Gender and Australian Patents
Posted: 6 Nov 2019
Date Written: October 27, 2019
For the past two decades, successive Australian governments have sought to increase the participation of women in STEM-related fields. One reason for this is the advancement of social equality; another reason is the popular theory that STEM-based-innovation is and will be a primary driver of future economic growth. Rigorous intellectual property law (particularly patent law), supports this strategy by facilitating the commercialisation of innovative ideas. A patent provides the inventor(s) with an opportunity to monetise their work, and (in exchange) the technology disclosed can be used by the public to further scientific progress.
One measure of female participation in STEM, is participation as an inventor in the patents system. There is some evidence that Australian patent applications with female inventors have increased over the last 30 years. However, while applications have increased, it is unclear whether women are as successful as men in having their patent application proceed to grant. In 2018, Yale researchers examined 2.7 million US patent applications and found that inventors with female sounding names were less likely to be granted a patent than inventors with male or neutral sounding names. The researchers concluded that some bias was evident from the examiner-side and suggested that the examination process be ‘more blind to the identity of participants.
This study will work with large data sets from IP Australia to determine whether the gender of the inventor impacts Australian patent application outcomes. The findings from this project could have major implications on patent prosecution procedures and long term strategies for gender equity in STEM fields.
Note: This study is supported by a grant from the Deakin Social Science Network.
Keywords: gender, bias, patent, inventor, Australia, empirical
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