Increase In Women Patent Holders Indicates Growth In Women-Led Innovation (Surge In Some Emerging High-Tech Industries)

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By Angie Chang (Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Women 2.0) According to a new report released last week by National Women's Business Council, the number of patents granted to women is "increasing at an accelerating pace" (34% from 2009 to 2010). In the same period of time, the number of primary patents granted to women has increased by 28% and the number of non-primary patents granted to women has increased by 38%.

While there is a definite increase in the participation of women in U.S. patent activity in recent years, it is premature to make definite conclusions from the jump in the grant of patents - as some may have been filed years ago. The results may also reflect the USPTO’s focus on increasing efficiency and productivity to reduce application backlog. The report states:

"The total number of patents obtained by women shows an accelerating rate of increase with time. Similarly, there is an accelerating rate at which women become primary inventors as judged by the first name on a patent disclosure. This suggests an increasing leadership by women entrepreneurs in R&D activities.

Of particular interest is the surge of innovation by women in some of the emerging high-tech industries. The field of optics and optical systems was selected to illustrate this observation. For instance, 11.55% of patents in Optical Waveguides had at least one woman inventor."

The findings suggest a slight difference between men and women in entrepreneurship: "women are more likely to be independent entrepreneurs and keep their patents unassigned while men are more likely to be leading the research in businesses and corporations."

The survey also cautioned that patent assignment must "not be confused with commercial success as has been done in some earlier studies. Only a small number of patents, perhaps as few as 10%, are brought to the marketplace and become commercially viable."

About the writer: Angie Chang co-founded Women 2.0 in 2006. She currently serves as Editor-In-Chief of Women 2.0 and is working to mainstream women in high-growth, high-tech entrepreneurship. Previously, Angie held roles in product management, web UI design, and entrepreneurship. In 2008, Angie launched Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners, asking that guys come as the "+1" for once. Angie holds a B.A. in English and Social Welfare from UC Berkeley. Follow her on Twitter at @thisgirlangie.