Increasing Number of Women Inventors Named in International Patent Filings Over Past Two Decades but Gender Gap Persists

Geneva, November 15, 2016
PR/2016/800

New analysis shows that 29% of the international patent applications filed via WIPO in 2015 included at least one woman inventor, compared with 17% in 1995, according to a WIPO study.

Speaking at the “IP Statistics for Decision Makers 2016” conference in Australia, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry described the 20-year trend as encouraging. But he called on policy makers around the globe to prioritize fostering innovation among all members of their societies, such as via the promotion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics for female students.

“These new, global data give us a baseline for understanding the role of gender in the filing of international patent applications, which is one metric used in measuring a country’s innovative capacity,” said Mr. Gurry. “These data prove that a gender gap exists and it needs to be addressed.”

The new WIPO statistics are the first-of-its kind global view on woman inventorship as reflected in international patent applications filed via WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which has 151 contracting states across the globe. The analysis uses cutting-edge techniques based on a variety of publicly available name dictionaries.

Academic Filings: Nearing Parity

Almost half, or 48%, of international patent applications filed by academic institutions showed at least one woman inventor in 2015, compared with 28% for companies, according to the study.

Variations Across Countries

Women’s participation rate of 29% at the global level masks variations in participation rates across countries in 2015. The Republic of Korea (50%) and China (49%) have the greatest gender equality in international patenting via the PCT in 2015, followed by Poland (40%), Spain (35%) and Singapore (34%).

The greatest gender gaps among the top PCT countries of origin are found in Germany (19%), Japan (19%), Italy (18%) and South Africa (16%).

Different Industries, Different Results

These national differences can be partly explained by the countries’ industrial specialties, as women’s participation varies substantially across technological fields.

For example, women participated more in fields related to biotechnology (58% in 2015), pharmaceuticals (55%), organic fine chemistry (54%), and food chemistry (51%). The technologies with the least representation of women are mechanical elements (11%), transport (13%), machine tools (14%) and engines (15%).

About WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the global forum for intellectual property policy, services, information and cooperation. A specialized agency of the United Nations, WIPO assists its 191 member states in developing a balanced international IP legal framework to meet society's evolving needs. It provides business services for obtaining IP rights in multiple countries and resolving disputes. It delivers capacity-building programs to help developing countries benefit from using IP. And it provides free access to unique knowledge banks of IP information.

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