Industry Groups Urge Quick Passage of Reintroduced IDEA Act

By Eileen McDermott
March 10, 2021

“By making the patent process more inclusive, we will help drive economic growth and elevate communities hurt by longstanding discriminatory barriers.” – Rep. Nydia Velázquez

https://depositphotos.com/84022156/stock-photo-bar-loading-with-the-text.htmlRepresentative Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Congressman Steve Stivers (R-OH) yesterday reintroduced the Inventor Diversity for Economic Advancement Act (IDEA Act), which seeks to direct the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) “to collect demographic data – including gender, race, military or veteran status, and income level, among others – from patent applicants on a voluntary basis.” Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) are co-sponsors of the legislation.

The bill was first presented in July 2019, following Representative Steve Chabot’s (R-OH) introduction of the Study of Underrepresented Classes Chasing Engineering and Science (SUCCESS) Act in 2018. That bill asked the USPTO, “in consultation with the Administrator of the Small Business Administration, to study and provide recommendations to promote the participation of women, minorities, and veterans in entrepreneurship activities and the patent system.” A key finding of that study was that there simply isn’t enough publicly available data to guide and support legislation that will foster inclusive innovation. This inspired the IDEA Act.

According to a press release issued yesterday, the bill would also require the USPTO “to issue reports on the data collected and make the data available to the public, thereby allowing outside researchers to conduct their own analyses and offer insights into the various patent gaps in our society.”

“This bill will make the U.S. patent system more equitable and allow more women, people of color, and other disadvantaged groups to develop their inventions,” said Velázquez, who is Chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee. “By making the patent process more inclusive, we will help drive economic growth and elevate communities hurt by longstanding discriminatory barriers.”

As recently discussed during the USPTO’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium, only 22% of all U.S. patents list a woman as an inventor and women only make up 13% of all inventors, said Tillis. “We must work to close this gap to ensure all Americans have the opportunity to innovate, and I am proud to reintroduce this bipartisan, bicameral legislation to get a better understanding of the background of individuals who apply for patents with the USPTO.”

The press release also noted that African American and Hispanic college graduates apply for patents at approximately half the rate of their white counterparts.

Several groups quickly issued statements applauding the reintroduction.

Innovation Alliance Executive Director Brian Pomper said:

The USPTO currently does not have the authority to collect any demographic information from inventors applying for patents, and as a result we have an incomplete picture of the patent diversity gap…. Breaking down barriers to patenting in underrepresented communities would help these inventors gain access to venture capital and other financing, allowing them to expand research and development and more easily bring their innovations to market.

Pomper added that the Senate and House should “take up and pass the IDEA Act as soon as possible.”

The Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) Executive Director Jessica Landacre said that “collecting data is crucial for measuring progress toward greater inclusion of all underrepresented groups in the patent system.”

Invent Together Executive Director Holly Fechner called the bill “a crucial step toward ensuring that our nation’s inventors have equal access to our innovation ecosystem, regardless of gender, race, or income” and commended the sponsors for “shining a light” on the issue. A statement issued by Invent Together also noted that an economist under consideration by President Biden for the Federal Reserve Board has indicated that diversity gaps “could cost the U.S. up to 2.7% of GDP”.

Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry Heath said the bill “is vital to giving us a clear picture of where we are and what needs to be done to move forward, and encouraged “its swift enactment.”

The Author

Eileen McDermott

Eileen McDermott is the Editor-in-Chief of IPWatchdog.com. Eileen is a veteran IP and legal journalist, and no stranger to the intellectual property world, having held editorial and managerial positions at several publications and industry organizations. She has acted as editorial consultant for the International Trademark Association (INTA), chiefly overseeing the editorial process for the Association’s twice-monthly newsletter, the INTA Bulletin. Eileen has also served as a freelance editor for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); as senior consulting editor for the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) from 2015 to 2017; as Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief at INTA from 2013 to 2016; and was Americas Editor for Managing Intellectual Property magazine from 2007 to 2013.

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 as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 8 Comments comments.

  1. Pro Say March 10, 2021 10:26 am

    “This bill will make the U.S. patent system more equitable and allow more women, people of color, and other disadvantaged groups to develop their inventions . . .”

    “We must work to close this gap to ensure all Americans have the opportunity to innovate . . . ”

    While an admirable goal, this bill would do nothing to fix the greatest problem facing ALL inventors — including women, people of color, and other disadvantaged groups — the inability to obtain patent protection for their biologic, computer, and internet-enabled inventions.

    The inequitable difference between that which CAN be protected in America . . . and that which CANNOT.

    THAT is the gap — the innovation gap — which most needs to be closed.

    For the good of all inventors.

    For the good of our Country.

  2. Josh Malone March 10, 2021 12:06 pm

    This is nonsense. It is shameful for Congress and industry groups to promote fraudulent patents to individuals who can least afford to waste their money. They know that individuals with limited resources cannot use a patent, and they know the USPTO / PTAB will take it back if they try. Why do they continue to ignore the real problem?

  3. Jeff Hardin March 10, 2021 12:13 pm

    This bill will NOT make the US patent system more equitable to underrepresented groups. The IDEA Act will have “missing data”. This very thing was discussed by PPAC with the USPTO here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QUhzCz8lfI

    There will be NO DATA on inventors who elect to NOT APPLY for a patent in the first place, and, as the SUCCESS Act testimonies show, underrepresented small inventors will not seek patents unless the ship is righted. Don’t give me the false statement that “applications are up”. Applications by whom? By knowledgeable inventors who are aware of the PTAB and the AIA patent system in which we now live?

    If Congress truly wants to close the gap with the underrepresented, Congress needs to address the actual concerns that 79% of the underrepresented provided the USPTO in the SUCCESS Act study — concerns that were ignored in the SUCCESS Act report to Congress. Don’t take my word for it. In response to being omitted from the USPTO report to Congress, twenty of these underrepresented inventors wrote a letter to Rep. Velasquez in January 2020, stating:

    “[T]he USPTO excluded our testimony from the report that the agency issued to Congress on October 31, 2019. While it is disappointing that the USPTO silenced our voices, we are nevertheless hopeful that you and other Members of Congress will consider our views and experience going forward.

    An overwhelming majority of the inventors who testified identified difficulty with enforcing our patents, risk of PTAB invalidations, and efficient infringement as obstacles to participating in the patent system. As one witness put it, ‘what good is a patent if one cannot defend it?’

    Once we can rely on patents to stop large well-heeled corporations from stealing our inventions, then minorities, women, and veterans will be able to pursue more patent and entrepreneurship activities.”

    Reference: https://usinventor.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Inventor-Letter-to-Rep-Velazquez-re-SUCCESS-Act.pdf

    My letter to PPAC on the “missing data” problem of the IDEA Act is here: https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/20191111_Jeff-Hardin_email-to-PPAC.pdf

    I invite all staff from Velazquez, Hirono, Tillis, Coons, and Leahy’s offices to contact me directly to discuss. Find me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeff-hardin/

    – Jeff Hardin

  4. Anon March 10, 2021 12:40 pm

    It is worse than nonsense as it is tone deaf to non-binaries, or those who may be in transition, or may desire to self-identify in any number of different ways.

  5. Anon March 10, 2021 4:01 pm

    Thank you Mr. Hardin — that is an important contribution on the topic.

  6. Jeff Hardin March 10, 2021 5:41 pm

    Pay attention to the timestamps in the video description of that YouTube video — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QUhzCz8lfI.

    It tells the story below:

    • PPAC informed the USPTO that post-grant concerns are a barrier to economically-disadvantaged inventors, and that the IDEA Act has a “missing data” problem — there will be no data collected on inventors who elect to not participate in the patent process.

    • The USPTO responds only talking about front-end resources (pro bono, pro se,) yet promised the SUCCESS Act Report would address post-grant concern. (The USPTO didn’t in the report.)

    • The PPAC mentioned there was a lack of transparency by the USPTO in the SUCCESS Act Study processes.

    • The USPTO admitted failure that the “right audience” didn’t know about SUCCESS Act hearings, so they reached out after the first hearing.

    ====
    Note: In that first hearing, mind you, 100% of the underrepresented inventors who testified were critical of the AIA and the PTAB. The deputy undersecretary was openly critized by one witness for excusing herself from the hearings and listening to the inventor testimonies immediately after her introductory speech (I was there and observed this with my own eyes), and the USPTO was very surprised with what the inventors said at this hearing. Word on the street has it that they cancelled the next two hearings to regather and discuss strategy, and then they were rescheduled.

    The USPTO’s statements here in this PPAC meeting imply, amazingly, that the very underrepresented inventors they are trying to help and who took the effort to come to the USPTO to testify weren’t the “right audience”?!

    Here are two articles on that first hearing:
    https://www.ipwatchdog.com/2019/05/09/independent-inventors-uspto-underrepresented-patent-system/id=109109/
    https://www.ipwatchdog.com/2019/05/22/legislative-recommendation-success-act-recognize-inventor/id=109489/
    ====

    • PPAC then suggested that the USPTO reopen for comments to address lower-income inventors in their study. (The USPTO didn’t.)

    • The USPTO said they will review how to bring these suggestions into Report. (The USPTO didn’t in the report.)

    • PPAC then said that the SUCCESS Act hearings show that post-grant risks discourage inventors from seeking patents; PPAC wanted the USPTO to have responses to these risks in the Report.

    • The USPTO, again, responds only with front-end resources and talks about their new website, but nothing on the identified post-grant concerns that PPAC wanted responses to in the report. (The USPTO did not provide responses or solutions to the post-grant concerns in the report.)

    • PPAC then expressed concerns on IDEA Act’s introduction of demographic data into the patent application process. Concerns on the practicality of collecting demographic data on patent applicants were discussed. PPAC asked “Why does the USPTO want or need my demographic data?” and discussed more problems with privacy concerns, logistics, and the additional resources the IDEA Act would introduce and/or require.

    • PPAC concluded saying that the IDEA Act was “not well thought out”, and also said that demographic data could negatively affect the examination process and cause problems with quotas and expectations, creating unnecessary pressure on examiners.

    ===

    If the IDEA Act becomes law, say bye-bye to patents being a meritocracy. The infection and introduction of race and gender will have been codified under the ploy of “equity”. If Congress wants equity, then how about LISTENING to those underrepresented inventors who have spoke and who need equity? They have spoken and are speaking, but Congress and the USPTO are not listening to them.

    Is Congress going to repeat history and throw the underrepresented inventors under the bus again, under the guise of “equity”?

    “A critical voice seems to have been missing from the discussion — that of the patent owner… Most of all, consider IPRs from the perspective of the patentee. After all, without them, we wouldn’t be here.”
    – John Whealan, in comments at House IP Subcommittee Hearing on the PTAB and Appointments Clause, Nov19, 2020.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTsD4vWl6Rg

  7. Night Writer March 11, 2021 9:19 am

    This is ridiculous. You can pay a few thousand dollars for a survey and get data that is probably going to be better than the data you collect.

    And this is another tail wagging the dog problem. The fact is that most of the problems and disparity in race occur before a child is 12. Blacks that are raised in two-family households with parents with good jobs do equally as well as whites. There are plenty of statistics that show this.

    This is just a giant distraction probably pushed by K street to gum up any real reform.

  8. Pro Say March 11, 2021 10:48 am

    Thanks Jeff — outstanding as usual.

    Please continue to shine the bright light of truth into the patenting darkness.