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The Inventor’s Patent Academy: moving the dial on diversity

February 2024

By Ann Chaplin, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Qualcomm Inc., San Diego, California, and Holly Fechner, Executive Director, Invent Together, Washington D.C., USA

In 2022, Invent Together and Qualcomm launched The Inventor’s Patent Academy, a free online learning platform that equips historically underrepresented inventors with the information and knowledge they need to patent their inventions. Our partnership offers a potential roadmap for others who are interested in making a difference by developing practical tools to expand participation in patenting.

This free, online learning platform to help inventors better navigate their patenting journey and also explores solutions to some of the challenges facing inventors who from underrepresented groups. (Photo: Courtesy of Invent Together)

Inventor diversity gaps

A recent WIPO report found that women represented only 13 percent of all listed inventors on international patent applications between 1999 and 2020. While the women inventor rate is growing, with the fastest growth rates occurring in the last five years, the report found that gender parity in international patenting will only be achieved in 2061. That’s four decades away!

Gender parity in international patenting will only be achieved in 2061.

Researchers have identified several barriers to achieving equitable participation in inventing and patenting. These include a lack of exposure to inventing; insufficient access to education, resources, mentorship, and capital; and entrenched bias and discrimination. Overcoming these barriers requires strategic action and commitment from all parties.

Promising partnerships

The US-based Invent Together alliance has a global
reach and is dedicated to better understanding
the diversity gaps that exist in invention and
to supporting public and private efforts to close them.
(Image: Courtesy of Invent Together)

The US-based Invent Together alliance has global reach and is dedicated to exposing and understanding the diversity gaps that exist in invention and patenting and to supporting both public and private efforts to close them. 

Invent Together's work includes promoting public awareness and best practices to promote inventor diversity within companies and academia. Since 2021, Invent Together has been partnering with WIPO, reaching out to global audiences through an online seminar series. Focusing on Europe, the Americas, as well as the African, Arab, and Asia-Pacific regions, the seminars raise awareness about diversity gaps in inventing and patenting, providing a valuable opportunity to share and promote best practices.

To further boost the impact of its work, in 2022, in collaboration with Qualcomm, Invent Together launched The Inventor’s Patent Academy (TIPA), an online learning platform that teaches inventors about the importance of protecting one’s IP, the benefits of patenting, and the process of obtaining a patent. TIPA’s content was developed with input from inventors and patent owners, patent practitioners, and experts in equity, diversity, and inclusion.

TIPA offers practical insights about the nuts and bolts of patenting.

The program offers practical insights about the nuts and bolts of patenting, and, through compelling video testimonials, it explores the deep-rooted challenges underrepresented inventors often face and how to overcome them.

Since its initial launch, TIPA has already reached close to 1,500 students. Two-thirds of those students responded to an optional survey to help TIPA better understand the profile and satisfaction of participants. Around three quarters of survey respondents highlighted that they were from historically underrepresented groups. Over 40 percent of them were women, 70 percent of whom were women of color.

TIPA is successfully reaching its intended audience, equipping these inventors with the tools they need to navigate the patent ecosystem.

Together we can make a difference

TIPA is just one example of how companies, nonprofit organizations, and others can lead the way in boosting the participation of historically underrepresented groups in inventing and patenting. But no single initiative is sufficient to solve this deep-rooted problem.

Closing inventor diversity gaps requires broad commitment from all sectors of society.

Closing inventor diversity gaps requires broad commitment from all sectors of society. If you are interested in joining global efforts to move the dial on diversity, inclusion and equity in the field of innovation and IP, here are some best practices for you to consider:

  • Target specific barriers that prevent equitable participation in inventing and patenting. Navigating patent systems can be complex, time-intensive, and expensive. Identify barriers to participation in IP, ask yourself which of them you are best placed to address and take action to bring about the change you would like to see.
  • Work with your partners and engage with underrepresented inventors where they are. Collaborate with your partners, leverage each other’s networks, resources, and expertise and open doors for underrepresented inventors to access the IP resources, training and skills they need to invent and patent.
  • Tailor your resources to your target audiences. Consider the specific real-life experiences of underrepresented inventors and develop practical tools that help them navigate those unique experiences.

More inventors means more diverse and unique problems solved.

More inventors means more diverse and unique problems solved. We all need to come together to break down barriers and help more innovative thinkers patent their inventions, create jobs, boost the global economy, close wage and wealth gaps, and discover new ways to improve society as a whole.

The WIPO Magazine is intended to help broaden public understanding of intellectual property and of WIPO’s work, and is not an official document of WIPO. The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of WIPO concerning the legal status of any country, territory or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. This publication is not intended to reflect the views of the Member States or the WIPO Secretariat. The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by WIPO in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.