This Article argues for a shift in how we view and use the patent system, to a way of understanding and cultivating innovators that patent, not just patented innovation, for three reasons. First, who is innovating and where has relevance to a myriad of current social and policy debates, including the participation of women and minorities in innovation, high-skilled immigration, and national competitiveness. Second, though largely overlooked by academics, America’s patent system has long been innovator-, not only innovation-driven, and scholarly engagement can improve the quality of relevant policymaking. Third, the application of new computational tools to open patent datasets makes it possible to more easily approximate and track salient details about innovators that patent - including the geography and settings in which they innovate and the personal demographic traits of innovators - enabling the tailoring and tracking of impacts of interventions on disparate groups of innovators. This Article details why and how to do so by applying novel empirical methods to profiling patentees, revealing broad shifts over the past four decades, and demonstrating—through three mini-case studies pertaining to diversity in the technology sector, the promotion of small and individual inventors, and innovation in medical diagnostic technologies—how improving our understanding of innovators can improve our promotion of innovation.A draft isn't available yet, but hopefully one will be soon. My thoughts on this abstract, though, are "hear, hear!" I think that too little attention has been paid to the people who innovate. There is, to be sure, a rich history of historians and economic historians who have focused on these points. Zorina Khan, Naomi Lamoreaux, and Ken Sokoloff (z''l) come to mind. In law, Adam Mossoff has provided several case studies and Chris Beauchamp has done outstanding historical work highlighting innovators in their time. Mark Lemley leveraged some historical work in an article about simultaneous inventing, and others have looked at those same innovators to tell competing stories.
But much of this work is historical. Of late, as the abstract notes, it's all about the what: What inventions? What classes? What litigation? How many claims? I think people clamor for stories about innovators; I believe my most downloaded (by far) SSRN paper, Patent Troll Myths, resonated because it looked hard at the innovators - individuals to small entities to large companies. Dan Burk looks at innovators (but without data) in Do Patents Have Gender?
I'm sure there are examples I'm not thinking of, but more data and analysis in this area would be welcome. Patents exist in service to their inventors, and so it makes sense to understand who those are to better understand whether patents are achieving their goals...or even what the goals are.