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2020 Update on U.S. Women Inventor-Patentees

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The USPTO recently released a 2020 update regarding U.S. women inventor-patentees, incorporating three years of new data and nearly one million issued patents to their previous 2016 report. The information was obtained via PatentsView, a free database supported by the USPTO Office of the Chief Economist.

The USPTO focused on two indicators to assess women’s participation as inventor-patentees. The first is the share of patents that include at least one women inventor, which gives an output perspective. This increased from 20.7% in 2016 to 21.9% at the end of 2019.

The second indicator is the Women Inventor Rate (WIR), which calculates the share of women among all inventor-patentees in a given period of time­­—the input perspective. The WIR increased from 12.1% in 2016 to 12.8% in 2019. The District of Columbia topped the list of highest average WIR for 2007-2019 at 19.2%. The USPTO noted that although women’s participation in science and engineering jobs have increased, this is not reflected proportionally in the number of inventor-patentees. However, there has been a 4% annual growth of new women inventors, compared to 2.5% growth of new men inventors.

The USPTO is committed to both bringing in new women inventor-patentees and keeping women inventor-patentees active in the patent system. Being active is defined as applying for another patent within five years of their first patent. Among new inventors who were issued patents, the percentage of women has increased from 16.6% in 2016 to 17.3% in 2019. Regarding whether women have remained active, only 28% of women remained active in 1980, but has risen to 46% in 2014. The gender gap has greatly decreased, as 52% of men inventors remain active.

Companies that produce healthcare products and pharmaceuticals consistently have the highest WIRs because there are higher rates of women in chemistry and biology compared to engineering fields. Proctor & Gamble remains the company with the highest average WIR at 29.3%. The 3M Company showed the largest improvement, with their average increasing from 15.2% to 16.6%.

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