Blog Post on the Importance of Diversity and Innovation

by Tashia Bunch, IIPSJ Administrative Director

The 2018 SUCCESS Act required the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to work with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to determine the number of patents owned by women, minorities, and veterans and to provide recommendations to increase that number. A report was provided in 2019 that included steps the USPTO plans to take as well as legislative recommendations. One such step by the USPTO was the launch of the National Council for Expanding American Innovation (NCEAI) initiative last month. The initiative includes representatives from private companies, academia, and government to help the agency develop a comprehensive national strategy to build a more diverse and inclusive innovation ecosystem.

As we explore ways to build this ecosystem, we must acknowledge why this is important to the country as a whole and specifically in minority communities, identify current barriers to equal access and opportunities, and provide solutions for breaking down those barriers.

We know that increasing innovation is valuable to society as a whole. This idea appears in the U.S. Constitution when it grants Congress the power to issue patents and copyrights in order to promote the progress of science and useful arts. Today, the United States promotes itself as a global leader and continuing contributions in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) fields are necessary to remain in that position. Moreover, creativity and innovation often lead to new business ventures and avenues for income contributing to the national economy and job creation.

Increasing IP creation and ownership in minority communities will contribute to these societal goals. It is also important to address economic justice principles of equitable access to financial opportunities. Creativity and innovation can lead to financial freedom through IP ownership and entrepreneurship. Access to education in STEAM fields beginning as early as elementary school as well as resources and community programs providing access information and assistance in protection and monetization can help expand IP creation and ownership in minority communities. As such, we strongly advocate for policies and programs providing education and access to the tools and information necessary to innovate and to monetize their innovations.

IIPSJ encourages a continuing dialogue on this important topic both on the impact and value of diversity in innovation and creativity and on ways to increase diversity in STEAM fields. Earlier this year at our annual CLE program, we featured a panel presentation titled “Remembering Invention of a Slave: Patents and the Continuing Struggle for Civil Rights”, which discussed inventorship and the struggle to acquire patents in the African American community from slavery to the present. You can view this discussion on our YouTube channel.

We have also shared a variety of materials discussing the topic in our monthly newsletter. Materials such as the NPR podcast and post detailing how conditions during the periods of post-Reconstruction and Jim Crow obliterated the legal incentives for black inventors to apply for patents and otherwise undertake innovative endeavors. Along with the story of Percy Julian, a chemist who managed to innovate and acquire over 130 patents during Jim Crow. Additional links below.

IIPSJ will continue to engage in continuing conversations on this topic, advocating for policy changes to serve minority communities and looking for other ways to help further the conversation and make change.

– USPTO launched the Expanding Innovation Hub, an online platform available on the USPTO website that provides resources for inventors and practitioners to encourage greater participation in the patent system
Invention of a Slave and the Ongoing Movement For Equal Justice, by Dennis Crouch
– Motion Picture Association panel “Understanding Copyright’s Role in Diverse Storytelling
– Copyright Alliance – Educational content addressing race and racism