Women urged to ‘own your voice!’ as World IP Day celebrates women in IP

This year’s theme celebrates women inventors, creators and entrepreneurs as IP offices and law firms host events around the world to mark the day

Celebrating the groundbreaking work of women inventors on World IP Day Shutterstock

Today is World IP Day, an annual celebration held every year on 26 April and organised by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). This year the theme is Women and IP: accelerating innovation and creativity, and is all about celebrating female inventors, creators and entrepreneurs in the IP sector and how they overcome challenges in accessing knowledge, skills, resources and support.

The day provides an opportunity to celebrate the ‘can do’ attitude of women inventors, creators and entrepreneurs, while it acknowledges that too few women are benefitting from IP.

WIPO said: “Women in all regions are shaping the world through their imagination, ingenuity and hard work, but often face significant challenges in accessing the knowledge, skills, resources and support they need to thrive.”

Indeed, a 2022 study by the European Patent Office (EPO) found that fewer than one in seven inventors are women. In fact, women represent just 13.2% of European inventors named on patent applications. This is a trend seen worldwide, although interestingly China and South Korea show much higher participations of women: China’s rate is 26.8% and South Korea tops the table at 28.3%, but these estimates are less robust than other countries, the EPO notes.

The EPO said: “Together with intellectual property offices around Europe we are commemorating #WorldIPDay because we recognise that gender parity in IP is crucial for our future. It is on all of us to support the creativity and inventiveness of girls and women the world over.”

To mark the day, WIPO’s IP gender champion Lisa Jorgensen and the first woman to head up the patent and technology sector at the agency, shared some WIPO tools that can support women on their entrepreneur journey. These include the IP Diagnostics tool to receive a basic assessment of your start-up IP situation and WIPO courses specifically designed for entrepreneurs.  

Allen & Overy is quite rightly proud of its female-driven IP litigation team. The head of its US life sciences practice and IP litigation practice, Elizabeth Holland, said: “I have definitely seen a huge growth in the number of women in IP over time. Right now at the firm we are seeing a great group of diverse associates: women,  people of colour, this was not the case in years past.” 

Discussing the importance of initiatives like World IP Day, she said: “It helps bring awareness, I am not sure girls necessary know there could be a career for them in IP, it might not be on their radar… getting word out there about how important IP is and how women can really take on leading roles in the field is so important."

She added: "What I found is that people have these amazing ideas and inventions and they don't realise the criticality of having IP protection. It is important to make people aware about how important IP is to their business and inventions, certainly World IP Day helps with that."

IP offices and law firms around the world are hosting events to celebrate this year's theme. Global IP firm Finnegan is hosting a series of networking events on the theme Own Your Voice! with the American Intellectual Property Association in conjunction with IP Inclusive, a band of IP professionals working to make the IP world more equal, diverse and inclusive.

The in-person events hosted in Finnegan venues in London, Munich and Washington DC will provide a space for guests to share personal passions through games and networking with IP colleagues. In total, there will be three UK events on 27 April, not just in London, but in Leeds and Manchester too.

Finnegan’s partner and chief diversity and inclusion officer, Esther Lim, said: “World IP Day is a great chance to celebrate the ground-breaking work of female inventors, creators and entrepreneurs as well as those working in the IP legal sector. There is work to be done here, but organisations such as AIPLA and the WIPO have worked hard to shine a light on female innovators, their efforts and successes, and Finnegan strongly supports this initiative."

Other notable events include the US Patent and Trademark Office's event at Capitol Hill centring on the theme of 'The Value of Her IP'. The focus of the programme will be hearing from women business owners, creators and inventors about the financial, time, and personal sacrifices that were necessary for them to create their intellectual property. Speakers include the US Copyright Office’s associate register of copyrights and director of policy and international affairs, Maria Strong, patent agent at US food company General Mills, Rachel Kahler, and research fellow at the Proctor & Gamble, Renae Fossum.

WIPO is a UN agency and a global forum for intellectual property policy, services, information and cooperation. It created the day in 2000 to raise awareness of how patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and designs impact daily life, and to celebrate creativity and contributions made by creators and innovators. 

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