NCPP’s Commitment to Diversity Through Women and Minority Scholarships
Women and minority patent practitioners make up only a small percentage of the patent profession. According to a recent article in Bloomberg Law, black intellectual property attorneys, in general, make up only 1.7% of all IP attorneys, based on a survey by the American Intellectual Property Law Association. This underrepresentation is further exacerbated by the fact that becoming a patent prosecutor requires an engineering or science background – professions where women and minorities are traditionally underrepresented.
In the United States, after much debate and feedback, the Senate and the President approved the AmericaInventsAct, which modernizes patent law. This law is revolutionary because it is canceled to date, in force in the US, defines the principle of granting patent protection diversity in patent law. The first applicant to apply now has priority. In addition, the law provides for the need to challenge previously issued “incorrect” patents.
The goal of the National Council on Patent Practicum’s (NCPP) Women and Minority Diversity Scholarship is to facilitate the growth of women and minority engineers and scientists pursuing opportunities as Technical Specialists and Patent Agents. Often times, engineers and scientists are not aware that their engineering and science degrees are the first step to becoming a patent practitioner, much less that they can transition into this profession without necessarily attending law school.
Thus, in many cases, once they obtain this information their interest is piqued and they want to know where to begin. Although the information is readily available to aspiring patent practitioners on how to transition into the patent field, many candidates find it difficult to quickly allocate funds to pay for training in a career that they have not previously considered. Consequently, women and minority candidates become even less likely to enter the patent profession.
Why the Growing Need for Scholarships for Women and Minority Patent Professionals?
Because patent prosecution training is not readily available in most law schools, many law schools are graduating attorneys that are ill-prepared for the patent prosecution market. Consequently, the industry-set salary for newly minted patent attorneys generally far exceeds their ability to perform the basic functions of a competent patent practitioner. In-house budgets are being cut. Budgets for outside patent counsel are compressed by corporate clients, resulting in a growing demand for Technical Specialists and Patent Agents who can perform much of the work of patent prosecution attorneys at cheaper rates.
Given the skillset and value of utilizing properly trained Technical Specialists and Patent Agents, most patent law firms and some corporations will financially support them enrolling in law school at a later date. This option can result in huge cost savings to those who pursue the Juris Doctor and can result in a sizable value-add to the corporation or law firm. Further, initially practicing as a Technical Specialist or Patent Agent can be the path of least resistance as opposed to spending thousands of dollars for a law school education that may not necessarily prepare them to be effective patent practitioners without additional training.
The Women and Minority Diversity Scholarship is designed to provide financial assistance and training resources to women and minority candidates that want to pursue this profession without burying them in law school debt while substantially developing and increasing their skill set. Thus, recipients of our scholarship will have a substantially increased potential of obtaining patent practitioner employment with corporations and law firms that are seeking quality, trained Technical Specialists and Patent Agents to perform patent preparation and prosecution work at lower rates than patent attorneys.