Washington D.C. Today, Congresswomen Deborah Ross (D-NC) and Nancy Mace (R-SC) introduced the Unleashing American Innovators Act, critical legislation that will address disparities in the U.S. patent system and expand access to patents for underrepresented communities.

Participation in the U.S. patent system lacks diversity, hindering American innovation and competitiveness. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) found that only 21.9% of patents had at least one woman inventor in 2019. This legislation will expand resources and outreach to groups that have historically been underrepresented in the patent system and American entrepreneurship, including by creating a new PTO satellite office in the Southeast.

“I’m proud to represent much of the Research Triangle, one of the key centers of American innovation,” said Congresswoman Ross. “For too long, women, people of color, and veterans have faced unique barriers to participation in the patent system and North Carolina’s thriving innovation economy. We must do everything in our power to bolster American competitiveness and to ensure every individual – no matter their race, gender, or zip code – can access the resources they need to succeed. The Unleashing American Innovators Act is an important step towards that goal, and I look forward to working with Congresswoman Mace to see it signed into law.”

“Innovation and invention are part of what makes America the greatest country on earth,” said Congresswoman Mace. “We must ensure the talented and creative minds of America are able to access the resources they need regardless of their gender or race. This legislation will make a critical step in promoting equal access to the tools that have consistently allowed America to lead the world in technological advancement and entrepreneurship.”

The Unleashing American Innovators Act:

  1. Requires the PTO’s satellite offices to conduct outreach to underrepresented groups to increase participation in the patent system;
  2. Requires the PTO to establish a new satellite office in the Southeast region and to study whether additional satellite offices are needed;
  3. Creates a network of smaller community outreach offices to educate Americans about the patent system and the benefits of innovation and entrepreneurship;
  4. Establishes a pilot program to assist first-time prospective patent applicants in determining whether their inventions are likely to be patentable; and
  5. Lowers patent application fees for small businesses and micro entities.

Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

Bill text is available here.