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Who's Getting the Patents?

Women are underrepresented on biomedical patents, New Scientist reports, noting that this, in turn, may lead to fewer tools that address issues affecting women.

An international team of researchers analyzed biomedical patents filed in the US between 1976 and 2010 to determine the gender of the inventors and whether the invention was aimed at the medical needs of men or women. As they report in Science, the researchers found that inventions developed by women are more likely to address an issue faced by women – they estimate inventor teams that are a majority of women are 6 percent less likely to invent for men and 18.5 percent more likely to invent for women.

But because there are more male patent-holders overall, the researchers note that the field is skewed toward men's health. They found that while the number of women-invented biomedical patents increased between 1976 and 2010, there were 3,014 inventions from female-majority teams in 2010, which is still fewer than the 3,347 inventions by men in 1976.

"We know there's just a lot of sexism in society," first author Rembrandt Koning from Harvard University tells New Scientist. "And we know that women face barriers just becoming scientists, and they face barriers when commercializing their ideas."