Thanks to Katrina Parrott, representation is present in emojis. However, the Texas native is fighting for a patent and to be recognized for her invention, which she has been doing since 2013.
“It’s really frustrating,” Parrott said to BuzzFeed News. “when you put your heart and soul and resources into an idea that has impacted so many lives and then be rejected when you go to the place to formally get recognized for it.”
Parrott got the idea of the diverse emoji from her daughter, who returned home from college and lamented how she couldn’t express herself through Apple’s emojis since they didn’t provide skin tone options that matched hers.
“If she had been a White male from Stanford or MIT in her mid 20s, it’s more likely her company would have been acquired by Apple.”
— (((Evan Shapiro))) (@eshap) March 11, 2021
After saving $200,000, Parrott built and launched her app, iDiversicons, which was an IOS app that provided iPhone users with diverse emojis. But Parrott’s emojis weren’t a part of the iPhone keyboard, and users had to copy and paste.
She decided to take her idea to Apple and impressed Apple executives. Rather than giving the genius Black woman her recognition and striking a partnership, the white-ran company stole her idea and included skin color options in their emojis.
She sued Apple but had her case thrown out because her idea was “unprotectable.” She applied for a patent numerous times, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected her.
Parrott has been in a nearly decade fight and earned the support from government officials like Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackon Lee of Texas.
Lee and Warren wrote a letter to the USPTO asking how Big Tech companies obtain more patents than underrepresented groups.
“We are writing to express our concerns regarding the disproportionate challenges that small businesses, women, people of color, and other underrepresented inventors face in the patent approval process at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office,” the letter read. “These challenges present these inventors with a significant disadvantage compared to Big Tech, Big Pharma, and other giant corporations.”
They brought up Parrott’s case, highlighting that “she received multiple rejections, filed appeals, and provided the information requested,” yet wasn’t approved. However, the USPTO approved Apple’s 2,541 patents in 2021 alone.
The letter stated that the lawmakers expected a response from the USPTO by Feb. 28, 2023.
“They used my resources, and my suggestions, and I got no recognition for any of it,” she said. “We were first on the scene. We’ve done all of the due diligence. We’ve been touching people’s lives all over. People are coming up to me and saying, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you for including everybody.’ So what I want is to be able to have a patent on my wall and say, ‘Katrina, you did a great job!’”