January 20, 2021 CLE: Inventor Diversity: Issues and Approaches to Encourage Participation


The benefits of invention can be significant to both employers and individuals. Besides the obvious value of patents to businesses, employees are often compensated for their efforts in the form of bonuses or other compensation for inventions developed as part of their employment. Patented inventions can have significant effects on the competitiveness and profitability of companies and on the career paths of engineers and scientists. Among other efforts, the USPTO has initiated data collection, information and outreach efforts to address inclusion of diverse inventor groups in the patent process.

 

Although inventorship is a legal question, patent lawyers occupy a gatekeeper role, even if we are not always aware of it. The approach we take for harvesting patent ideas, whether as in-house or outside counsel, can have an effect. Ideas of great value may remain hidden if inventors from underrepresented groups do not feel recognized and heard in that process, hampering corporate efforts to innovate. There are also legal implications to imperfect inventorship decisions. Our panel members will share strategies, experiences, and data regarding efforts to identify and harvest the work of inventors from underrepresented groups.

 

Panelists:
Mollybeth Kocialski, Regional Director of the Rocky Mountain Regional USPTO
Julie Kane Akhter, Senior Attorney, Microsoft
Beth Schubert, Ph.D. Patent Attorney, Aeon Law

 

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