15 November 2016
Reporter: Mark Dugdale

WIPO: Inventor gender gap exists

A World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) study has found that an increasing number of women inventors are being named on patent applications, but a gender gap still exists.

The results of the WIPO study, released at the IP Statistics for Decision Makers Conference in Australia, revealed that 29 percent of international patent applications filed via WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) in 2015 included at least one woman inventor, up from 17 percent in 1995.

Speaking at the conference, WIPO director general Francis Gurry said: “These new, global data give us a baseline for understanding the role of gender in the filing of international patent applications, which is one metric used in measuring a country’s innovative capacity. These data prove that a gender gap exists and it needs to be addressed.”

Going into further detail, the study revealed that almost half, or 48 percent, of international patent applications filed by academic institutions showed at least one woman inventor in 2015, much higher than the 28 percent found for companies.

The headline participation rate of 29 percent at the global level masked variations in participation rates across countries in 2015, according to the study.

South Korea (50 percent) and China (49 percent) had the greatest gender equality in international patenting via the PCT in 2015, followed by Poland (40 percent), Spain (35 percent) and Singapore (34 percent).

The greatest gender gaps among the top PCT countries of origin were found in Germany (19 percent), Japan (19 percent), Italy (18 percent) and South Africa (16 percent).

National differences can be partly explained by the countries’ industrial specialties, according to the WIPO study, as participation varies across technological fields.

Women participated more in fields related to biotechnology (58 percent in 2015), pharmaceuticals (55 percent), organic fine chemistry (54 percent) and food chemistry (51 percent).

The technologies with the least representation of women were mechanical elements (11 percent), transport (13 percent), machine tools (14 percent) and engines (15 percent).

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