3 Questions For Advocates For Women Inventors (Part I)

money happy young woman exults pumping fists ecstatic celebrates success under a money rain falling down dollar bills banknotesThe five-year anniversary approaches of a column I wrote about the pressing need for the IP community to help close the patent gap, whereby the share of female and minority inventors persists at an unacceptably low level relative to our society’s need for the full measure of their innovative contributions. My sense is that there is increased awareness of the issue, spurred at least in part by USPTO-based initiatives spearheaded by Kathi Vidal. At the same time, there are those who have been working on the issue at a grassroots level over the years, with interesting perspectives to share about their experiences. I am pleased, therefore, to present a two-part series of interviews with advocates for women inventors. In part I, you will hear from a published author who has written about inventors for a long time, Edie Tolchin. In part II, you will hear from a patent attorney with direct experience representing female inventors, Carolyn Favorito.

Let’s meet Edie and get a glimpse into her varied and interesting career paths.

In her words:

Edith G. Tolchin knows inventors! Edie has interviewed over 100 inventors for her longtime column in Inventors Digest and has recently retired from her company, EGT Global Trading, which she owned since 1997, linking inventors with China factories, providing an exclusive importing service for product sourcing, quality control, production testing, government safety issues, manufacturing, assistance with shipping and customs clearance, and dock-to-door delivery for inventions of textiles and sewn items. She has held a prestigious U.S. customs broker license since 2002.

Tolchin has written several nonfiction books about inventing, including her newest one, “Secrets of Successful Inventing: From Concept to Commerce” (Square One Publishers, 2015), and fiction including “Fanny on Fire,” a recent finalist in the Foreword Reviews INDIES Book Awards. She won publication in the Kelsey Review for fiction in 2020. She’s also written book reviews for the New York Journal of Books since 2018.

“Secrets of Successful Women Inventors,” in which she served as editor, was written with the assistance of a total of 27 talented women inventors, service providers, and advisors, and has been endorsed by “Shark” Barbara Corcoran, among others. For sale at Amazon, secretsofsuccessfulwomeninventors.com, and at Square One Publishers. Contact Edie at egt@edietolchin.com.

Now to the interview. As usual, I have added some brief commentary to Edie’s answers below but have otherwise presented her answer to my questions as she provided them.

Gaston Kroub: What has your experience interviewing inventors told you?

Edie Tolchin: I guess the biggest issue has been the fact that, as of 2023, women hold only 13% of patents in the USA. Why is that? I’ll leave that topic to my colleague, Carolyn Favorito, Esq., to address in the next part of this interview — however, the good news is that women inventors are on the rise. There are women inventor groups all over social media, graciously facilitated by women who have been successful with their inventions and have wanted to give back and perhaps make it a bit easier to develop and commercialize new members’ inventions by creating a community.

One of the groups is on Facebook, “The Women Inventors Club — Products Based Entrepreneurs,” and is facilitated by Marcy McKenna, well-known to women inventors; as of this date the group has 683 members! She has appeared on QVC and HSN. You can find McKenna at marcymckenna.com, on her podcasts, and on LinkedIn.

Another group is the “Inventors Club for Women,” run by Katie Kupstas, whose mission is to “ensure members have a better understanding of their options throughout the process of intellectual property, legal, licensing, and public relations.”

GK: It is good to see the continued rise of resources for women inventors, often being led by women inventors who have successfully navigated the IP system in some measure. If every practicing IP attorney would encourage existing or prospective women inventors to utilize and support these resources, it would help galvanize these positive movements in an even more robust way.

GK: How has your work with inventors changed over time? 

When I began working with inventors in 1997, the majority of my clients were male. Over the 20-plus years of writing for Inventors Digest, though I do interview anyone who has an interesting, new product — I particularly enjoy interviewing “Shark Tank” inventors — I try my best to interview as many women inventors as I can. Since it is a monthly column, I can only interview 12 inventors per year.

Right now, I’m backed up by almost one year (about 12 interviews) of inventors that I intend to provide the opportunity to showcase their creativity. My column is my way of giving back to the female inventor community and, if I were able to, I’d interview several women per monthly issue — however there are space constraints, and, unfortunately, readers tend to be — even now — predominantly male.

GK: Here is hoping that even more media outlets will help spread the word about the contributions of women inventors, thereby buttressing Edie’s efforts — while also increasing the likelihood that society will benefit from increased innovation as more women get inspired to push innovation forward.

GK: How do you think your new book (released October 3, 2023), “Secrets of Successful Women Inventors,” will help women inventors?

As mentioned above, readers of Inventors Digest are still predominantly male. That’s an issue that has been hounding me for at least the past 20 years. My first book, “Secrets of Successful Inventing” (Square One Publishers, 2015), was a “how-to” guide which included chapters written by experts in patenting, crowdfunding, package design, marketing and sales, trade shows, and many other topics which were pertinent as of that time. Most were male contributors to that book.

What I did not include in that book from 2015 was an emphasis on women-inventor stories, along with how women inventors throughout history had to fight to develop their products. In the new book, I made sure to include many of these historical women and their heart-wrenching, impressive stories. A few had to sign their patents with an “X” because they could not write. Another had to have her husband sign the patent document because women weren’t allowed patents years ago. Debra D. Rich, author of “Black Inventors Who Changed History: 1800s-1900s,” contributed these impressive stories to our new book, “Secrets of Successful Women Inventors.” Also included are female experts in intellectual property, PR, social media, licensing, funding (and more), as well as approximately 20 personal stories of remarkable, modern-day women inventors and how they juggled full-time jobs, motherhood, closed doors, health issues, and so many other obstacles that you’ll just have to read the book to truly understand its purpose!

GK: I wish Edie the best in continuing her important work, as well as much success with the book release. Change has started, with more coming, but it is important to recognize the efforts of people like Edie in helping to tell the important stories of female inventors over time. Again, Edie can be reached at egt@edietolchin.com.

Next week, we will hear from Carolyn Favorito about how IP lawyers can help advance the cause of female inventors. We will also hear her thoughts on what female inventors can do to help themselves, as well as some lessons she has learned over the course of her IP career.

Please feel free to send comments or questions to me at gkroub@kskiplaw.com or via Twitter: @gkroub. Any topic suggestions or thoughts are most welcome.

Gaston Kroub lives in Brooklyn and is a founding partner of Kroub, Silbersher & Kolmykov PLLC, an intellectual property litigation boutique, and Markman Advisors LLC, a leading consultancy on patent issues for the investment community. Gaston’s practice focuses on intellectual property litigation and related counseling, with a strong focus on patent matters. You can reach him at gkroub@kskiplaw.com or follow him on Twitter: @gkroub.


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