In early February 2019, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) released a document titled “Progress and Potential: A profile of women inventors on U.S. Patents.” Packed with interesting information about how and where women inventors have contributed to innovation in the United States, the Profile also illustrates the nation’s overall progress towards achieving equality. While many important statistics are mentioned in the Profile, two main themes indicate the direction in which we are headed with female involvement in USPTO-patented inventions.

The Percentage Of Women Inventors Is On The Rise At The USPTO

The USPTO’s Profile opens with a strong introduction that highlights just how far the U.S. patent system has come in regards to female participation. The introduction addresses that historians today are still in dispute about who the first woman was to receive a U.S. patent. Some give credit to Hannah Wilkinson Slater who was named on a patent in 1793, but because the patent was granted to “Mrs. Samuel Slater” (her husband’s name) some argue that her husband was the true inventor and say that Hazel Irwin, who was granted a patent for a cheese-press in 1808, is the true first female patent holder.

Regardless of who the first female patent holder actually was, the debate illustrates not only the fact that Hannah Wilkinson Slater’s patent was marked with her husband’s name instead of her own (an arguably antiquated concept), but also that a full fifteen years passed between the time the patents were issued to the two women. The USPTO notes that women eventually became more involved in the patent system and that seven percent of issued patents had at least one female inventor in 1980 – this number increased to twenty-one percent by 2016, which suggests that we are heading towards a more equal distribution of female and male inventors who seek patent protection.

Some Of The Most Innovative Companies Have The Highest Percentages Of Women Inventors

The USPTO’s Profile contains plenty of interesting information about the makeup of inventors who contribute to the USPTO patent applications filed by some of the largest companies in the world. One notable fact is that the entity with the largest percentage of patents with at least one named woman inventor is Procter & Gamble. Procter & Gamble, a multi-national consumer products corporation with over 20,802 USPTO patent records, easily accessible through the LexisNexis TotalPatent One® patent search tool, has a named women inventor on twenty-six percent of its issued patents.

It is also notable that the USPTO’s Profile shows that International Business Machines (more commonly known as “IBM”) has, by far, the “largest women patent inventor workforce.” The over 4,500 female inventors who work at IBM have led to at least one woman being named as a contributor on roughly sixteen percent of IBM’s patents. IBM sets an example by employing over 1,500 more female inventors than Microsoft, who has the second-largest female patent inventor workforce, and IBM’s overall workforce has been exceptionally successful in patent prosecution with over eighty percent of their USPTO-filed patent applications turning into issued patents (patent statistic courtesy of LexisNexis PatentAdvisor®).

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