Study Led by Scholar at the University of Georgia Finds Gender Gap in Patent Approvals

A new study by researchers at the University of Georgia and Oklahoma State University finds women inventors are less likely than men to have their patent applications granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The researchers examined more than 4 million patent applications that were filed between 2000 and 2015. Since the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office doesn’t collect gender information, the researchers compared the applicants’ first, middle, and last names to other databases to define gender status. For example, Jessica is mostly likely a woman’s name, while Jake is most likely to be a man’s name. But Jessie could easily either be a man or a woman. Applicants with at least a 90 percent likelihood of gender identification were included in the analysis.

The results showed that patent applications submitted by applicants with women’s names were less likely to be approved than patents submitted by applicants whose names are generally considered to be male.

“Innovation is a driver of economic success. If everyone who has the capacity and will to be an inventor engages in that pursuit, then society benefits,” said lead author Mike Schuster, who is an assistant professor of legal studies at the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia. “If we’re not engaging the entire population of the country in the innovative landscape, we’re leaving an awful lot on the table.”

“We don’t have definite evidence that implicit biases are at work here, but from the gender side, we do know that there is some bias being introduced,” Dr. Schuster added. “Jessica is less likely to get a patent than Jake. The good thing is that, if implicit biases are influencing patent examination, they can be mitigated through training and thinking about how we make decisions.”

The study,  “An Empirical Study of Patent Grant Rate as a Function of Race and Gender,” will be published in the American Business Law Journal.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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