Today we mark World Intellectual Property Day, an important moment to reflect on the importance of strong IP protections in the modern innovation economy. At InterDigital we know better than most businesses about the crucial role that intellectual property, especially patents, can play in the success of a company, and our broader ecosystem as a whole.
In many ways, our patents are the products that we take to market. They are the culmination of years of painstaking research by our engineers which provides benefits to billions of consumers thanks to the way our innovation delivers new experiences in wireless and video.
This World IP Day’s theme of “Women and IP: accelerating innovation and creativity” also gives us an opportunity to explain why more must be done to increase the number of female innovators and bolster the number of women who contribute to and benefit from the global IP ecosystem.
It is clear that our industry is still falling short. According to a March 2021 report by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), only 16.5% of inventors named on international patent applications in 2020 were women. While the proportion has steadily increased compared to previous years, progress is slow: at current rates, gender parity will not be achieved until 2058.
In the United States, the picture is no better: a recent report from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) found that women made up just 13% of all inventor-patentees in the United States. The report cited research that, if women were to patent at the same rate as men, commercialized patents could increase by 24% and per capita GDP by 2.7%.
To maximize the potential of IP and innovation, more needs to be done to promote diversity throughout the innovation ecosystem. This will require a big effort throughout all facets of society, from supporting women to engage in and study STEM subjects at school and college, to being open-minded in recruitment and promotion, and overcoming economic obstacles to career progression.
At InterDigital, we recognize the importance of having a diverse workforce in helping us to stay at the forefront of developing cutting edge technology in wireless and video. This helps to promote equal opportunities and it also enhances research by bringing new perspectives to technical challenges.
According to our latest data, 28% of our submitted invention disclosures include a named female inventor, as did 34% of our live patents and applications. While these figures put InterDigital ahead of market trends - according to a 2020 USPTO report 21.9% of US patents included at least one female inventor - we recognize there is still a long way to go to reach gender parity.
As USPTO Director Kathi Vidal has made clear, increasing the number of women inventors on patents is “critical for job growth and economic prosperity.” I couldn’t agree more, and I applaud Director Vidal for the leadership she has shown in this area.
We also know the importance that role models play in encouraging women and underrepresented groups to pursue careers in industries that suffer from a lack of diversity. As the activist Marian Wright Adelman said, “you can’t be what you cannot see.” That’s why, this week, as we mark World IP Day, we’re highlighting several of our female engineers and innovators from our world-class research and innovation team who are helping to shape what is possible for the future.
These outstanding women, Diana Pani and Catalina Mladin from our wireless lab and Valerie Allie and Gaëlle Martin-Cocher from our video lab, are respected innovators who are recognized by their colleagues and industry peers as leaders in their respective fields. But their impact is even greater by the example that they set for other women to follow as they consider careers in engineering.
We know that more needs to be done to grow diversity in IP, but we should also take this opportunity to celebrate our role models and the trails that they have blazed for so many more brilliant, innovative minds to follow.