, Volume 114, Issue 3, pp 971–992 | Cite as

Gender distinctions in patenting: Does nanotechnology make a difference?



Analyzing the domestic patent records filed with the United State Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in the 16-year time period from 1990 to 2005, this study benchmarks the collaboration patterns and gender-specific performance in patenting nanotechnology, a newly emerging field, with those in the general area across all technological fields (thereafter the overall tech area, a proxy of traditional technological fields). Going beyond what has been discovered in a previous study that women’s involvement in patenting is lower than their male peers in nanotechnology, the empirical evidence reported here suggests that the gap to women’s disadvantage was smaller in nanotechnology than in the overall tech area in the studied period. The major finding of this study is that, while more than 90% of patents across fields were from industry where patenting is least likely to be collaborative, nano-patents have more diverse origins (79% from industry and 21 from universities, government, public institutions, and cross-sectoral collaboration) and are more likely to be collaborative outcomes (including those from industry). The profile of nanotechnology patents in terms of workforce sectors has the implication that nanotechnology presents an environment where women are more able to catch collaborative opportunities and engage in patenting. Implications for future research are discussed correspondingly.


Gender Patenting Nanotechnology Collaboration Scientific workforce 



This study was supported by the Program in Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (STIP) at Georgia Institute of Technology. Special gratitude is extended to Philip Shapira, Rainer Frietsch, and Peter Neuhäusler for their insightful suggestions on data use as well as method and framework development. Thanks also go the two anonymous reviewers for their instructive comments. All errors and omissions remain to the author.


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Water Technology and Policy, Xiamen UniversityXiamenChina

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