As crucial as patents are in an array of disciplines, not everyone has equal access. Programs exist to aid those in need, but more efforts toward inclusion are on the way.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has created a program to help underrepresented participants in the patent world. The National Council for Expanding American Innovation (NCEAI) aims to stoke the fire of invention for those that haven’t traditionally sought patents.
The initiative comes on the heels of the Study of Underrepresented Classes Chasing Engineering and Science Success (SUCCESS) Act of 2018. The SUCCESS Act came with three requirements for a report:
- Look at demographic information on patent applicants
- Determine the advantages of growing underrepresented groups
- Create a path to increase involvement
The end result revealed that women, veterans and minorities are underrepresented in patents for several reasons. One of the main contributors appears to be a lack of the broad professional networks their counterparts enjoy. They are also historically at a disadvantage when it comes to the resources necessary for working toward innovation.
Discovering who needed help to gain equal footing in a sometimes-difficult process was the first step. Helping them rise to the challenge of gaining patent approval was the second. The SUCCESS Act rounded out their findings with recommendations on how the USPTO can take steps to include a more diverse audience into the patent landscape:
- Expand federal programs to increase representation
- Allow for the collection and sharing of demographic information of patent applicants
- Increase awareness through means like museum exhibits, stamps and commemorative coins
Gaining a patent can be a huge boost to individuals and businesses alike. Understanding obstacles in the process can be an important step, no matter who is drafting the application.