RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — U.S. senators and representatives introduced the Inventor Diversity for Economic Advancement (IDEA) Act of 2021 on Tuesday. The bipartisan, bicameral legislation aims to close the gap women, minorities, and others face when attempting to obtain patent rights in the United States.
One of the leaders introducing the bill was U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). He was joined by fellow Se. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and U.S. Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and Steve Stivers (R-Ohio).
The same coalition introduced the IDEA Act in 2019.
“The reintroduction of the IDEA Act is a crucial step toward ensuring that our nation’s inventors have equal access to our innovation ecosystem, regardless of gender, race, or income. Invent Together applauds this important effort to gather the data we need to build a more diverse and inclusive patent system,” Holly Fechner, executive director of Invent Together, said.
Officials cite several studies showing that women and minorities apply for and obtain patents at significantly lower rates than their male, white counterparts. They go on to say women make up only 13% of all inventors.
According to Tillis’ office, African American and Hispanic college graduates apply for patents at approximately half the rate of their white counterparts.
“Women and minority inventors have made some of the most significant inventions in this country’s history, yet studies show that only 22 percent of all U.S. patents list a woman as an inventor and that women only make up 13 percent 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 IDEA Act, cosponsored by Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), works to close those gaps by directing the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to collect demographic data on a voluntary basis.
It further requires the USPTO to both issue reports on the data collected and make the data available to the public.
The IDEA Act is cosponsored by Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).