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Covington Helps Achieve Legislative Victory to Promote Diversity in Innovation

November 20, 2018

WASHINGTON—Covington has helped achieve a legislative victory to advance pro-innovation policies and to further study issues of underrepresentation in inventing by women, persons of color, and veterans when Congress enacted H.R. 6758, the Study of Underrepresented Classes Chasing Engineering and Science Success (SUCCESS) Act into law, which the President has now signed into law.

Research commissioned from the Institute for Women's Policy Research found that only 18.8% of U.S. patents list one or more women as an inventor. Based on that work, Covington built a coalition of academics and practitioners who focus on diversity and innovation whose research found that the "patent gap" is even wider for inventors of color and inventors from low-income families.

“In light of the paramount importance of intellectual property rights to innovation and commercialization of technologies, we thought it was important highlight the impact these persistent gaps have on innovation and entrepreneurship in the United States,” said Holly Fechner, a partner in Covington’s Public Policy group, who led the effort. “We are proud of the bipartisan support this legislation received and the speedy passage through both the House and Senate.”

The SUCCESS Act directs the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), in consultation with the Small Business Administration, to conduct a study of the impact of the patent gaps in gender, race and veteran status on small businesses and entrepreneurship, and make recommendations to Congress for ways to close the gaps. The legislation also extends the USPTO's authority under the America Invents Act to set its own user fees for patents and trademarks for an additional eight years.

In addition to Ms. Fechner, the Covington team included Matthew Shapanka, Alexandra Langton, Maggie Brennan, and Peter Rechter. Ms. Fechner and Mr. Shapanka also published an article earlier this year on "Closing Diversity Gaps in Innovation: Gender, Race, and Income Disparities in Patenting and Commercialization of Inventions" in Technology & Innovation, the journal of the National Academy of Inventors, that reviews the literature in this area and makes policy recommendations for closing the patent gaps.

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