In response to a growing body of research that has revealed unequal innovation participation rates for women, people of color, veterans, and economically and geographically underserved individuals, and in addition to developing its own equity initiatives and programs, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is working with others to collectively advance inclusion in innovation. The agency supports many joint initiatives with partners in both the public and private sectors. Several of these initiatives are mentioned below. By leveraging each other’s expertise and efforts, the USPTO and its partners are making progress in bringing more people from diverse backgrounds into the innovation fold.
Public sector partnerships
U.S. government equity activities
Many federal agencies are involved in different aspects of an innovator’s developmental journey. The USPTO, in particular, actively participates in Department of Commerce (DOC) and whole-of-government efforts to increase equity, including the implementation of the Biden administration’s related executive orders, such as 13985 and 14020. Consistent with its mission, the USPTO’s activities aim to drive equity in innovation domestically, internationally, and within the federal government. Partnerships with other federal agencies, as well as state and local governments, provide the USPTO with many opportunities to amplify its message.
Highlights among the USPTO’s activities, with other U.S. government agencies, include participation on DOC’s Equity Council; support of the Biden administration’s National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality; contributions to the White House National Science and Technology Council’s report on best practices for improving diversity in STEM education and research; and work with federal agencies to identify, develop, and expand federal programs and initiatives that advance equity goals.
Federal agency partnerships
Department of the Interior
The USPTO works with the Department of the Interior’s Indian Arts and Crafts Board to raise IP awareness in tribal communities, especially in relation to traditional arts and crafts.
International Trade Administration (ITA)
The USPTO works with the ITA to provide U.S. exporters with the IP knowledge they need to protect their ideas in the United States and abroad through www.Stopfakes.gov and other forms of assistance.
Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)
The USPTO works with the MBDA to ensure that underserved and minority-owned businesses in the United States can access the IP system.
National Science Foundation (NSF)
The USPTO collaborates with the NSF on events and conferences that highlight the intersection of science, entrepreneurship, and intellectual property (IP).
Small Business Administration (SBA)
The USPTO collaborates with the SBA to provide a wide range of IP outreach and education to small businesses in the United States throughout their development—from starting up, to obtaining federal research and development funding, and through commercialization.
United States Copyright Office
The USPTO collaborates with the U.S. Copyright Office to provide IP education and outreach to the creativity and innovation sectors, and to expand access to the IP system.
International equity activities
The USPTO contributes to foreign policymaking by advising federal agencies, like the U.S. Department of State, on equity issues related to the economy, science, technology, innovation, and IP. The USPTO also participates in international intergovernmental organizations to advance equity goals. For example, the USPTO leads the U.S. government’s engagement with the World IP Organization (WIPO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, on efforts to expand access to the innovation ecosystem. The USPTO has successfully advocated at WIPO to make equity a priority, including supporting work within WIPO’s Committee on Development and IP that focuses on increasing women’s participation in the global IP system.
Additionally, the USPTO facilitates public discussions and exchanges with its international IP office counterparts about promoting the inclusion of women in IP. Collaborations focus on ways to close the gap between the number of men and women obtaining IP protection, as well as on opportunities to enhance IP office workforce diversity, including supporting the recruitment, promotion, and retention of women. In March 2022, approximately 20 IP offices around the world issued a joint statement for International Women’s Day, focusing on efforts to drive gender equality in innovation and creativity.
The USPTO also participates in Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE), a whole-of-government initiative led by the U.S. Department of State, which focuses on women who experience intersecting and compounding forms of discrimination and bias related to gender, race, and other factors. Examples of WEE’s efforts, in which the USPTO has provided IP subject matter expertise on capacity building for women in entrepreneurship and STEM, include the ITA’s initiative supporting women in international trade and investment and Women in STEM capacity building programs in the Middle Eastern, North African, and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation regions, led by other U.S. government agencies. Additionally, the USPTO contributes to ongoing efforts spearheaded by the U.S. Department of State and USAID to develop a Global Women’s Economic Security strategy.
Private sector partnerships
The entire innovation community must work together to advance equity goals; therefore, the USPTO has proactively partnered with private sector entities like academia, nonprofit organizations, and associations that focus on IP and innovation. For example, the USPTO is represented on the board of the newly-formed U.S. IP Alliance, which includes IP diversity and inclusion as guiding pillars. Through collaboration across its network of organizations, the alliance works to improve and broaden the innovation ecosystem.
The USPTO also has a huge opportunity to effect change by building a diverse pipeline of STEM-educated students and citizens. Many of the USPTO’s strategic partnerships to develop diverse innovators have been long-standing, but are placing additional emphasis on increasing equity in innovation. For example, the agency partners with the National Inventors Hall of Fame, which annually serves more than 200,000 students nationwide with its pre-K through university-level invention programs and provides scholarships for those from underrepresented groups. The partnerships with the National Academy of Inventors and the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation emphasize mentorship and expanding access to free IP resources. Additionally, the USPTO’s outreach to Minority Serving Institutions and the YMCA offers excellent examples of how the agency is enhancing existing collaborations to expand access to quality IP education, information, and mentorship to people from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds and communities.
In addition to leveraging the talents and assets of external partner organizations, the USPTO draws on the backgrounds and expertise of members of its own employee resource groups, including its chapters of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers, to help build IP literacy and make connections between technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
The USPTO also routinely provides speakers for or hosts events focused on advancing equity in innovation. Current and past equity programming is available on the USPTO website.