USPTO Report Cites Incremental Growth in the Number of Women Inventor-Patentees

By Rebecca Tapscott
July 28, 2020

“While the Report highlighted improvements in the percentages of women inventors since the 2019 Report, the data indicated that little growth had actually taken place… the women inventor rate (WIR), was 12.8% in 2019, up from 12.1% in 2016.”

https://depositphotos.com/72224233/stock-photo-business-woman-protecting-the-idea.htmlThis month, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) released a report titled “Progress and Potential: 2020 update on U.S. women inventor- patentees” (the Report). The Report updated a study published last year that outlined trends in women inventors named on U.S. patents from 1976 to 2016. These reports are a result of the Study of Underrepresented Classes Chasing Engineering and Science Success (SUCCESS) Act of 2018, which directed the USPTO to study and report to Congress on the number of patents applied for and obtained: (1) by women, minorities, and veterans; and (2) by small businesses owned by women, minorities, and veterans. As evidenced by the USPTO reports, women are under-represented as inventors of record on USPTO patents, which is least partially due to a general lack of funding available to women inventors.

The Report provided updated findings for the years 2017-2019 and an analysis of women’s entry into the patent system, such as details on new and repeat women inventor-patentees. While the Report highlighted improvements in the percentages of women inventors since the 2019 Report, the data indicated that little growth has actually taken place. The report noted that the share of women among all inventor-patentees, i.e. the women inventor rate (WIR), was 12.8% in 2019, up from 12.1% in 2016. However, the report said that it is not even clear if this growth can be attributed to “the contributions of women inventor-patentees because the dominant share of this output comes from mixed-gender teams.”

According to a statement by Innovation Alliance Executive Director Brian Pomper, “[t]he report shows that some incremental progress is being made in increasing the number of women entering and staying active in the patent system, but overall confirms that women are still receiving patents at rates far lower than men, a trend that undermines American innovation and competitiveness.”

New and Repeat Women Inventor-Patentees

On a positive note, the report explained that the number of new women patentee-inventors grew an average of 4% per year between the years of 2014-2019, which was “notably higher” than the number of new men inventor-patentees, i.e. 2.5%. In addition, the percentage of women inventor-patentees that stayed active in the patent system beyond a first patent was about 46%, as compared to 52% of men inventor-patentees. While the gender gap is still evident, these numbers indicate a positive trend towards “decreasing the gender gap in the number of active inventor-patentees in the patent system.”

Women Inventor-Patentees by State and Assignee

The Report also analyzed women’s representation as inventor-patentees by state and by the top 29 patent assignees. The analysis by state revealed that the District of Columbia had the highest average women inventor rate (AWIR) at 19.2% and North Dakota had the lowest AWIR at 8.3%. With respect to the top 29 patent assignees, the Report noted that Proctor & Gamble had the highest AWIR at 29%. The Report also explained that the three companies with the highest AWIR (Proctor & Gamble, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Abbott Laboratories) were focused on chemistry and biology and the three companies with the lowest AWIR (Deere & Co., Caterpillar, and Analog Devices) were focused on electrical and mechanical engineering technologies.  Given that women held about 2 million science and engineering jobs as of 2017, even the highest assignee percentage of 29% AWIR is a stark indicator that women are greatly underrepresented in the U.S. Patent System. Thus, added Pomper in his statement, “[i]t is critical that policymakers and researchers continue to collect and study data on the patenting rates of women and people of color.”

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The Author

Rebecca Tapscott

Rebecca Tapscott is an intellectual property attorney who has joined IPWatchdog as our Staff Writer. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Central Florida and received her Juris Doctorate in 2002 from the George Mason School of Law in Arlington, VA.

Prior to joining IPWatchdog, Rebecca has worked as a senior associate attorney for the Bilicki Law Firm and Diederiks & Whitelaw, PLC. Her practice has involved intellectual property litigation, the preparation and prosecution of patent applications in the chemical, mechanical arts, and electrical arts, strategic alliance and development agreements, and trademark prosecution and opposition matters. In addition, she is admitted to the Virginia State Bar and is a registered patent attorney with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. She is also a member of the American Bar Association and the American Intellectual Property Law Association.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

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