Why the IDEA Act is a Bad Idea
As previously reported on this blog, a bipartisan group of senators recently reintroduced a bill in Congress called the “Inventor Diversity for Economic Advancement Act of 2021,” or the ‘‘IDEA Act,’’ S.632; H.R.1723. The Senate Committee on the Judiciary is scheduled to hold its hearing on the IDEA Act this Thursday morning. Citing a report that “only 22 percent of all U.S. patents list a woman as an inventor,” the sponsor’s press release explains that the bill’s purpose is “to close the gap that women, minorities, and others face when procuring patent rights in the United States.” To advance this putative goal, the bill adds Section 124 to the Patent Act that will require the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to annually collect and report personal demographic data from patent applicants including “gender, race, military or veteran status, and any other demographic category that the Director determines appropriate, related to each inventor listed with an application for patent.” Accordingly, the USPTO Director would be granted plenary authority to collect information on “any other demographic category” such as those the sponsors have already identified in their previous version of the bill, namely: ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, age, disability, education level attained, and income level…. Unexpectedly, however, this bill would actually harm small business and underrepresented inventors. As explained below, this legislation is contrary to patent law; it proposes a dangerous method for injecting identity politics at the USPTO, where it never has nor should play any role, and where there is no evidence that the USPTO has displayed prejudice or discrimination.