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Thematic Issue: Economics and the Law/General

Patents and Gender: A Big Data Analysis of 15 Years of Australian Patent Applications

Author

Vicki Huang, Sue Finch and Cameron Patrick

Recent recommended changes to Australia’s patent laws could narrow the scope of patentable inventions. We argue this could have a comparatively bigger impact on female inventors who we find clustered in the life sciences. We examine 309,544 patent applications filed with IP Australia (the majority from international applicants) across a 15-year period (2001–15) and attribute a gender to 941,516 inventor names. Only 23.6% of patent applications in this dataset include at least 1 female inventor. The average overall success rate irrespective of gender was 75.0%, but the odds of success increased with increasing numbers of male inventors on a team. The addition of female inventors to a team did not have the same effect. We propose that the gender disparity could arise from implicit gender effects (examiner or patentee) during patent prosecution.

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