Gendered ‘Objective’ Patent Law: Of Binaries and a Singularity

(2020) 47(3) Journal of Law and Society 441-467,

21 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2023

See all articles by Jessica C. Lai

Jessica C. Lai

Victoria University of Wellington

Date Written: 2020


Patent law protects the technical. It is seemingly objective in terminology and application. Yet studies show that males are significantly more likely than females to be the inventors of patented inventions. Patenting is not objective, it is gendered. The reasons for this are multiple and include the fact that patent law itself, including its presumptions and interpretation, is gendered. This article examines how patent law reflects multiple gendered binaries, despite being drafted in ostensibly neutral terms. These serve to favour masculine modes and fields of creation, while ignoring and devaluing feminine knowledge and ways of knowing. We should be concerned that patent law is gendered because patents affect wealth distribution, what is invented and commercialized, and what information and knowledge is disseminated, built upon, and viewed as valuable. Thus, instead of embodying gendered binaries, the law should reflect a singularity – a unique point, where the system degenerates or diverges to recognize and encourage the multiplicity of ways in which invention and innovation can and do occur, beyond socially constructed binaries.

Keywords: patent law, gender

JEL Classification: K11, K39

Suggested Citation

Lai, Jessica C., Gendered ‘Objective’ Patent Law: Of Binaries and a Singularity ( 2020). (2020) 47(3) Journal of Law and Society 441-467,, Available at SSRN: or

Jessica C. Lai (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington ( email )

PO Box 600
New Zealand

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