Redefining Progress and the Case for Diversity in Innovation and Inventing

The Gender Innovator-Inventor Gap

Redefining Progress and the Case for Diversity in Innovation and Inventing (Colleen V. Chien, UCLA L. Rev. 2024) (SSRN link)

In the United States, women represent over 50% of the workforce, but only 27% of STEM workers and 13% of inventors. This article surveys the scientific literature to make the empirical case for diversity in innovation and inventing, finding a growing body of research to show how diverse innovators expand the reach, quality, and quantity of innovation. It then surveys the history of patent law to make the legal case for prioritizing diversity in inventing, and for expanding conventional notions of “progress” in the patent system to include the promotion of a diverse set of innovators, rather than just innovation.

It introduces the concept of the “innovator-inventor gap” in patenting to document how across dozens of settings, technical women are participating at 50% or less of the rate of their male counterparts. It then explores how the law and mechanics of inventorship and invention contribute to such gaps. The article concludes by discussing several steps for taking progress, redefined, seriously, including: (1) institutionalizing and broadening the Patent Office’s duties and authorities to promote a diversity of innovators and inventors, (2) launching a public-private innovator diversity pilots clearinghouse to support the rigorous evaluation and refinement of relevant policies, regulations and practices, and (3) creating a periodic, innovator-inventor survey for informing the design of policies and practices for diversifying innovation and inventorship.


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