A woman's place ... is in the lead: thoughts on an upcoming IP Forum

What is the place of women in intellectual property leadership? News of the launch of Managing Intellectual Property magazine's International Women's Leadership Forum, which hits London on 24 February 2015, has given this Kat a serious opportunity to think about this from the perspective of a male who has been active in the field of intellectual property for 40 of the most challenging years the IP system and its users have ever faced.

Remember when the world of IP looked like this?
Going back to 1973, when this Kat commenced his doctoral research in intellectual property, it could fairly well be said that IP was a man's club. In the course of the empirical side of his research he interviewed well over 30 IP practitioners in-house and in private practice, as well as representatives of inventors and trade unions. Not one was a woman. Within the field as a whole, women were massively under-represented. Mary Vitoria QC -- who incidentally beat this Kat to the first lectureship he ever applied for -- and the legendary competition lawyer Professor Valentine Korah were very much trailblazers in a field in which speakers and registrants at conferences, seminars and lectures were preponderantly male and when women, if praised to their face, were all too often mocked behind their backs.  Where a woman achieved any degree of prominence it was usually stated to be because of her exceptional virtues -- or rumoured to be because of her complete lack of them.

Then things changed ...
Outside the UK, how did women fare in terms of IP leadership? Possibly a good deal better, in terms of their results.  Two major achievers in the eyes of this Kat were two people who did not so much lead thought as to provide a catalyst for serious thinking: he notes the quiet but effective manner in which Robin Rolfe, an administrator rather than an IP lawyer, worked to metamorphose the United States Trademark Association into the International Trademark Association, a.k.a. INTA, paving the way for her successors to grow the INTA into the hugely influential educational, training, policy-forming and lobbying body which it is today, and trade mark attorney Tove Graulund's root-and-branch transformation of European trade mark organisation MARQUES from a well-intentioned dining club into a highly-focused multinational fighting force.

Today the presence of women in positions of leadership in organisations such as INTA and MARQUES is routine and unchallenged.  The position is much the same for copyright too, where the influential role of women is again clearly apparent and names such as Rochelle C. Dreyfuss and Jane C. Ginsburg fly swiftly into the mind, along with a legion of European scholars and practitioners.  On the patent thought-leadership law side, this Kat feels that women have always been under-represented -- though two notable exceptions in his eyes are a heroine, Federal Circuit judge Pauline Newman and a villain in the scourge of the European pharma patent industry, Neelie Kroes.

Nicola the Katonomist
Returning to the MIP conference, this Kat very much hopes that it will do well for several reasons. First, he is delighted that registration is free not only for in-house intellectual property/ patent counsel and R&D professionals but also for his fellow academics, whom he hopes will attend in quantity.  Secondly, he is delighted to see the names of two rising stars on the programme: one is none other than Nicola Searle who, as this blog's resident Katonomist, was a hugely popular member of the IPKat team [you can check her Katposts out here] until she was lured away by the promise of a more respectable job as Economic Advisor to the UK Intellectual Property Office; the other is Rebecca Baines, now a partner with Rouse but, in a former existence, an outstanding trainee with a Magic Circle law firm in which this Kat held an IP consultancy.

Merpel is excited about this event, this being the first time it has crossed the Atlantic (the organisers' New York and California conferences on the same theme each pulled in over 200 registrants).  However, she can't help wondering what sort of reaction there would be if MIP decided to launch an International Men's Leadership Forum. Presumably the programme would be full of macho stuff like search and seizure, destruction of infringing goods, and break-out sessions on Dispute Provocation ...

Further details and registration can be gathered here.

Registration includes membership of the invitation-only Women in IP Global Network, which provides members with access to year-round networking and thought leadership events (you don't actually have to register for the conference to join the Network: just email registrations@managingip.com, quoting 'Women in IP Network -- IPKat). According to this Kat's friends at MIP, regular editorial coverage is also given such as interviews with senior women in IP and articles covering mentoring, development and webinars. There's also an online membership portal where registrants can connect with in-house counsel and other practitioners from around the world.
A woman's place ... is in the lead: thoughts on an upcoming IP Forum A woman's place ... is in the lead: thoughts on an upcoming IP Forum Reviewed by Jeremy on Sunday, January 18, 2015 Rating: 5


  1. I don't know if you've noticed recent leadership in ITMA and CIPA?

  2. Equality comes from succeeding in the established environment, not setting up separate women's clubs.

  3. Meldrew, can you tell us i) the year in which CIPA was founded, ii) the year in which it first elected a woman president, iii) how many women have ever been president and iv) what proportion of the CIPA council is accounted for by women?

  4. In response to Anonymous of 8:48, there is something wrong in the world. Women are underrepresented in many sectors. That is a problem that needs to be sorted out because they are as able as men. The problem, in my opinion, resides in the psychology of both men and women. Women are not breaking through into the areas they should be, and men are simply sexist. So we need to go through a transition period where we try to rectify the situation, and that means creating the means to give more access to women in many more places. That means an 'understanding' attitude is needed. Your comment is not part of the solution. It's a 'reaction' to the changes that are happening.

  5. Anonymous at 9:31. If women need a "transition period" and an "understanding attitude is necessary", is it not then necessary for men to undergo a similar transitioning in order to gain an understanding attitude? If so, how would you advise that this end be achieved?

  6. If a woman needs special treatment to obtain a position they are not the right choice for the job.

    On the basis that many roles are given to women because they are women, I must assume in my dealings with them that they are inferior and are only where they are because of the silver spoon they have been given by a sugar daddy.

    Is this really what truly-able women want?

    For a woman to succeed she only needs to be part of the "right sort of people" group that dictates the current rules of progression in this world. Would someone care to provide an analysis of the backgrounds of currently-successful women in the UK? It will be identical to that of men , i.e. not at all representative of society. The battle for equality within this self-serving and self-selecting group is therefore no different an the current battles between the PPE from Oxord groups that dominates British politics.

  7. In response to anonymous of 9:59 that is complicated. Many people say that 2014 was a great year for feminism, but we still had 'Gamergate', ridiculous campaigns where women said they were not feminists and a lot of apathy from men as a whole. The major problem with men on this issue is apathy. They agree theoretically but they simply don't care. That means bringing about real change is difficult, just because of the sheer 'inertia' of the present situation. However the world is changing, women are becoming more confident and the nature of the debate is getting more sophisticated.

  8. In response to anonymous of 10:17 think about the nature and tone of what you have just written, and how that comes across to women who are trying to break into male-dominated areas. A question for you: whose responsibility is it to change things so that women are represented equally in all areas? We are all members of society and so it is a responsibility to be shared by everyone. Also when candidates are being selected for positions, is it happening fairly? Is conscious and subconscious bias happening against women? In your comment you use the phrases 'special treatment' and 'sugar daddy' and so perhaps that reflects a particular way of looking at this issue.

  9. 10:36. Except it doesn't if you read the post more carefully, or at all carefully.

    My approach is to treat everyone equally and select only based on merit. If the world operated according to my rules it would be a more successful place, clearly.

  10. Anonymous a 11:11 I responded to what you said in your second paragraph, and the way you said it.

    Of course I agree with the approach to 'treat everyone equally'. That is admirable. But in my comments of 9:31 and 10:21 I'm trying to say more is needed because not everyone has the attitude of treating everyone equally. Someone has to proactively look at changing men and women's thinking by asking questions, engaging, tackling the issue at every level. It's about really tackling the question of how do we sort this out. Not enough people care enough to do anything, so things are changing way too slowly.

  11. Without wading into the battle of the anon-o-mice, I am reminded of the adage that political correctness is all about the political and nothing at all about the correct.

    One does NOT make an even playing field by tilting the playing field for WHATEVER reasons. The same type of claptrap (to rectify the past, to allow developing nations to 'catch-up') is evident in all sorts of political equalization efforts. This is nothing but a form of reverse-discrimination which is still a sign of discrimination.

    Another adage: two wrongs do not make a right.

    Last adage for food for thought: you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make her drink. Now, apply that to the "politically correct" notion of making people have the "right attitudes"...

  12. Quote of the day: "men are simply sexist." Wow!

  13. |Yeah. Less of the "simply".

  14. Women are also sexist. Just need to look at those IP firms dominated by female employees, going directly against the law of probability. Then there are all those other departments such as Personnel that are dominated by female managers.

    Simple fact is that women have it easier these days. A man works hard for a pay rise and a woman deemed to be of 'equal rank' gets hers automatically so as to be 'equal'

    Unlike the previous commentator I am truly of the opinion that a number of 'fellow female professionals' are not worthy of their position or salary.

  15. Anonymous 19 January 8:58

    CIPA was founded in 18xx and the first female President (Anna Denholm) appointed in 19yy (old-fashioned I know, but I don’t like to reveal any lady’s age, whether the three muses or a President). There have been two female Presidents and there could have been a third earlier had not a contested Presidential election and possibly sexism among the Membership prevented it.

    5 out of 26 CIPA Council members (including President and Vice-President) are of the female persuasion. This is a bit below the proportion of those qualifying as patent attorneys (which is a statistic not easily found but I would guess from looking at last year’s exam results lying somewhere between 30 and 40%). It would be interesting to see whether the 25% proportion matches the proportion qualifying, say, 10-15 years ago, as it generally (ex-Informal Hon Secs apart) takes a little while before people become active in CIPA.

    It would also be interesting to see whether the proportions are wildly different in other organisations and in particular whether the male is the endangered species (trade marks?).

    A Council can only reflect its membership and the wish of a relatively small proportion to put themselves forward. Yes some Neanderthals still stand and are voted in, but for any organisation you cannot expect Council to evolve too much faster than the membership.

  16. " possibly sexism among the Membership prevented it."

    these sort of comments are downright pathetic and tiresome.

    If the male members of CIPA voted against a woman it is because they considered someone else a better candidate. Have you not considered that possibility before spouting unsubstantiated allegations?

  17. From the content of several comments which, I suspect, were posted by men, I can fully understand why women want to have their own IP events.

  18. In response to anonymous of 8:49, sexism does exist, and there is nothing wrong with pointing out the possibility of its existence in institutions where we see underrepresentation of women.

    Professions and organisations can be sexist in the sense of fostering an environment which is slightly hostile to women. The UK House of Commons has a very 'laddish' atmosphere and women MP's have complained about how difficult and unfriendly they find it. It must be hindering their work in representing their constituents. Patent firms can also have some of that combined with an intellectual arrogance which is off-putting to those that are more sensitive. When you refer to someone being a 'better candidate' I am sure you mean technically, but sometimes this can end up meaning a 'tougher' person able to cope with male boorish nonsense. No one should have to cope with that, but that is the reality of many workplaces and women can find that offputting. I think that's a problem in many places and needs to be addressed.

  19. Two threads now with the "he said - she said" politically correct malarky.

    There is NO place for a sexist distinction - one way or the other, and using the guise of correcting past mistakes is every bit as "evil" as the past mistakes themselves - if not more so, given that the perpetrators are supposedly "enlightened."

  20. Anonymous at 08:49
    If we are descending to abuse, downright pathetic, tiresome and blinkered describes your comments.

    The phrase "possibly sexism among the Membership prevented it" has been isolated from the context that “had not a contested Presidential election and possibly sexism among the Membership prevented it” we might have had a female President sooner.

    Are you not prepared to admit the possibility that some Fellows might be sexist, and that the proportion that were sexist then might be higher than the proportion who are sexist now?

    A contested Presidential election was the direct cause of said Presidential candidate not becoming President and that was admirably democratic. To say that sexism may have had something to do with the result is simply an observation.

    Another observation is that sexism may also have affected the contest: was it a coincidence that the election in question was (I seem to recall) the first contested CIPA Presidential election in living memory?

    Of course the relative merits of the candidates had something to do with the results. But not every patent attorney is an emotionless disinterested calculating machine (we leave that to actuaries) and some at least were almost certainly voting on the feeling “She may be a good Fellow but she’s not a chap”. It only takes a few people voting for the “wrong” reasons to tip a balanced election into an unbalanced outcome.

    As for “unsubstantiated allegations”, what allegations?

    To say that there was a possibility that some among the Membership were sexist is simply stating a statistical likelihood. [If you need to understand statistics of character traits look to this].

    If I were to say that from the content of your comments you are sexist, that would be a reasonable (although uncertain) conclusion to reach.

    If I were to say that you are sexist that would be an allegation: and of course I make no such allegation as one anonymous post is not much to base that judgement on (it may have been dashed of as a result of pressured masculine tension [PMT]).

    If the last two sentences are too strong for you, kindly replace the word “sexist” with “blinkered”.

    By the way, don’t put all (or even most) male members of CIPA in the same category as you appear to be in: namely at the distal end of male members.

    And don’t assume that it is only men who can be sexist: that's sexist.

  21. Whilst IPKat is providing a platform for this issue, I'd like to point out the tremendous contribution that feminism has made to academic and social sciences. Feminism provides new perspectives in understanding power, deconstruction, literary theory, post-structuralism and our own biology and its role in defining us. My favourite writer in the field is Julia Kristeva.

    I thought it would be a shame if these positive aspects of feminism were not mentioned as part of the thread.

  22. Am I happy to admit "Are you not prepared to admit the possibility that some Fellows might be sexist, and that the proportion that were sexist then might be higher than the proportion who are sexist now? "?

    Hell yes.

    Are you happy to admit that the shooting of JFK, JR and John Lennon were possibly CIA plots?

    Are you happy to admit that the Queen s possibly Russian spy?

    Are you happy to admit that just possibly when reasons are postulated for an act, that there should possibly be some degree if evidence backing them up?

    If not, you are a hypocrite. If yes then you now agree with me.

  23. ...and "It only takes a few people voting for the “wrong” reasons to tip a balanced election into an unbalanced outcome."

    Are you suggesting the female members didn't vote for the wrong reasons too? Are you suggesting that this would never happen? It would never be the case that females formed self-interest groups to climb their way to power? It would never be the case that MIP would run women-only event, which would be hypocritical and sexist?

    No? Good.

  24. ...and: As I disagree with you I must be sexist?

    You appear to believe it is fine and dandy ad democratic for women to self-promote and push their agenda and use discrimination to further themselves, but it not okay for a male (a word you would use as shorthand for male chauvinist sexist Neanderthal pig, no doubt) to challenge that discrimination as unacceptable.

    Enjoy your vol-au-vents, if they (evil race of women) save you some. I'd love to join you but I have my misogynists anonymous class to attend. Toodle pip old chap. Meet you at the rugger, what.

  25. ... and CIPA wonders why it is irrelevant in a modern World?

  26. @Merpel - I'd certainly not want to end up stuck in a room with most of the commenters on this thread, and I'm a man!

  27. Another snappy response fell foul to the IT behind blogger. Here is a delayed response:-

    Anonymous at 12:53 and probably 12:56,

    Abuse again. You might want to wipe your mouth, you are frothing.

    As for being hypocritical, no one would suspect you of being a feminist.

    It is clear that you are unable to distinguish between the concepts of possibility and probability. Perhaps this will help.
    Please note the last line of my previous post, which makes your point that sexism can run either way.

  28. See https://www.academia.edu/2399678/Masculinism_and_the_Antifeminist_Countermovement, for an interesting view that men are in crisis due to feminisation of society. I suppose men may feel threatened by a perceived change in their status.

  29. I wouldn't say men feel threatened. It is much more simple. They are annoyed by the nonsense of positive discrimination. Fell free to criticise such men for being dinosaurs, frothing at the mouth etc, it doesn't change the facts. I suggest all those on high horses (i.e. sucking up to their new female masters (just like Thatchers cabinet? She was such an admirable motherly woman): discrimination is discrimination is discrimination.

  30. What with so many Page 3 models coming on to the market the patent profession should be looking to snap up these future leaders to even up the numbers?

  31. @Meldrew, The distal end of male members is of course proximate from the female members perspective.

  32. Doesn't all of the rather vitriolic argument above rather miss the point? Whether or not women are being held back by sexism (I do not express a view), how can this possibly be overcome by setting up a women-only club?

    Won't the issue only be overcome by addressing things in the real-world, mixed environment?

  33. Anonymous @ 13:04,

    I think the view that you believe in - while noble - is just as pollyanna as thinking that human nature does not partake in sexist or racist or less-than-noble pursuits.

    It just is not so.

    While we purport to be - and strive to be - noble and virtuous, we cannot remove that which is truly our nature.

    One only has to look around at the real world. Look at what remains as tools of advertising and business and politics:

    sex and violence

    Not just in video games and the most visited web sites (shoot-em up and porn); but look at ISIS and tactics of abduction and beheadings.

    THIS then is the real world.

    There is nothing wrong - per se - with a "woman only"group. Such can develop and add a meaningful view to the overall discussion. But I think I do see a point in your comment: such groups are not the sum total answer to the problem of sexism and in a very real sense can propagate the very problems the group is formed to address.

  34. Anonymous at 13:04:
    The advantage of a women-dominated club (there was no mention of men not being able to attend the MIP seminar so it wasn't a "women-only club") is that it might provide a forum in which women are more likely to be heard.
    There are studies that show that if a woman contributes 50% of a conversation, she is seen by both men and women as dominating that conversation. It seems thus in their interest to keep quiet so as not to be seen as overbearing. At the MIP seminar in question, a study was referred to that found that a male presenter will have more of the audience nod in agreement with him than a female presenter will.
    The playing field is not level. If you're playing uphill, it is perhaps useful to have more supporters shouting from the sidelines if you want to improve your chance of scoring as many goals. A women-dominated seminar or club is aimed at providing just those supporters.

  35. If more people nodded when the man spoke then that suggests their opinion was considered more valuable in the examples tested.

    The reasons for that could be many.

    So, what you are saying is that when a women speaks, irrespective of the quality of her contribution it should be given equal weight to a more valuable contribution of another irrespective of their sex.


All comments must be moderated by a member of the IPKat team before they appear on the blog. Comments will not be allowed if the contravene the IPKat policy that readers' comments should not be obscene or defamatory; they should not consist of ad hominem attacks on members of the blog team or other comment-posters and they should make a constructive contribution to the discussion of the post on which they purport to comment.

It is also the IPKat policy that comments should not be made completely anonymously, and users should use a consistent name or pseudonym (which should not itself be defamatory or obscene, or that of another real person), either in the "identity" field, or at the beginning of the comment. Current practice is to, however, allow a limited number of comments that contravene this policy, provided that the comment has a high degree of relevance and the comment chain does not become too difficult to follow.

Learn more here: http://ipkitten.blogspot.com/p/want-to-complain.html

Powered by Blogger.