Diversity in the IP Profession

CIPA, ITMA, the UK Association of the International Federation of Intellectual Property Attorneys (FICPI-UK), and the IP Federation have recently created a joint taskforce to improve diversity in the IP profession. A number of key areas have been identified for action and the taskforce currently has a group dedicated to each of the following issues:

Raising awareness of and improving access to the IP professions: the IP profession encompasses all jobs associated with intellectual property, from records and formalities to Patent Office Examiners, patent and trade mark searchers to patent illustrators, technology transfer officers to licensing executives, not just attorneys and solicitors!

In particular, this group is raising awareness in schools, targeting students, teachers and parents to generally make sure all children know there could be a job for them in IP. If anyone is interested in helping with school (or University) outreach, please get in touch with Alexandra (aspierce@kilburnstrode.com) or Parminder (plally@marks-clerk.com).

Raising standards within the profession through a diversity accreditation scheme: this group aims to create a tiered charter system firms can subscribe to that showcases their commitment to diversity in the profession.

Raising standards within the profession through training: this group is devising ways to deliver appropriate diversity training to the profession.

If anyone is interest in helping with the accreditation scheme or in improving diversity training, please contact Andrea Brewster at CIPA and she can point you in the right direction (AndreaBrewsterCIPA@greavesbrewster.co.uk).

Raising standards within the profession through support: a number of support initiatives have been proposed, including a network for women in IP, an LGBT support group, and a BME support group. If anyone has any thoughts on a support group they would like to see for the profession, or wants to help organise or run a support group, please contact Lee Davies at CIPA (Lee@cipa.org.uk).

All of the work done by the diversity taskforce will come under a central branding which will cover all of the institutions involved. If anyone feels particularly creative and wants to be part of creating this new brand, which will be used for the accreditation scheme and on all material created by the task force, please contact Neil Lampert at CIPA (Neil@cipa.org.uk).

Parminder and myself will keep you all updated with the important diversity goings on, but if you are interested in being part of it at all, please shout!



5 thoughts on “Diversity in the IP Profession

  1. A “tired charter system”? I hope it’s not too tired to cope…

  2. The first task (raising awareness etc.) sounds like a good idea to me, and clear enough in terms of what could be done. The others, however, sound to me at best pointless and at worst dangerous nonsense. What on earth is “diversity accreditation” supposed to achieve, and how it is supposed to be measured? Are we supposed to go beyond what is legally required, i.e. treating all people the same regardless of irrelevant characteristics such as colour and sex, or is there something more to it? Diversity training sounds equally awful, and sounds like something that will be “offered” to those who disagree with the diversity experts or have a particular aversion to granting special treatment to certain groups, rather than trying to treat everyone the same (which we should, of course, all aim for). Special interest groups within the profession sounds to me like a bad idea, as it inevitably creates the impression that certain people should be treated differently, or even more favourably, simply because of certain characteristics they have that are irrelevant to their job. Imagine if such a group were proposed for white males. That would obviously be wrong. Having groups for LGBT or BME people (or whatever acronym is currently in vogue) is equally wrong.

    What I think is needed is to ensure that standards are applied as equally and fairly as possible across the profession. CIPA and associated organisations can do a lot to help with this, for example in setting standards in how to recruit people (e.g. how to spot a potentially good patent attorney that does not involve looking at the colour of their skin or determining their sexual orientation). While efforts concentrate on improving diversity through the current proposals, I for one want to have nothing whatever to do with it. Count me out.

  3. If I had a pound for every time I have heard someone with little real insight into the challenge of diversity and inclusion say something along the lines of “imagine if such a group were proposed for white males” – I would be a very wealthy person. If (big if) white males were an underrepresented group in IP, it would be absolutely the right thing to do to set up a group to look at the challenges they face. But they are not. And to reduce the debate about how inclusive the IP professions are to such a puerile statement says far more about the person expressing the view than it does about the need to have a fully inclusive and sufficiently representative IP system.

    If ‘Tufty’ really did value inclusion, he or she would roll up his or her sleeves and bring something to the party, rather than snipe from the side-lines. But sniping is far easier, isn’t it? Perhaps if Tufty were to avail his or her self of some of the maligned diversity training, he or she might have sufficient grasp of the issues to add something to the discussion rather than the same old dated criticisms of positive actions to improve inclusivity.

    As a gay person who has suffered a significant amount of prejudice in the world of IP, I applaud any initiative to change the culture. I doubt white straight men (you left the straight out, Tufty) have ever experienced bullying and prejudice to the point where a support network would not just be valuable but might just be the only thing keeping them in the profession. Go on Tufty. Turn up at the next diversity meeting and make a difference.

  4. Pingback: IP Inclusive | The Yellow Sheet

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