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IPO issues white paper on “Diversity in the European Innovation Industry and IP Profession”

The Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) has recently issued a white paper relating to diversity in the European innovation industry and the IP profession, which aims to empower all members of the population to contribute successfully to the innovation and IP industries. The paper focuses primarily on gender and ethnicity and in both cases highlights the need for increased diversity both for inventors and within the European IP profession itself, including attorneys and examiners.

In relation to gender, it is reported that only 28% of patent attorneys registered with the UK Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) identify as female. Interestingly, this is contrasted with 58.1% of respondents to a recent survey conducted by IP Inclusive, which serves to highlight the male under-participation in surveys relating to diversity.

The situation is similar amongst patent examiners, with only 21% of UKIPO examiners being female, and just 22% of recent EPO examiner positions being filled by females.

This under-representation of females within innovation is even more apparent when inventors are considered, with about 16% of inventors in France being female, about 11% in the UK, and about 6% in Germany. Although the proportion of female inventors is growing across Europe, it is still rare for a female inventor to be the sole inventor on a patent application. The proportion of female inventors in the life science and chemistry fields is higher than in mechanical fields, but still well below the overall percentage of female graduates in STEM fields (31%).

Compared to gender, data on ethnicity within IP were reported to be considerably more difficult to find. However, 87.4% of respondents to IP Inclusive’s survey identified as White, compared to 3.0% who identified as Asian, and 1.8% who identified as Black, African or Caribbean. The proportion of respondents who did not identify as White dropped further (to 1.0%) for professionals in senior or very senior roles. Similar to the gender figures reported above, this is likely to be an over-estimate of the total number of non-White professionals, as it is generally accepted those most concerned with diversity issues are most likely to respond to surveys of this type.

Clearly there is work to be done to increase diversity within the IP profession, and within innovation more broadly. One of the challenges is the relatively low uptake of degrees in STEM subjects by women and people of minoritised ethnic groups. This is reflected by the number of members who identify as female within CIPA (28%) compared to the 53.3% of members who identify as female within the UK Chartered Institute of Trade mark Attorneys (CITMA). Diversity data from general law firms also show that 49% of lawyers are female and 21% black or from minoritised ethnic groups. Accordingly, where STEM is not a pre-requisite, disparities in terms of gender and ethnicity appear to be reduced.

Diversity is something which D Young & Co is committed to improving. As part of these efforts, Jennifer O’Farrell, Tamara Milton and Catherine Keetch have recently participated in WIPO’s IPFem mentoring scheme. This has enabled them to mentor female inventors from Pakistan, Mexico, Oman and Uganda, supporting the efforts of these inventors to bring their inventions to society and recognising the importance of supporting women in innovation.

IPO report: "Diversity in the European Innovation Industry and IP Profession”

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