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Chairman Nadler Statement for the Subcommittee Hearing on “Lost Einsteins: Lack of Diversity in Patent Inventorship and the Impact on America’s Innovation Economy”

Washington, March 27, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening remarks during a Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet hearing on the lack of diversity in patent inventorship and its impact on the innovation economy:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for holding this important hearing to investigate why there is a lack of diversity among patent holders in the United States.

“Unlike many issues in Congress, there is bipartisan agreement on the need to protect American intellectual property and to foster innovation.  So many entrepreneurs today rely on intellectual property to fuel their businesses, and these businesses are increasingly the engine of economic growth in our nation.

“Statistics underscore how important IP is to our economy.  In 2016, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that IP-intensive industries contributed more than $6 trillion of value to the U.S. gross domestic product.  With so much of our economy dependent on IP-related industries, it is critical that everyone share in the economic opportunities these industries offer.   Promoting greater inclusion in the innovation ecosystem is good for our economy, good for underserved communities, and good for all Americans.  

“But unfortunately, research shows that many segments of our society continue to be underrepresented as inventors on patents.

“The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's recent report on gender diversity finds that women are very much underrepresented as patent-holders.

“Analyzing data on U.S. patents granted between 1976 and 2016, the report shows that women comprised only 12% of the named inventors on patents in 2016, representing an increase of only 2% over the last 16 years.  Clearly, whatever progress is being made is happening far too slowly, and much needs to be done to promote greater gender diversity among inventors. 

“Moreover, the USPTO's research shows that the underrepresentation in patenting is not solely a function of women entering science and engineering fields at lower rates than men, although that continues to be a problem.  In 2015, women comprised nearly 28% of the total science and engineering workforce, but comprised only 12% of inventors.

“Even when women are in the fields most associated with patenting, they are not patenting at the same rate as their male colleagues.  This shows that the gender gap in patenting is likely to be caused by many factors, not just because there are fewer women scientists and engineers.

“Unfortunately, because the USPTO does not collect demographic data on inventors, it has been more challenging to study racial and ethnic diversity among U.S. inventors. 

“Nonetheless, the studies that have been done also show significant disparities in patenting rates along racial and ethnic lines.  I hope to learn more from the witnesses about how we can improve data collection on this issue and learn more about the causes of these disparities, since the first step towards solving the problem is understanding its scope and root causes.

“For example, one study found that exposure to innovation during childhood has a major impact on an individual’s desire to become an inventor and that a child's likelihood of becoming an inventor increases if he or she grows up in one of our country's technology hubs.  I am proud that New York City, where my district is located, counts as one of these hubs and I hope we can figure out how to replicate this sort of inventive environment elsewhere throughout the United States.

“As the title of this hearing suggests, there may be many ‘Lost Einsteins’ in our country.  The loss in economic value and innovation, to say nothing of the missed opportunities for these individuals who are left behind, presents a significant challenge that must be addressed.

“I look forward to hearing from our witnesses, not just about the barriers that underrepresented groups may face in the innovation ecosystem, but also about how we can begin to address this serious problem.

“We can—and we must—do better, and that starts with hearings like this.

“Thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time.”