When hair-loss specialist Tiffany Young explained her idea for hair extensions that attach to a headband rather than hair clips, she recalled feeling as though her male patent attorney failed to grasp the novelty of the concept.
Young wanted to patent the idea to help people with conditions like alopecia or cancer so they wouldn’t need a lot of existing hair to anchor the extensions. After receiving an initial rejection from the US Patent and Trademark Office, Young said her attorney gave up on the case.
“I felt like it was because it was a product intended for women, and he didn’t have an interest in that particular field,” she said. “I felt a little demoralized.”
The PTO is aiming to help women inventors avoid the sort of dismissiveness Young encountered, by proposing to create a separate practice bar for design patents. One goal of the initiative is to open the doors to more women practitioners at the agency.
The new bar would allow attorneys without backgrounds in science and engineering—currently prerequisites to practice patent matters before the PTO—to protect a product’s aesthetic elements with design patents. It would distinguish this practice area from more technical utility patents, which cover