P&G Recognized by American Intellectual Property Association for Supporting Women Inventors

AIPLA Group Shot

Photo courtesy AIPLA. From left to right: Carol Thorstad-Forsyth (Chair, Women in IP Law Committee), John Lipchitz (Director, Assistant General Counsel for the Gillette Company), Ali Anoff (Director & Assistant Counsel for Patents, Procter & Gamble), Melissa Buss (Board Liaison to Women in IP Law Committee), Amy Schmid (Vice Chair, Women in IP Law Committee).

P&G was recently recognized by AIPLA (American Intellectual Property Association) with the 2022 Women Innovators Award. This award recognizes excellence in the inclusion and encouragement of women innovators.

“The Women in IP Law Committee of AIPLA is proud to honor Procter & Gamble as the 2022 recipient of the Women Innovators Award. The goals of the award are to increase awareness of the women inventorship issue within the private sector, to increase the presence of women as inventors and to recognize companies and universities who demonstrate their support of women inventors by intentionally encouraging women inventors and including these women in patent applications. P&G epitomizes the goals of the award, by encouraging and supporting women engagement in collaboration and the pursuit of innovation. P&G’s success is demonstrated by the number of women included in the patent application filings for the company and the continued growth in this area. We are proud to honor the determination, motivation, and success of P&G!”

- Amy Schmid, Vice Chair of the Women in IP Law Committee, AIPLA, Partner at Wenderoth, Lind & Ponack, LLP

“Empowering women is important both within corporations and the IP profession. We are excited to see AIPLA recognize the work P&G has done to empower women within their innovation and inventorship communities. We are proud to have P&G as a Founding Diversity Pledgee and to see their hard work recognized and highlighted by AIPLA. Increasing diversity in innovation and inventorship will require all of us to think and act differently, and P&G has shown how one company has put that into practice.”

- Suzanne Harrison, USIPA Board member and D&I co-chair and USPTO PPAC member

Julie Setser, P&G’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Innovation shares insights on why this is so important to P&G.

Julie Setser

Q: One might think that IP is just relevant to the legal division of P&G. Can you say more about the role of IP in building a strong innovation strategy at P&G?

A: IP is certainly important at P&G for both our Legal team and our Innovation team in R&D and is foundational to creating a sustainable competitive advantage from our investment in R&D. While Legal ensures we are supporting our work appropriately, to protect us as the owners of key discoveries, having a robust program that encourages all our innovators to advance their work with patent applications is critical to ensuring our scientific discoveries translate to business value and to maintaining a healthy and competitive team of innovators.

Although we have several prolific female inventors at P&G, there is opportunity to improve since female inventorship is lagging representation. Women are just as capable of contributing to innovation that leads to patents, and we have set out to understand the root causes and potential solutions to increase patent filings among women. R&D women often cited difficulty getting started, as well as a lack of strong networks relative to their male counterparts. Thus, we put a number of training and mentoring programs in place to help women in technical roles get the coaching and help they need to file IP and to build stronger networks.

P&G has developed IP Skills training that begins for our R&D employees as new hires. Additionally, that training is supported by senior level managers who reiterate the importance of filing IP. We are also rolling out individualized pilot training, such as the inventor-mentor program that takes mentees through the entire P&G patenting system — from brainstorming and conception through patent filing and prosecution in a triad of experienced inventors, attorneys and IP managers. We are increasing awareness with our next generation inventors with a pilot that recognizes our employees for patent filings to complement the existing grant recognition program. Recognizing filings will reward the inventor and raise awareness to the business importance of IP leading to a culture where we have increased participation in invention, and thus in filings. Ultimately, this will lead to more grants from a more diverse group of inventors, leading to better overall competitive advantage.

Q: How has your involvement in industry organizations like AIPLA influenced your efforts in this space?

A: P&G has long emphasized the importance of equality and inclusion in the workplace, and this effort is no different. It’s just not an area where we had focused until findings by the U.S. Patent Office and leading researchers show that women, people of color and veterans are significantly underrepresented as US patent inventors. As we participate in AIPLA, they raised the issue with members and advocated to better enable women’s success with IP Law.

Just over a year ago the USIPA announced the Diversity Pledge, and we did not hesitate to sign on! Since that time, we’ve taken a few targeted actions which have delivered results:

  • Analyzed our own internal patent inventor data and reported this to leadership to raise awareness. All of our business units are tracking female inventorship.
  • Developed and instituted a manager training program that highlights the importance of IP and strategies to encourage women in filing and promoting claim ownership of their inventions.
  • Piloted IP Manager assignments for women to strengthen relationships with attorneys and expose them to patent claim strategy and prosecution.
  • We participated in the USIPA Inventor Incentives survey, and this seeded the idea for expanding our rewards to include filing patent cases.
  • Launched a patent grant mug program. Based on feedback, we learned how important it was for inventors to be recognized by their peers and leadership. For example, Gillette launched a patent mug program where all the inventors from this past fiscal year were presented with a thermal mug with their name and patent on it. We are gathering feedback on this approach and considering how to ensure peer and leadership recognition is reflected in our incentive program.

Q: What would you say to other companies about the role of diversity in innovation strategy?

A: We know there is great benefit to diversity in the workforce and there are many efforts underway to ensure we foster an environment which supports diversity of thought and experience to generate innovative solutions. Be sure to include your R&D teams who are a key source of innovative insights that should be protected — do not let their good ideas be overlooked or worse, lost. We know our innovators are fueled by creating novel solutions, and creating a culture that values diversity goes hand-in-hand with a culture of innovation.

You can read more about P&G’s commitment to equality and inclusion here and here.