–Susan Perera, Attorney

Nineteen years after the first U.S. patent was granted, Mary Dixon Kies was the first female recipient of a patent in 1809 covering a technique for weaving.  During the following 30 years only 20 more patents were issued to women.

While the USPTO doesn’t track patent and trademark applicant gender, a report released last week by the National Women’s Business Council shows women inventorship and trademark ownership is on the rise.  The NWBC is a federal advisory council created to track issues important to women business owners, which appropriately conducted an in depth review of intellectual property ownership.

Using USPTO records the study reviewed patent and trademark filings dating back to 1975 and identified applicant/inventor gender by relying on census bureau and Social Security data to identify if the applicant names were attributed to men or women (leaving approximately 6% of applicants unidentified as male or female).

The report found that the percentage of patents granted to women in 2010 (18%) had doubled since 1990.  And the percentage of trademarks granted to women in 2010 (33%), was also up from the 16.5% in 1980.  Accordingly, women are responsible for a much higher percentage of trademark filings as compared to patents, with women gaining about .5% of total filings per year on both the trademark and patent fronts.

The report also identified fields with the highest levels of female involvement.  “Of particular interest is the increase in patent activity by women in specialized fields such as surgery and high tech sectors like multiplex communications….”  The top industries for trademark filings owned by women include advertising and business, clothing, and education and entertainment.

As part of the American Invents Act the USPTO will begin tracking the gender of trademark and patent applicants which should allow for more accurate data on intellectual property ownership attributable to women in the future.

Here’s to hoping more women find their way to the USPTO, I’m looking forward to seeing you!