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Women Represent 13% of US Patent Owners After 30 Years of Growth

Oct. 19, 2022, 4:30 PM

Women inventors made up 13% of US patent holders by 2019 as the number of counties with women patentees jumped by nearly a third over three decades, according to a new US Patent and Trademark Office report.

An additional 411 counties had women patent holders between 1990 and 2019, a 32% increase, the report issued Wednesday said.

The analysis aims to answer some questions necessary for the formulation of policy to expand women’s participation in patenting—one of several areas the PTO has said it would examine in its efforts to increase diversity in intellectual property.

Growth has varied widely among US states, the report found, with women tending to join the invention ecosystem in metropolitan areas including the Boston-Washington, D.C., corridor, South Florida, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Phoenix.

“These concentrations are consistent with historical strengths in technologies such as medicine and chemistry on the East Coast and computer science on the West Coast,” said the report.

It also found that places with strong educational and research networks had compelling growth, despite having relatively smaller populations, such as Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

Technology Fields

The number of women inventors named on patents increased across all technology fields, but that growth varied widely, the report said.

For example, the number of women with patents in the “fixed constructions” sector grew 2,045% from 11 in 1990 to 236 in 2019. Women patent holders in the electricity field grew by 7,054% in the same period.

Physics and electricity saw the most women patentees by 2019, even as women make up just 12% of workforce participation in each of those fields, the report said.

By comparison, the chemistry and metallurgy “hub” in Middlesex County, Mass., had a 21% women’s participation rate, but ranked third on the total number of women inventors named on patents, according to the report.

The agency also found that technology hubs with women inventors shifted geographically over time, with Santa Clara County in California moving to the top spot in 2019 with 7,503 women patentees, knocking out Los Angeles, which was number 1 in 1990 with 97 women patent holders.

Additionally, the report indicates a positive correlation between a county’s labor force size and incomes, and the number of women inventor-patentees. Counties with women patentees generally have 630% more laborers and 22% greater incomes, it said.

It further found that there are 52% more highly educated women in counties with women patent owners.

To contact the reporter on this story: Riddhi Setty in Washington at rsetty@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com; Adam M. Taylor at ataylor@bloombergindustry.com