This Article is the first to empirically examine the extent to which women and minorities succeed in prosecuting trademark applications before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). Trademark registration is an important measure of entrepreneurial activity and progress in business, education, and the arts. To explore how women and minorities are succeeding in this domain, we compared 1.2 million trademark applications over thirty years with demographic information on race and gender. We analyze whether trademark prosecution reflects systematic underrepresentation of women and minorities similar to those reported in patent and copyright prosecution. We found that trademark data showed significant differences from the other two federal intellectual property (“IP”) regimes. Our analysis reveals that women regularly secure trademark registration at a higher rate than men. Women are underrepresented in the pool of trademark applicants compared to their presence in the population, but not all minority groups are underrepresented. For women and underrepresented minorities, the disparity is decreasing at a rate not seen in other IP registration systems.
While recent work has significantly advanced our understanding of trademark prosecution, no published studies consider the race and gender of trademark applicants. By filling that void, this Article substantially contributes to our understanding of minority intellectual property ownership and provides a new foundation for policy shifts and further research to assure that intellectual property ownership paths, theory, law, and reform are grounded in equality.