The USPTO requires all individuals interested in becoming a patent practitioner to pass a six-hour, 100-question examination. However, this examination is not open to all. It is reserved for those who possess certain “scientific” and “technical” expertise, which can be demonstrate by (A) possession of an undergraduate degree in one of thirty-two enumerated subjects; (B) a particular number of credits in physics and/or chemistry, either alone or in combination with additional science courses; or (C) passage the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam.
While these criteria appear gender-neutral, there is a de facto discriminatory impact, as these criteria fail to embrace sciences in which women or minorities are more likely to pursue. Studies have found that only about ~18% of registered patent practitioners are women. While efforts are made to increase diversity within STEM more broadly, the USPTO should consider expanding and diversifying its criteria in order to bring greater diversity to the practice of patent law.
LESI's WILA Committee will be joined by Mary Hannon (Marshall, Gerstein & Borun LLP) to discuss the above and her recent publication featured in the Indiana University Maurer School of Law's IP Theory.
All interested LES members are welcome!