How Meta’s Patent Team Tackles Inventor Diversity

THE CHALLENGE:

Traditionally, the idea of a Fortune 50 company engaging a big law partner would bring to mind white male professionals focused solely on bottom-line objectives.

But recent movements advocating for change in the workplace have empowered passionate diversity, equity and inclusion leaders in both industries to change that image. In order to facilitate real progress, Meta and its McDermott legal team have come together with shared priorities to tackle historical barriers and systemic disparities.

OUR OBJECTIVE:

The in-house patent team at Meta entrusts McDermott patent relationship partner and Head of Patent Prosecution Ahsan Shaikh as their embedded patent counsel, not only to develop a data-driven patent strategy to prepare, file and obtain patents, but also to implement actions that measurably increase its inventors’ diversity.

THE OUTCOME:

To do so, the McDermott and in-house Meta teams apply key principles from a Gender Diversity in Innovation Toolkit developed by the Intellectual Property Owners trade group, to which Ahsan contributed. Drawing in part on the toolkit’s tactics, they developed an internal survey to identify how select employees engage with the patent program, as well as revising Meta’s internal invention submission form. Among other changes, they replaced potentially biased words such as “invention” and “inventor” with “solution” and “contributor.”

Meta also instituted a concept called hybrid brainstorming, which aims to eliminate bias issues that stem from the traditional patent brainstorming process. In hybrid brainstorming, participants anonymously and individually write down solutions to a key technical problem, then return as a group to comment on the most valuable of the still-anonymous ideas. This strategy puts the focus on participation and the merits of each idea, rather than the person sharing it, sidestepping implicit bias due to gender, race or ethnicity. It also empowers everyone in the room to offer their ideas without fear of judgment and regardless of seniority level.

Based on the success of the ongoing diversity in innovation collaboration, Meta partnered with McDermott to help support the United States Intellectual Property Alliance’s first Diversity in Innovation Conference in July 2021. McDermott assisted with speaker arrangements and produced the virtual conference from the back end, including 15 sessions over four days, for more than 200 highly engaged attendees. The conference advanced the idea of publicly reporting inventor diversity numbers, creating transparency for the issue of diversity in innovation and pressuring large companies toward greater innovation equity.

Meta not only fosters diversity in innovation internally with help from its McDermott counsel, it also recognizes diverse legal representation externally: Our Firm was identified as one of the top three (of 40 US firms) on the Facebook 2020 Diversity Scorecard and was ranked #1 on the accompanying patent diversity survey.

DIG DEEPER:

Independent of the diversity initiatives, Meta benefits from its McDermott team’s proactive and business-oriented approach to the patent lifecycle.

McDermott leverages legal skill, technical industry experience, a unique data-driven approach, computer science and engineering degrees, and a deep understanding of the market to help Meta protect and defend its intellectual property. For nearly every aspect of the company’s emerging technologies, the McDermott team has helped file a related patent.

In close partnership with Meta, the McDermott team’s work continues to center around patent strategy for the companies. In all aspects of the business, they have made inventor diversity—and the resulting novel innovations—integral to their success.

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