Reflections from Invention Diversity Study: Getting Diverse Inventors Into the Patent Process

Laura Lee Norris
2 min readMay 18, 2021

Laura Lee Norris, Associate Clinical Professor

Mary Fuller, Senior Clinical Fellow

Joy Baker Peacock, Interim Managing Director, High Tech Law Institute

Sydney Yazzolino, 2L Tech Edge JD student

Santa Clara University School of Law

Yes — we are still collaborating with the USPTO on the Diversity in Inventorship study! Recently, we had a roundtable discussion with prolific inventors, who are also diverse inventors. We think you will be interested in what we learned.

First, we learned that diverse inventors often come to the patent process in a roundabout way. When we asked our diverse inventors to tell us about the first time they “invented,” we heard some common themes:

  • “I was just solving a problem,”
  • “I didn’t know that what I was working on was novel,” and
  • “If I thought about it, surely someone else had thought of it before.”

Then, when we asked these same inventors what pushed them over the line to file their first patent application, we heard:

  • A mentor recognized I was onto something and “told me to write it down,”
  • A patent attorney came and asked me “what was I working on lately?,”
  • My boss told me that “filing patents was a part of my job,” or “my performance appraisal,” and
  • My company had a “process that required an IP review before making any public disclosures — I wanted to show off a prototype, so I had to get an IP review.”

Therefore, if you want to boost the number of diverse inventors capturing value for your company, try one of these hacks:

  • Be a mentor, and if you see something, say something!
  • Be a proactive patent attorney and ask, “what are you working on?”
  • Invite yourself to meetings, events and conversations where innovation is being discussed.
  • Make filing for a patent part of a positive performance evaluation.
  • Put a process in place that makes everyone pause for an IP review before making a public disclosure.

If you liked these hacks and want to learn more about what you can do to increase the diversity of inventors, take a look at our Blog post Three Simple Hacks to Increase the Diversity of Inventors.

Thank you for checking out our Blog! If you would like to be a part of something big by participating in our Invention Diversity Study, please take our confidential survey — we will be grateful and you will experience an ecstatic moment of positive karma!

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