owned by men to hold intellectual property rights, such as patents, copyrights, and trademarks. At the same time, research has indicated that patents are factored into the investment decisions of a wide variety of potential funders including venture capitalists, commercial banks, and even friends and family. Women-owned businesses that have a patent pending also have average revenues 16 times higher than firms without intellectual property and have the smallest revenue gaps when compared with men-owned firms.

Another valuable contribution of the USPTO report is that it also brings together all of the existing information on the representation of people of color in the patent system, indicating that Black and Hispanic people are particularly underrepresented in patenting.

IWPR Study Director Jessica Milli, Ph.D., released the following statement on the report:

“The USPTO’s report is a fantastic contribution to the field, summarizing what we know about the participation of women, people of color, and veterans in patenting, and making the case for better data collection efforts to understand the experiences of these groups in the patent system. Many women and historically underrepresented groups are innovating, but face significant barriers to accessing intellectual property rights. Despite the clear benefits to having greater diversity in patenting that this report highlights, a historical lack of data on these populations has limited our capacity to develop programs and policies that can improve access to the patent system. Promoting greater diversity in innovation is going to be critical to finding solutions to the challenges facing society today that benefit everyone, not just a small share of our population.”

Find more resources from IWPR on women, STEM, and innovation.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts and communicates research to inspire public dialogue, shape policy, and improve the lives and opportunities of women of diverse backgrounds, circumstances, and experiences. IWPR is affiliated with the Program on Gender Analysis in Economics at American University. 

—END—