Three Simple Hacks to Increase the Diversity of Inventors:

Laura Lee Norris
3 min readApr 19, 2021

Early Impressions from Invention Diversity Study

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

By now you’ve seen our previous post and know that, Santa Clara University School of Law is partnering with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to study and discover the best practices for including diverse individuals in the invention and innovation process. An important part of this process is taking a deep dive with roundtables and a survey. We thought you’d be interested in some of our preliminary findings.

In this post, we are sharing three simple hacks. These hacks have minimal cost and likely need no management approval. If you want to increase participation by diverse inventors, give these hacks a try!

Please help us discover more hacks and methods for increasing diversity in the invention process. If you are an Intellectual Property or Innovation professional, please take our confidential SURVEY. We want to learn about your programs!

Hack # 1: Reach the Reluctant Inventor By Rebranding

This is our #1 pick because it’s the most hackworthy. One roundtable participant shared that there was an increase in submission of invention disclosure forms because they changed just one word on the form. Our participant theorized that minority groups didn’t perceive themselves as “inventors,” even when coming up with new products and ideas. Therefore, they implemented a simple change, renaming the “Invention Disclosure Form” to “Product Disclosure Form,” resulting in an increased number of diversity submissions almost immediately! (Kinda genius — right?)

Hack #2: Gather the Innovation Stories

This hack targets the same root cause as hack #1; namely, that diverse individuals may not identify with the definition of “inventor.” After all, as young children we learn about the great inventors in history — the majority of which are white men — such as Ben Franklin, Henry Ford, Eli Whitney, the Wright Brothers. Diverse inventors might not see themselves in the same category and may be reluctant to name their ideas as “inventions,” but willing to share their problem-solving skills and product ideas. Therefore, to reach reluctant inventors, another survey respondent works with product managers to hold quarterly meetings for everyone on the product development team. They do a “round robin,” where everyone shares one “cool feature” or “hard problem” they solved in the last quarter. The IP team joins the meeting to capture and identify all potential inventions, and keeps up to date on product changes.

Hack #3: Leverage Affinity Groups

Companies are starting to realize the financial benefits in creating a diverse workforce [1], and are creating employee diversity, equity and inclusion programs. Many companies already have employee affinity groups for women, persons of color, or other categories of minority employees. Several of our roundtable participants and survey respondents use affinity groups to assemble an audience of potential diverse inventors for IP training, inventor recognition, and invention harvesting sessions.

Do you have successes or failures to share about your efforts in increasing diversity in inventorship? Please fill out our confidential survey; we want as many viewpoints as possible in this study!

[1] “Diverse Companies Produce 19% More Revenue” Anna Power, Forbes, June 2018