From October 2016 to March 2017 the team is joined by Guest Kats Rosie Burbidge and Eibhlin Vardy, and by InternKats Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo, Tian Lu and Hayleigh Bosher.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

IP professionals: "exclusive" sounds classy, but "inclusive" is better

"We are a group of like-minded professionals working in IP, committed to improving equality, diversity and inclusivity in our community". This is the claim of IP Inclusive, an initiative that dates back to the beginning of this calendar year but which has hitherto slipped the attention of this Kat.  So intrigued was he by it that he thought he'd give it an airing on this weblog, together with a few small comments of his own,
IP Inclusive

A round-table meeting on Diversity in IP hosted by the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) led to the creation of a pan-professional diversity task force. This task force currently has nearly 40 members from organisations including CIPA, the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (ITMA), the IP Federation, the UK association of the International Federation of Intellectual Property Attorneys (FICPI-UK), the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) and Managing IP magazine [MIP isn't quite what this Kat would call an 'organisation'; it's a publication run by Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC, which in turn is 70% owned by the Daily Mail. Still, it's good to see the IP information sector represented -- it's proof that IP Inclusive doesn't mind being inclusive. Merpel adds, MIP also has a blog and a Twitter account, so the social media are included too]. The group has representation spanning patent and trade mark attorneys, IP solicitors and barristers, patent and trade mark administrators, information scientists, IP Office examiners and HR professionals from IP practices. Operating under the banner IP Inclusive, the task force exists to implement the challenging diversity-improving initiatives agreed during the round-table discussions.

Joint statement of intent

We are committed to making the IP professions more inclusive. We believe that there is value, not only to the professions and their individual members, but also to the IP system as a whole and its users, in ensuring that the IP professionals of the future encourage, embrace and sustain a more diverse workforce.

We will work together to ensure that for all those who have the necessary aptitude, regardless of their age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, physical ability, wealth or background, the IP professions are:
  • welcoming
  • accessible
  • respectful
  • supportive
[Very impressive, says Merpel, who is waiting for the day that equal treatment is seen to be given to all staff when it comes to glossy marketing brochures, recruitment materials and client-facing websites: browsing through them, one would assume that there are no IP practitioners who have health issues relating to obesity or to skin conditions -- the people portrayed, if not professional models, could well get jobs in the fashion sector if IP ever let them down] We will encourage the IP professionals within our organisations to adopt best practices for securing increased diversity and inclusion. We will collaborate to train and support IP professionals in such practices, and to raise awareness of relevant issues. We will take a firm stance against any form of unlawful, unfair or otherwise inappropriate discrimination, whether during recruitment to the IP professions or in the working environment. 
Following the round-table meeting on 27 January 2015, we, the undersigned, will commit to a range of joint initiatives aimed at achieving the above outcomes and improving diversity throughout the IP professions.
  • The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA)
  • The Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (ITMA)
  • The IP Federation
  • The UK association of the International Federation of Intellectual Property Attorneys (FICPI-UK)
Work streams 
The IP Inclusive initiative operates under four work streams (click to find out more)
This Kat thinks that this is a positive step that deserves far more publicity, particularly in universities that teach IP law [this is specifically mentioned under 'Awareness-raising' above]: he has spoken to many potential candidates for the IP professions over the years who have felt deterred from even trying to enter one or other of them on account of their own self-assessment of the risk of being rejected on the basis of prejudice. He also knows of specific instances of actual prejudice, though fortunately their incidence seems to have declined markedly in recent times.

But would Ginger be welcome too?
It would be good to know if initiatives of this nature can be found in other jurisdictions.  Of the bodies listed above, FICPI is best-placed to transfer its effects from the UK to other jurisdictions since it has a presence in many of them, but the influence of CIPA and ITMA also spills across national borders. How far will they be able to spread the word that, while the word "exclusive" has a strong laudatory feel about it, "inclusive" -- when based on merit and ability rather than on personal history and cultural preference -- is better?

10 comments:

THE US anon said...

If there is one thing that makes me gag quicker than Nose of Wax treatment of IP law is the attempted infusion of Political Correctness into IP law.

Anonymous said...

Well I, for one, am grateful that there is a group that has a stronger stomach than THE US anon when it comes to concepts as apparently distasteful as access to the IP professions based on aptitude.

Nona Su said...

US Anon is doubly wrong. First it's not an attempted infusion, it's an infusion. Secondly it's not an infusion into IP law but into the way humans behave towards one another.

Bart van Wezenbeek said...

In order to give a more constructive turn to the debate, I can inform you that in The Netherlands we have the initiative of the 'Octrooigilde' (patent guild), which in contrast to what its name suggests is bound to stimulate education of IP in a broad sense. In order to achieve this, there is an Advice council, which consists of people from the Dutch Patent office, the Benelux Trademark office, the Order of patent attorneys, the patent information people, the Union of inventors and the universities. This group is chaired by no-one else than Mr. Willem Hoyng, who does not need further introduction.

Anonymous said...

And still you seen adverts in the UK insisting that only applicants with a degree from a certain group of universities need apply...very inclusive. I am extremely glad to see someone is trying to make a difference though and I wish you all the very best with the effort - it is long overdue

Anonymous said...

There is a perception that US law firms are more diverse than their European counterparts. Maybe they're more open about it than us (e.g. UK and France). https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/05/27/law-is-the-least-diverse-profession-in-the-nation-and-lawyers-arent-doing-enough-to-change-that/

Even clients are talking about it too
http://www.pcworld.com/article/2956492/microsoft-updates-program-to-encourage-diversity-in-partner-law-firms.html

It's high time we started talking about it (at least). Good job CIPA and ITMA!

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Ginger the name of Arthur Pedrick's cat? (That would make her the original IP-Cat!)

Or the choice of name for the caption is purely accidental?

Anonymous said...

"We are a group of like-minded professionals"

Diverse? No.

Jerry Bridge-Butler said...

I am glad IP KAT seems to think IP firms have professional models on their websites. Ours is populated only with pictures of us :). On another point, I agree with the comment about science degree only entry for patent attorneys. The diversity of the UK patent attorney profession is limited by the lack of diversity in that area of academia. The UK trade mark attorney profession is far more diverse, in particular in terms of the numbers of women, which are far higher. Therefore, I think the first barrier to break down is the science degree only entry. I may be the only UK and European patent attorney working today who doesn't have a science degree, and I had to do it the extremely hard way. The problem is that I am white, middle class, and a man, so I've let the diversity side down there.

gloomysunday said...

One aim of IPInclusive to to promote the various careers in IP to school childrena as well as those already at university. Hopefully, we can make careers in IP sound exciting (and inclusive) enough that we can encourage people of all backgrounds to pursue science/engineering degrees with a specific career in mind!

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