Promoting gender diversity at the US Patent Bar


Muireann Bolger

Promoting gender diversity at the US Patent Bar

tomertu /

Amid growing concern about the low representation of women at the Patent Bar, the US Patent and Trademark Office is considering changes to its qualifications criteria. Critics say that this assessment is long overdue, as Muireann Bolger discovers.

When law student Mary Hannon published an academic article without fanfare in autumn 2020, she had little inkling of the ripples it would send throughout IP and beyond. Or that it would lead to a clamour for change at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and provoke ongoing debate among patent practitioners.

The paper, “The Patent Bar Gender Gap: Expanding the Eligibility Requirements to Foster Inclusion and Innovation in the US Patent System”, argues that there are systemic barriers facing women at the US Patent Bar, and proposes solutions to dismantle them.

When it comes to the demographics of patent practitioners, details are scant because the USPTO does not collect or provide substantial demographic data. But Saurabh Vishnubhakat, professor at Texas A&M University, suggested in his 2014 study, “Gender Diversity in the Patent Bar”, that only 18% of patent practitioners were women.

Gender diversity, Patent Bar, USPTO, D&I, innovation, neuroscience, biomechanical engineering, genetics, STEM, postgraduate, designs