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02.09.18

‘Women in IP’: When the Gender Card is Used to Distract From Patent Policy

Posted in America, Patents at 3:20 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Focus on wealth, not gender

Royal flush

Summary: As various patent blogs turn to writing about (legitimate) issues of opportunities, the main subject people ought to be talking about is who benefits from patents in economic terms

THE EPO and the USPTO both use what’s sometimes known as the “gender card” (it’s not really a loaded term, but it has a negative connotation within some circle, just like “social justice warrior”, “virtue-signaling” and so on). They use it for marketing purposes. We have given examples over the years. This post isn’t about the groups that get associated with this debate (we’re not interested in that sort of debate); we just want to point out that sometimes, as in the case of a study from some months ago, genders and ethnic minorities get exploited to relay particular talking points, e.g. claims that propose false correlations, overlooking the connection between personal wealth and patents, instead focusing on race and gender.

“There is some news today about patent scope, notably patents on life. We would like to remain focused on such matters and not enter the potentially divisive realms of discrimination, intolerance and so on.”The question of gender is often brought up — at times unnecessarily — also in the software world, typically when the debate shifts from engineering to matters of ethics. That’s not because of a perception of engineering/gender (or even potential/opportunity) gap but a variety of other reasons. There’s a very long discussion at IP Kat about it (started earlier this week when “Merpel” wrote about diversity). Watchtroll also mentioned that a couple of days ago, citing this article about female lawyers. To quote:

A framed photo of trial consultant Tara Trask with a gaggle of lawyers and clients she advised on a patent case hangs in her office. The team smiles proudly outside a Texas courthouse, following a hard-fought win.

Two years later, when Trask set out to research the diversity of the intellectual property trial teams she’d worked with, something she hadn’t noticed in that photo jumped out: she was the only woman in a group of 13 white men.

In a sample of 50 attorneys in seven intellectual property trials she consulted on from January to August 2017, Trask found most were tried and led by white male attorneys. The majority were patent cases.

Women are underrepresented in many domains, not just law. And there are many reasons for why that happens. It’s not a good thing. Having said that, what troubles us at times is how the gender/race issue gets interjected to manipulate completely and patently unrelated debates, such as the above-mentioned distraction from the correlation between wealth and patenting (not related to either race or gender). There is some news today [1,2] about patent scope, notably patents on life. We would like to remain focused on such matters and not enter the potentially divisive realms of discrimination, intolerance and so on. Sadly, many people do in fact manipulate those things.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Federal Court rules controversial cattle genome patent invalid

    Australia’s cattle industry has scored a win against the US-based owners over a patent application it feared would put the brakes on improvement in Australia’s cattle herd.

    The Federal Court rejected the patent application, saying it was unclear in its scope, that it failed to adequality describe what the invention was, and whether there was an industrial application for it.

    Meat and Livestock Australia spends hundreds of millions of dollars on genetic research in cattle, and feared the patent application threatened Australian farmers’ access to important genomic testing.

  2. Supreme Court pregabalin hearing to have a big impact on UK pharma patent rights

    Next week’s UK Supreme Court hearing on the long-running patent dispute over pregabalin will be watched closely by life sciences innovators.

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