The European Patent Office (EPO) recently launched a public consultation on its draft new Rules of Procedure of the Boards of Appeal. The proposed rules lack gender neutrality, not only by referring throughout to the Board "Chairman", but also by using the pronouns "he", "him" and "his" when referring to tribunal members.
At IP Inclusive, we are concerned that this type of language, especially when used in official and legal texts, reinforces gender stereotypes and fuels the unconscious biases that hinder creation of a diverse and inclusive community. We have therefore responded to the consultation and requested that the EPO remove gender-specific terminology before finalising the new rules.
You can download a copy of our submissions here:
If you have any questions or comments on this matter, please feel free to post your question/comment on this blog.
IP Inclusive Leader
As mentioned earlier on this blog, IP Inclusive will be running events and seminars during Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 (14th to 20th May 2018). During and around this week, with help from several generous supporters, we're putting on a series of events on topics related to mental well-being in the workplace.
This year's MHAW theme is "stress", something we're all of us familiar with and which affects the health of many IP professionals. By recognising and addressing mental health problems in the workplace, removing the stigma associated with them and giving both ourselves and our colleagues more resilience to cope with the stress we encounter, we can build more inclusive workplaces where everyone can flourish.
Please get involved in at least one of our events if you can, and encourage your colleagues to do the same. The events, listed below, are taking place across the UK. Importantly, the events are free for IP professionals - and by "IP professionals" we mean in any IP-related role (including administrators, secretaries and other support staff) and at any career level. Mental health is an issue for everyone!
In addition to the events on mental health, IP Inclusive and CIPA are currently surveying CIPA members to gather basic data about mental well-being in the patent profession, the extent to which stress affects that and the types of support that would benefit patent attorneys. If you're a CIPA member, please spare us 10 minutes or so to complete the survey, which you can access here.
Yesterday's World IP Day celebrated the women who power change in innovation and creativity. All this week we've been posting blogs around that theme, in particular focusing on women in the IP professions, who help to turn innovation and creativity into commercial success.
Our article by Dr Hayleigh Bosher yesterday was a call to arms, reminding us how important it is to nurture, support and above all empower women in IP. World IP Day may have come and gone for another year, but that message should stay with us. IP Inclusive will continue to work towards better gender diversity and a more inclusive working environment for everyone in IP, regardless of their gender.
Another group working hard to empower women in this field is the ChIPs (“Chiefs in Intellectual Property”) network. Today Sam Funnell, Co-Chair of the recently established London chapter of ChIPs, tells us more about the work they're doing and how it can help the female IP professionals of the future.
Sam writes: "Over 10 years ago, ChIPs (“Chiefs in Intellectual Property”) was originally founded as an informal dinner group by seven heads of IP, who all happened to be women, from major technology companies in the Silicon Valley. I heard about the ChIPsters when I was the only in-house patent counsel at ARM, in Cambridge.
The conversations which World IP Day has inspired this year are not just for one week or even one month. They should stay with us well into the future, as we work together to ensure that women can continue to power change in the IP world and beyond.
Dr Hayleigh Bosher, founder of World IP Women and a senior lecturer in intellectual property law, invites us to consider how best to empower the women who work in innovation, creativity and IP, and how we will know when we've succeeded. We think it's an inspiring way to end World IP Day, looking to a future full of powerful IP women.
But our blog posts will continue... because World IP Day this year is only the start of a hugely important conversation.
Hayleigh writes: "Happy World Intellectual Property Day! As you are no doubt aware, this year’s WIPO theme for World IP Day is “powering change: women in innovation and creativity.” So far, we have heard some wonderful stories celebrating women in innovation, creativity and IP. For example, Kathryn Pickard looked at the role of women at the IP bar, Lee Davis explored the important role of women in the patent profession, and Eleanor Wade told us about women as inventors and patent applicants and their vital contribution to the STEM industries.
Recently, when discussing the theme, I have found myself repeatedly saying, what I strongly believe to be true: that in order to progress such ‘change’ we must empower the women who already work in innovation, creativity and IP.
But what does it actually mean to empower women? Are there palpable steps we can take to visibly see women empowered, and what would it look like if women in IP were empowered? So, let’s gather some thoughts on these points.
What does it mean to empower women in IP?
Firstly, it’s important to understand that empowerment is recognising that we are not trying to provide women with something that they do not already have. Instead, it means helping women to realise their worth, and recognise their abilities and potential. It also signifies encouraging women to claim their rights, where they have previously been repressed.
Today it's World IP Day, and who better to turn to for comment than our own Intellectual Property Office, which does so much to promote intellectual property and the UK's IP professionals?
The theme for World IP Day this year is "Powering change: Women in innovation and creativity". Armed with IPO research on female inventorship, patent examiner and Prospect trade union rep Eleanor Wade investigates how well women are represented in the STEM industries. She discusses how to increase that representation and ensure that women who take up STEM careers can achieve their full potential.
Eleanor writes: "Research from the IPO shows that women inventors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics industries are still massively under-represented in the workforce. I am a woman in STEM and a trade union rep with Prospect, which represents workers in many STEM employers. For me, this study demonstrates that while much has been achieved in reaching gender equality in STEM industries, there is still much to do.
Analysis of the classifications applied to each patent application also shows that the highest proportion of female inventors are in stereotypical areas such as brassieres, corsets and other clothing, cosmetics, furniture and food. The lowest proportion are in areas such as weapons, engines and tools.
The report is especially interesting because much of the statistical research looking at Women in STEM has relied on ‘inputs’, such as the number of women employed in any industry. The IPO report is one of few to provide data on the ‘outputs’ or work undertaken by those women. The study shows that the world of patenting remains male-dominated, with 88% of all GB patent applications coming from teams of all-male inventors.
Earlier this week, in our series of posts to mark World IP Day 2018 (#WorldIPDay), we looked at women's increasingly significant contributions to the UK patent profession. But when good ideas end up in court, there also need to be barristers with the expertise to defend or enforce the associated IP rights. And at the IP bar, as in the patent profession, there are still too few women.
IP barrister Kathryn Pickard, of 11 South Square (one of our Charter signatories), has taken a look at the role of women at the IP bar during the 99 years since women were first able to join the legal profession. She celebrates the achievements of female barristers both past and present, and the progress that has been made towards bringing more women into this fascinating and rewarding career. As in any area of IP law, of course, we must continue to build on that progress to ensure that creative, innovative and inspiring women can continue to power change through the IP system.
Kathryn writes: "This year’s theme for World IP Day is timely. 2018 has been lauded as the year of the woman. In the UK, it marks 100 years since women were given the vote and 99 years since women were first able to join the legal profession. It is an appropriate time to reflect on the role of women at the intellectual property or “IP” bar.
What is the IP Bar and what do its members do?
For those unfamiliar with IP or the UK legal system, members of the IP Bar are barristers who specialise in intellectual property law. They give advice to clients when questions of the validity or infringement of intellectual property arise and argue their clients’ cases in court.
Intellectual property rights underpin the scientific, technological and creative industries and come in a variety of different forms: from patents for inventions to copyright for literary, music and artistic works; from design rights for innovative industrial designs to trade marks for global brands; from performance rights for musicians to trade secrets for businesses and privacy rights for individuals.
The work of an IP barrister is fascinating. Not only is the law relating to intellectual property constantly evolving, but the subject matter of cases is infinitely varied. A career at the IP bar is challenging, interesting and rewarding.
Part of the battle to attract and retain more women in IP, and to ensure that they flourish there, is supporting and developing them as professionals. This is particularly important in the patent profession, where a STEM background is a prerequisite and women are currently in the minority.
One way to support these women is through groups like IP Inclusive's Women in IP network - which, incidentally, is open to people of all genders so long as they are interested in and sympathetic to so-called "women's issues". Another is through more focused "Lean In" circles, usually in individual organisations. These are small groups which meet regularly to learn and grow together, helping women to be more assertive and ambitious and to make the most of their careers.
For the next in our series of blogs to mark World IP Day on 26th April 2018, Victoria Barker from Kilburn & Strode (who are also one of our Charter signatories) tells us about the Lean In Circle which she and her colleagues have established. We hope that her experiences will inspire women throughout the IP professions to do something similar where they work.
Victoria writes: "In April 2017, we set up a Lean In Circle at Kilburn and Strode. A Lean In Circle is simply a group of like-minded people coming together to discuss issues that affect (primarily) women in the workplace. The Kilburn & Strode Circle is one of over 36,000 Lean In Circles worldwide, all inspired by the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.
The first meeting of the Lean In Circle looked at the sorts of issues women might face in the workplace, and asked colleagues to suggest topics for future meetings. The top three topics were, perhaps unsurprisingly, a lack of confidence, fear of failure, and how to say “no”. In response, the Lean In Circle has hosted learning sessions on “communicating with confidence” – looking at both what is said and how that message is communicated. One interesting point we discussed related to the use of “filler words” – not only “errms” and “uuumms”, but other, perhaps less noticeable things such as the use of the word “just”. For example, I know I’m guilty of saying “Can I just ask a question…?”, but what does “just” add? Is it needed? Am I, in fact, simply implying that my question isn’t important?"
On Thursday 26th April it's World IP Day. This year's theme is "Powering change: Women in innovation and creativity". At IP Inclusive, we want to celebrate women throughout the IP sector: the inventors and creators, the IP owners and users, and the many talented professionals who advise and support them, helping them to make the most of their IP rights on the wider stage.
Today's article is from the Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys, Lee Davies, who explores the increasingly important role that women play in the development of the patent profession.
Lee writes: "Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) has never been more prominent on CIPA’s radar. As a founder member of IP Inclusive, it is absolutely right that CIPA continues to fly the flag for EDI, not just in terms of the diversity of the patent attorney profession but right across the landscape of intellectual property. No single aspect of diversity takes prominence, but there are times when the attention falls on a particular group of people. For World IP Day 2018, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has alighted on the theme of ‘Powering Change: Women in Innovation and Creativity’ and here, I reflect on the role and achievements of women in CIPA.
Set the task of identifying the first female Fellow of CIPA, we dived into the Institute’s archives and came across this entrance in the Transactions for 12 February, 1936.
The President said that the Institute that day was making history because, for the first time, its President had the pleasure of welcoming a lady Fellow, Mrs. Alderton, whose father, Mr. Andrews, was a well-known colleague. Medicine and law already had lady practitioners but, for some reason, the Institute had, until the present year, been entirely masculine. He had much pleasure in introducing Mrs. Alderton to the meeting. (Applause.)
This does not, of course, make Margaret Joyce Alderton the first female patent agent. Indeed, two women qualified as patent agents at around the same time, the other being Margaret Gulland Dixon, the daughter of George Ellis (Mewburn Ellis). On googling ‘first female patent agent UK’, it is Margaret Dixon whose name comes up, with the Mewburn Ellis website stating that she entered the profession in 1929 and qualified in 1936, making her ‘the first woman to take up patent agency as a full-time career’.
We do know that Margaret Alderton qualified in May 1935, making her the first qualified female patent agent in the UK, and that she became a Fellow of CIPA in February 1936. Margaret Dixon qualified in February 1936 and was admitted as a Fellow of CIPA in November of that year. I would rather not dwell on which of these two remarkable women was the first female patent agent in the UK. Together, the two Margarets took on the established all-male profession and carved their names in history.
The flood gates, however, did not open. It would be twenty years before the admission of another female Fellow, Mrs Nancy Rowena Margaret Russell, in 1959. Before a host of eagle-eyed patent attorneys observe that this is a gap of twenty-three years, there were no Fellows admitted in the mid-war years 1942 to 1944. From this point onwards, we find female Fellows being admitted to CIPA at the rate of one every two or three years, with thirty to forty male counterparts, through until the early seventies, when things start to pick up.
They are running this session on Tuesday 15th May at 1.30pm – 2.30pm (or as much time as people can manage), during which attendees can have lunch and help stitch a blanket. We ask that attendees bring 3 knitted or crocheted 4 x 4 cm "Granny Squares" in any colour – and one "work in progress" square.
The aim is to create a blanket for Carecent to be delivered during Mental Health Awareness Weeks as a gift from IP Inclusive and the local Clifton Moor Business Association (where BRANDED! are situated). Please get in touch with Carin Burchell for further information or to register for the event.
Several other events are in the pipeline for that week, including in Bristol, Glasgow, London and Manchester. Event details and registration links will be posted on this blog soon.
Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Ryan Compton, Director of Centre for Resolution, and is the next instalment in the four part series on the process of employing someone with a disability.
Ryan writes: "In the last two parts we talked about legislation and what this might look like for an employer to employ someone with a disability; reasonable adjustments; accessible job adverts and interviewing. Now we are going to continue into the things an employer can do to ensure that a person with a disability has the same opportunities to fulfill their role as their non-disabled peers.
Ensuring individuals with disabilities are able to carry out their day to day tasks can be seen as daunting for people who have little or no experience or knowledge of disability. Many are not aware of the solutions which are available to support people with disabilities.
One of the simplest ways to ensure best practice is to engage a workplace assessor. Workplace assessments are usually carried out by individuals that have expertise in specific areas of disability; for example an expert in vision impairment would come to your workplace to carry out an assessment of the day to day activities of an employee with a vision impairment. The workplace assessor would be able to suggest effective ways for the individual to work as well as equipment including magnification software, voiceover software or things as simple as better lighting at the employee’s work station. The few examples I have given may seem small but they can actually make a job that was inaccessible accessible for the person with a disability. The assessor would provide a full report once the assessment had been completed, with suggestions of reasonable adjustments that could be implemented.
How much is ‘Reasonable’ going to cost me?
Did you know that the average cost of a reasonable adjustment is only £75.00 per individual? This cost is significantly lower than what most employers and service providers would expect. Of course this number is an average and some individuals’ needs could cost slightly more.