Intellectual Property and Women Entrepreneurs. Quantitative Analysis

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This research focuses on the participation of U.S. based women entrepreneurs in Patents and Trademarks activity. Using data obtained from the United States Patents and Trademarks Office, the study probes, in-depth, the number of patents and trademarks obtained by women entrepreneurs as well as the concomitant gender gap for the period 1975-2010. Commercially available data on the most common names for men and women was used to net 94.11% of the patents granted in a given year. Particular attention was paid to include uncommon names of Chinese, Korean, Indian, Japanese and European origin to ensure that the contributions of immigrant U.S. based women were not overlooked. Both primary and non-primary patentees were examined. The contributions of women entrepreneurs in specific industries were segmented and analyzed. Differences in the rates at which patents and trademarks are assigned by men and women to companies were studied.

Several significant conclusions may be drawn from this research:

  1. U.S. based women demonstrate increasing leadership in patent and trademark activities. It should be noted that this report summarizes results only for patentees and trademark holders and theses terms do not always connote entrepreneurship.

  2. The number of patents granted to women is significantly higher than those reported in earlier studies. Importantly, the number of patents granted to women is increasing at an accelerating pace.

    The number of patents granted to women increased by approximately 34.72% from 2009 to 2010. In the same period (2009 to 2010), the number of primary patents granted to women increased by 28.57% and the number of non-primary patents granted to women increased by 38.23%. In this report, the first name on a patent disclosure is assumed to be the

    “primary” patent holder. Subsequent names are assumed to be “non-primary” patent holders. The USPTO does not classify “primary” and “non-primary” patentees this way. Sometimes, the names are just listed alphabetically.

  3. The highest sustained rate of increase in the grant of U.S. patents to women was in the 1986-1993 period.

  4. The slowest rate of increase in patents granted to women was in the 1999-2006 period.

  5. The total number of patents obtained by women shows an accelerating rate of increase with time. Similarly, there is an accelerating rate at which women become primary inventors as judged by the first name on a patent disclosure. This suggests an increasing leadership by women entrepreneurs in R&D activities. 

  6. Of particular interest is the surge of innovation by women in some of the emerging high-tech industries. The field of optics and optical systems was selected to illustrate this observation. For instance, 11.55% of patents in Optical Waveguides had at least 1 woman inventor.

  7. The participation of women in Trademark activity as measured by the percentage of Trademarks granted has more than doubled in the period between 1980 to 2010, from approximately 16.5% in 1980 to more than 33% in 2010.

  8. Women have a significantly higher participation in Trademark activity as compared to Patent activity. For instance, whereas women received approximately 18% of all patents granted in the year 2010, the contribution of women to Trademark activity was more than 33%.

  9. The ratio of successful women patent applicants to successful men patent applicants varies from a low of 73.36% in 1986 to a high of 93.57% in 2002.

  10. There is no statistically measurable difference in the proportion of successful women Trademark applicants and successful men Trademark applicants. The analysis shows no bias in the processing of trademark applications. The reasons for the apparent differences in IP protection activity between men and women must be sought in employment patterns, R &D opportunities, and perceptions of risk and reward. 

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