Increasing Diversity in Innovation by Tracking Women, Minority, and Startups: Innovators that Patent and Supporting Experimentation in Inclusive Innovation

Innovation and Economic Growth, Intellectual Property and Patents

Article Snapshot


Colleen Chien


Santa Clara University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 01-19, 2019


The Study of Underrepresented Classes Chasing Engineering and Science Success (SUCCESS) Act of 2018 requires the United States Patent Office (USPTO) to better support women, minorities, and veterans in innovation.

Policy Relevance

The USPTO should collect demographic data on patent applicants. The USPTO should investigate gender bias in patent awards.

Main Points

  • The SUCCESS Act requires the USPTO to inform Congress as to how to increase the participation of women, minorities, and veterans in innovation and entrepreneurship.
  • The USPTO lacks reliable demographic data on the involvement of underrepresented groups in innovation.
    • Information about applicants’ ethnicity cannot reliably be inferred from their names.
    • USPTO data about the participation of independent inventors and small firms is unreliable.
  • The USPTO should collect better demographic data from patent applicants, including data on ethnicity, gender, veteran status, and whether the applicant is an independent inventor, small business, or micro-entity.
    • The data should be segregated from the actual patent application.
    • The data should be made available in bulk or for research-related purposes only.
    • The USPTO should consult applicants and stakeholders in formulating a policy on privacy and data sharing.
  • Patent applications, grants, maintenance, and other patent-related transactions should be tracked to determine how better to support underrepresented inventors.
  • The USPTO should investigate gender bias in the patent system.
    • The applications of females are less likely to be granted than those of males, and the effect is greater for applicants with feminine names.
    • The impact of an applicant’s name should be tested by sending identical patent applications to examiners, half with female names, and half with male names.
  • The rule that inventors must apply using their full legal name bars private-sector applicants from testing whether certain names are a disadvantage in the patent process; the USPTO should relax its rules to support investigation of gender gaps.
  • The USPTO should work with technology companies to discover practices that improve the participation of underrepresented groups in inventing.

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