Gender and Invention: Mapping the Connections

Posted: 24 Jan 2014

See all articles by Victoria F. Phillips

Victoria F. Phillips

American University - Washington College of Law

Date Written: December 2010


The essays in this extraordinary volume are based on presentations given at the Seventh Annual IP/Gender: Mapping the Connections Symposium at American University Washington College of Law. This symposium, cosponsored for the past seven years by this Journal and the law school’s programs on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest and Women and the Law, has provided a unique forum to examine and discuss research on gendered dimensions of intellectual property (IP) law. Because issues of gender in intellectual property have been under-appreciated and under-theorized, much of the work unearthed in these annual conferences has been exploratory and pioneering. We have come a long and fascinating way since we first gathered interested scholars together to start thinking about applying a gender lens on intellectual property and theory in an attempt to map the points of intersection of these seemingly parallel fields. When we started the project, we identified some initial potential topics for inquiry, including the role of women in the formation and history of the IP disciplines, notions of gender discrimination in the construction and application of IP doctrine, issues of disparate impact or the way in which apparently neutral doctrines of intellectual property law may have dramatically different effects on different groups within society, as well as the incidence of gendered rhetoric in IP discourse, especially around ideas of creativity and innovation. Indeed, as the work was so exploratory, we titled the first four conferences “IP/Gender: The Unmapped Connections.” By the fifth convening, we agreed that the mapping had unquestionably begun.

The topics explored and essays published in the intervening years have ranged from the impact of intellectual property law and policy on gender-related imbalances in wealth, cultural access, political power, and social control; creative production and gender; the effects of stereotyping on intellectual property stakeholders; the gendered development of IP doctrine and the practice of IP; feminist jurisprudential insights about intellectual property law; and female fan cultures and intellectual property. We also started the process of reaching out to scholars around the world to help us understand how this intersection plays out in other cultures. As the pieces in previous volumes demonstrate, this project has sown the seeds for a fertile field of scholarship engaging the theory and doctrine of intellectual property from feminist and gender perspectives. While a good number of scholars have initiated inquiry into how these insights play out in the laws of copyright and trademark, very few have taken on an examination of our patent laws and systems through a feminist or gender lens. To nurture more exploratory work in this area, we chose “Gender and Invention” as the special theme of this symposium. With the help of our longtime colleague and collaborator, Dan Burk of University of California at Irvine, we were fortunate to assemble a wide-ranging group of interdisciplinary projects examining how this intersection might play out in the field of patent law and practice here and around the world.

Keywords: patent law, gender

Suggested Citation

Phillips, Victoria F., Gender and Invention: Mapping the Connections (December 2010). 19 American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law, 767 (2011), Available at SSRN:

Victoria F. Phillips (Contact Author)

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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