Later that year, members of the Unicode Consortium agreed to include five different skin tones as an emoji standard thanks to Parrott’s push, according to a Washington Post report. But a few weeks later, Apple refused to work with Parrott on a variety of emoji, saying that the company would design its own based on Unicode standards and build it directly into the iPhone’s keyboard. The move makes iDiversicon redundant.
“I thought I did everything right,” Parrott said. “Very disappointed.”
Parrott then spent more than five years trying to get a patent for his creation, but the USPTO kept rejecting his applications and subsequent appeals. In 2020, he filed a lawsuit against Apple for copyright infringement. Apple lawyers IS reported argued that “copyright does not protect the idea of using five different skin colors in emoji because ideas are not copyrightable.” Last year, a US district judge discarded his suit, expressed that his idea of different emojis is “not protectable.”
“It appears to me that the judge has made up his mind, even before we’ve had an opportunity to share anything,” Parrott said.
A disproportionate number of new US patents go to wealthy corporations over small, independent business owners, especially those run by women and people of color. According to a studymore than 50% of new US patents went to the top 1% richest patentees in 2020. And another survey, from 2010, found that from 1970 to 2006, Black American inventors received only six patents per million people, compared to 235 patents per million for all American inventors . A 2016 study also found that Black Americans applied for patents at about half the rate of whites.
In 2019, the USPTO released a report called SUCCESS (which stands for Study of Underrepresented Classes Chasing Engineering and Science Success) which is required to be done under a new law passed in 2018. The report identifies publicly available data on the number of patents successfully applied for by women, people of color, and veterans each year. The report concluded that such data were “limited.” Only 12% of US inventors granted patents in 2016 were women, it said, and almost no data is available on other groups.
“We clearly want this office and the administration to find out what actions the USPTO is taking to improve the collection of demographic data from patent applicants,” Lee said in an interview. on BuzzFeed News. “The patent office is not an office for Big Tech, or big corporations. The purpose of the patent office, from its earliest historic beginnings, has been to drive the innovation and ingenuity of individual Americans.
A USPTO spokesperson pointed BuzzFeed News to initiatives the agency is putting in place to “get more aspiring inventors and entrepreneurs, including those from underrepresented communities, involved in the innovation ecosystem,” such as Council for Inclusive InnovationTHE Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiativeand pro bono programs and free service to help under-resourced inventors.
Jessica Morel, chief marketing officer of LexisNexis Intellectual Property Solutions, describes the patent situation as “David versus Goliath.” He said, “It is undoubtedly challenging for individual inventors of all races, genders, and ethnicities, and often smaller companies, to get their patents approved, especially compared to businesses with specialized expertise, such as patent attorneys, a dedicated software platform, and a track record of successful patent filings.”
However, some experts argue that Parrott’s original idea for various emojis was never patentable to begin with.