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Chairwoman Velázquez, Senators Hirono and Tillis, and Rep. Stivers Introduce Bipartisan Bicameral Bill to Increase Diversity in U.S. Patent System

Washington, D.C.— Today, the House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Congressman Steve Stivers (R-OH) introduced the Inventor Diversity for Economic Advancement Act (“IDEA Act”) of 2021. The bill includes provisions to level the playing field for women and minority inventors, who are underrepresented in the U.S. patent system and face historical barriers when trying to develop inventions.  


“As Chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, I see examples of the ways innovative entrepreneurs drive our country forward every day. Through tireless work and ingenuity, these inventors improve our quality of life and make America a better place,” said Chairwoman Velázquez. “We must ensure that all Americans have the same opportunity to contribute to our society through innovation. This bill will make the U.S. patent system more equitable and allow more women, people of color, and other disadvantaged groups to develop their inventions. By making the patent process more inclusive, we will help drive economic growth and elevate communities hurt by longstanding discriminatory barriers.”


“From Josephine Cochrane, the inventor of the automatic dishwasher, to Mary Sherman Morgan, one of the first female rocket scientists, Ohio has helped launch the careers of countless inventors,” said Congressman Stivers.  This bill builds on their legacies by ensuring that women and minorities are able to access and utilize the patent system, and encourages IDEAs from all walks of life,”


“Our nation is home to millions of inventors—and we must do more to encourage women and minorities to secure patent rights. To keep leading in technological innovation, we must harness the potential of all Americans. I have long worked to boost opportunities for women and other underrepresented groups in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. The IDEA Act will give us insight into what policies we can implement to support underrepresented groups in applying for patents, and help policymakers address these inequalities,” Senator Hirono said.


“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 Senator 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.”


Women, minorities, and the economically disadvantaged have historically been underrepresented in the U.S. patent system. According to a recent survey from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, women make up only 12% of all inventors. Studies also show that the percentage of African American and Hispanic college graduates who hold patents is approximately half that of their White counterparts. This lack of diversity in the innovation space has a significant impact on the U.S. economy. Economists estimate that including more women and African Americans in the process of innovation could increase GDP by as much as 3.3% per capita. 


One of the biggest obstacles to increasing diversity in the patent system is a lack of demographic data on applicants. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) does not collect data beyond the applicant’s most basic information. The IDEA act addresses this issue by requiring the USPTO to collect data on gender, race, and military or veteran status from patent applicants voluntarily. The bill also confronts implicit bias in the patent examination process by requiring demographic information to be kept separate from patent applications. The legislation seeks to increase publicly available data on patent diversity by mandating that USPTO publish annual reports on the subject and make underlying demographic data open to the public. 


For a factsheet on the bill, click here.


For the full text of the bill, click here.



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