Promoting Innovation by Increasing Diversity in Patenting

October 14, 2019

The Patent Diversity Gap

The U.S. patent system faces a persistent patent diversity gap that is undermining American innovation. A 2016 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) found that only 18% of patents list a woman as the inventor. And Professor Lisa Cook at Michigan State University has found that African Americans and Hispanic Americans hold roughly half the number of patents that white Americans do, and that African Americans and Hispanic Americans also apply for patents at significantly lower levels than white men. Barbara Gault, Vice President at IWPR, notes in the video below that U.S. patent ownership diversity lags behind other innovative countries, which puts us at a competitive disadvantage.

How Patent Ownership Diversity Helps Innovation

Brian Pomper, Executive Director of the Innovation Alliance, explained the benefits of patent ownership diversity, stating:

“Generating higher rates of patenting or other intellectual property holdings among women, persons of color and low-income individuals will improve their access to venture capital and other financing, allowing them to expand research and development and more easily bring their innovations to market. Progress toward gender, racial/ethnic and socioeconomic equity in patenting will also benefit society by driving economic growth and bringing new ideas to the table in the search for solutions to the world’s most pressing problems."

The IDEA Act Would Promote Innovation Through Diversity

Thankfully, a new bill was introduced in Congress in July that would help to close the diversity gap in patenting. The IDEA Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Representatives Velazquez (D-NY) and Stivers (R-OH) and Senators Tillis (R-IL) and Hirono (D-HI), would require the U.S. Patent Office to collect and publish data on patent ownership diversity regularly, so that policymakers and researchers can study the data and make recommendations on how to increase patent ownership among persons of color, women, and low-income individuals. Save the Inventor hopes that Congress will pass the IDEA Act as soon as possible.

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