New group aims to make patenting, inventing more diverse, Invent Together

September 17, 2020

A new coalition will work to change the status quo among U.S. patent holders, who are largely white males, and introduce more diversity in inventing and patenting, according to an announcement shared exclusively with Axios.

Why it matters: The patent diversity gap limits opportunities for the majority of Americans and leaves the U.S. with less innovation serving a narrower population, advocates say.

The big picture: Invent Together, the new campaign launched this week, argues that increasing the number of women, people of color and low-income individuals who patent would “help close wage gaps, increase the GDP and lead to new and different inventions.”

What’s happening: Invent Together will promote public policy to support more diversity among inventors and aim to research and raise awareness about the lack of diversity in patenting, the group told Axios.

  • Activities will include social media campaigns, congressional briefings and lobbying for policies that support the initiative’s goals.
  • Group members are the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, AnitaB.org, the Association of American Universities, Qualcomm and other organizations.

What they’re saying: “People are more focused on issues of diversity because of coronavirus, and its impact has laid bare some of the existing problems we face as a country related to race and gender,” Holly Fechner, a partner at Covington & Burling and executive director of the coalition, told Axios.

  • “We’ve focused our attention on so many important issues like education and health care, but not nearly enough attention has been placed on diversity and inclusion in the innovation economy.”

By the numbers:

  • A July 2020 study from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office concluded that while the rate of women inventors and patenting has grown slightly since 2016, only 22% of U.S. patents list a woman as an inventor.
  • Black and Hispanic college graduates in the U.S. have half as many patents as white college graduates, according to the American Bar Association, and higher-income Americans are likelier to patent inventions than those in lower-income brackets.

Meanwhile, on Monday, the USPTO kicked off its own new effort, the National Council for Expanding American Innovation, with a goal of understanding the diversity gap in American patenting and innovation.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include the source for data on the race and income breakdown of patent holders.