Remarks delivered at first public hearing on the SUCCESS Act
Deputy Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Laura Peter
May 8, 2019
As prepared for delivery
Good Morning everyone! Thank you Andy Toole for that kind introduction. It’s a pleasure to be here today to discuss how we can expand the innovation ecosystem.
Women constitute over half of the U.S. population, and their participation in the general U.S. workforce was almost two-thirds in 2016. Yet, women’s participation in STEM fields and in the IP system lags far behind their male counterparts. In the United States, less than one quarter of the STEM workforce comprises women. Plus, half of these women who work in STEM fields leave after 12 years—most within the first five years.
The participation of women as inventors named on U.S. patents is even lower. On February 11, 2019, the USPTO released a report entitled “Progress and Potential: a profile of women inventors on U.S. patents.” This study found that although the number of patents with at least one woman inventor increased from about 7% in the 1980s to 21% in 2016, women inventors still comprise only 12% of all inventors on patents granted in 2016. This is sad and we can do better!
If we are to maintain our technological leadership, the United States cannot continue to compete with so much talent left untapped. In order to unleash this talent—industry, academia and government must work together to address these issues and drive towards real progress. We at the USPTO are committed to making opportunities for innovation available to everyone. A recent Harvard study found that increasing invention rates among women, minorities and children from low-income families, could quadruple the rate of U.S. innovation. Clearly, unleashing this untapped potential holds tremendous benefit for all Americans.
The Trump Administration and Congress have recognized this crucial issue and the need for action. On October 31, 2018, President Trump signed into law the “Study of Underrepresented Classes Chasing Engineering and Science Success Act of 2018”, which is known as the “SUCCESS Act”. The SUCCESS Act requires the director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), in consultation with the administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), to provide Congress with a report on publicly available patent data regarding the representation of women, minorities, and veterans, and legislative recommendations. Specifically, recommendations should be provided on how to promote the participation of women, minorities and veterans in entrepreneurial activities; and how to increase the number of women, minorities and veterans who apply for and obtain patents.
In accordance with the SUCCESS Act, the USPTO is currently gathering information on the participation of women, minorities, and veterans in patent and entrepreneurship activity. We are engaging with other Department of Commerce bureaus and consulting with U.S. government agencies, including the SBA and Department of Treasury, regarding possible sharing of data and analysis relevant to the number of patents applied for and obtained by women, minorities, and veterans and the benefits therefrom. Broadening the innovation ecosphere to include underrepresented groups is critical to inspiring novel inventions, driving economic growth, and maintaining America’s global competitiveness. So let’s all work together to unleash this untapped potential! Today’s event represents one step in advancing the dialogue.
Everyone—individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations—can contribute valuable information and offer productive recommendations to stimulate entrepreneurship and use of the patent system by these underrepresented groups. Today’s hearing is the first of three public hearings that the USPTO is holding throughout the country to obtain public comment in support of the SUCCESS Act study. We will also be holding public hearings at our regional offices in Detroit, Michigan on May 16 and in San Jose, California on June 3.
At each of these hearings, we welcome representatives from industry, law, and academia to present oral testimony on the participation of women, minorities, and veterans in entrepreneurship and patent activities. We value your insights and recommendations regarding: concrete ideas and action plans to increase the number of women, minorities, and veterans applying for patents; public policies or other initiatives to promote the participation of such underrepresented groups in the patent system and entrepreneurial activities; and the role that the USPTO should play in addressing these important matters.
Thank you for your participation here today. We look forward to a productive and informative day.