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USPTO report highlights challenges facing female inventors


May 24, 2019

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The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently hosted a discussion focusing on the contributions of female inventors in the United States.


The event, billed as “Progress and Potential: A Profile of Women Inventors on U.S. Patents,” was held in Denver, Colorado and featured remarks from USPTO Deputy Director Laura A. Peter, who is also the United States’ Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce.


The promotional material for the event noted that only 72 U.S. patents were awarded to women inventors from 1790 to 1859, while men received 32,362 patents in the same time period. Even in 2016, only 20% of U.S. patents feature at least one female inventor.


Some commentators have suggested that the deficit in female patentees – a phenomenon termed “Lost Einsteins” in reference to the untapped potential of women inventors – is due to societal expectations, gender bias, and a lack of female role models in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).


The event follows the USPTO’s recent release of a report by the same name which reviewed historical trends in women seeking patent protection. Among other findings, the report noted that increases in female representation in STEM fields have not been matched by proportionate increases in patent-holding women inventors, and that women who do hold patents are more likely to do so as part of large, gender-mixed teams.


In a statement, USPTO Deputy Director Peter noted that “women inventors have made and continue to make key contributions” to U.S. innovation and research, and that the USPTO will seek to work with “industry, academia, and other government agencies to identify ways to increase the number of women inventors in all sectors of our economy.”


In addition to the many women inventors in academic and industry, there are also a number of prominent female celebrity patent-holders – individuals who are famous for other reasons and file for patent protection for inventions often unrelated to their original claim to fame.

Authors: Jaclyn Tilak and Wes Dutcher-Walls

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