WASHINGTON — The number of women awarded patents has soared over the last several decades far beyond previously reported figures, and the percentage of trademarks granted to women has more than doubled, according to a new study commissioned by the National Women’s Business Council.
The study found that women had a higher representation among trademark holders than patent owners; in 2010, 18 percent of all patents granted went to women while 33 percent of all trademarks granted to individuals and sole proprietorships went to women.
The NWBC decided to examine the topic of intellectual property because it often is considered an indicator of entrepreneurial activity, said NWBC Chair Donna James.
“An increase in patent and trademark ownership may indicate growth in women-owned companies and help shed light on this under examined topic,” she said. “Very little research has specifically studied women business owners and intellectual property.”
The report found a surging number of women obtaining patents in recent years, with the largest spike seen in 2010, when 22,984 patents were granted to women, a 35 percent jump over the previous year. In 2009, women received 17,061 patents, a 4.5 percent increase over the 16,321 issued in 2008. Men also saw a jump in patent receipts, but at 28 percent, the increase was not as sharp. In 2010, they received 121,257 patents, compared to the 94,850 they received in 2009, a 4 percent bump over the 91,342 patents men obtained in 2008.
The top categories for women-owned patents were chemistry, bio-affecting drugs, semiconductor device manufacturing, and furnishings. The biggest increases, however, in women-obtained patents came in data processing, surgery, and electrical computers and digital processing systems.
Overall, women held 18 percent of all patents granted in 2010, compared to the 14 percent they had a decade earlier. In 1990, they earned only 9 percent.
The share of trademarks granted to women nearly doubled within a 30-year span. In 1980, women were granted just less than 17 percent of all trademarks to individuals or sole proprietorships, or 189. In 2010, they represented 33 percent, earning 6,533 trademarks. That number was a slight dip from the all-time high in 2008, when women received 7,274 trademarks, 32 percent of all trademarks granted.
The top five industries with the highest participation in trademark activity by women were advertising and business, clothing, education and entertainment and “miscellaneous services” – scientific and technological services and design.
The details are part of an extensive review of patents granted between 1975 and 2010 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The study also examined trademarks filed and granted from 1980 and 2010.
NWBC commissioned the study to determine the rates of women who apply for and receive patents. The study is the first of its kind to explore this issue in depth, mainly because federal patent and trademark applications do not ask for gender information. Recent legislation will allow USPTO to start tracking gender data soon.
NWBC researchers examined the names of all patents and trademarks granted over a specific time span, determining gender by using the applicant’s name. To do this, researchers relied upon multiple sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Social Security Administration, which compiles a list of the 10,000 most common American names for men and women. Because of the nation’s changing population demographics over the last quarter century, researchers also relied on commercially available data of the most common names in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Spanish, German and French. Uncommon names from other foreign countries, as well as unisex names, also were examined. Just under 6 percent of the names in patent disclosures could not be identified as male or female.
The full report, along with the full methodology used, was released earlier this month during a news event at the USPTO headquarters. The event commemorated the start of Women’s History Month.
A copy of the report can be found at nwbc.gov.
NWBC is the government’s only independent voice for women entrepreneurs. It is made up of 15 prominent women business owners and leaders of women’s business organizations. Each member is appointed to a three-year term.