Last week, President Biden signed into law Congresswoman Deborah Ross’ (NC-02) bipartisan legislation, the Unleashing American Innovators Act, to address disparities in the U.S. patent system and expand access to patents for underrepresented communities. In the Senate, this bill was led by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Thom Tillis (R-NC). Along with Congresswoman Ross, Congresswoman Nancy Mace (SC-01) co-led the bill in the House. The legislation was included in the omnibus funding bill for Fiscal Year 2023.

Participation in the U.S. patent system doesn’t reflect the rich diversity of the American people, hindering American innovation and competitiveness. For example, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) found that only 21.9% of patents had at least one woman inventor in 2019. People of color and young inventors are underrepresented as well.  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, a world-renowned hub for research and innovation,” said Congresswoman Ross. “Far too often, women, people of color, and veterans face unique barriers to participation in the patent system in North Carolina and beyond. We are a stronger and more prosperous nation when everyone – regardless of their race, gender, or zip code – can participate in our thriving innovation economy. I thank Senators Leahy and Tillis and Congresswoman Mace for working with me on this critical issue, and I’m thrilled to see it signed into law.”

The Unleashing American Innovators Act:

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

The legislation was included in the government funding package for Fiscal Year 2023.