In a week in which patent news is all over the wires, some new research presented an interesting blip on the radar screen: If you want your technology patent to create buzz, make sure you've got a co-ed team.
Research published by NCWIT (the National Center for Women & Information Technology) found in a review of IT patents over the last 25 years that patents produced by mixed-gender teams received up to 42 percent more citations by subsequent patents than those from single-gender teams.
Women's influence on technology patents is particularly noteworthy given their low participation rate in the IT field. While the percentage of women employed in IT has actually declined over the last 20 years--from 32 percent participation in 1983 to 27 percent in 2005--they accounted for 6.1 percent of U.S.-invented patents in 2005, up from 1.7 percent in 1980.
Computer software patents (7.7 percent between 2000 and 2004), semiconductors and solid-state devices (5.8 percent) and computer peripherals (5. 7 percent) were the IT areas in which women were the most active. Within computer software patents, from 1980 to 1985, there were only 45 female-invented fractional software patents; from 2000 to 2005 that number increased to over 2,200 patents, a 45-fold increase.
Patent news has been buzzing in the last week, since the House of Representatives approved the first significant overhaul of patent law in half a century on Sept. 7. Considered a victory for the technology sector, the Patent Reform Act of 2007 narrows the definition of willful infringement and limits damage awards to the actual value of the technology involved.
Among the many stipulations within the bill, one creates a second window in which companies can challenge patents issued by the Patent and Trademark Office, in which a first-inventor-to-file system would replace the first-to-invent standard, bringing the United States closer to international patent standards.
The industry is watching closely as the legislation heads for the Senate.