Progress and Potential: 2020 update on U.S. women inventor-patentees

This report updates the USPTO’s 2019 report on U.S. women inventor-patentees, “Progress and Potential,”using three years of new data, covering 2017 through 2019. It provides new information on women’s participation in the U.S. patent system, finding, among other things, that women make up an increasing share of all new entrants to the patent system, rising from about 5% of new inventor-patentees in 1980 to 17.3% by 2019 (see figure).

 Area chart showing a downward trend for the share of new inventor-patentees among all inventor-patentees and an upward trend for the share of women among all new inventor-patentees. The x-axis shows time from 1980 through 2019. Percentages along the y-axis range from 0 to 60 percent.


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Among the report's major findings:

  • More women are entering and staying active in the patent system than ever before.
  • The number of patents with at least one woman inventor increased from 20.7% in 2016 to 21.9% by the end of 2019.
  • The “Women Inventor Rate” (WIR) – the share of U.S. inventors receiving patents who are women – increased from 12.1% in 2016 to 12.8% in 2019.
  • The share of women among new inventors on issued patents increased from 16.6% in 2016 to 17.3% by 2019.
  • The gender gap in the number of women inventors who remain active by patenting again within five years is decreasing. For new inventors in 2014, 46% of women patented again in the next five years versus 52% of men (by 2019). In 1980, the gap was 28% for women versus 38% for men. 
  • Among the leading patent filers, the 3M Company showed the largest improvement in the participation of women inventor-patentees: Their average WIR increased from 15.2% over 2007-2016 to 16.6% for 2007-2019. 


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