The Intellectual Property Awareness Network’s (“IPAN’s”) recent World IP Day event at the Institute of Directors in London highlighted the role and significance of women in innovation and creativity, and the importance that a good understanding and use of intellectual property (“IP”) has in helping women inventors and entrepreneurs succeed.
“The UK can only achieve its aspirations to be a science and technology superpower if we draw on the talents of all people in our society,” Penny Philpotts of the UK Intellectual Property Office told the conference. “Women inventors, creators and entrepreneurs play an essential role in shaping the world, whether that’s through our imagination, our ingenuity, and absolutely our hard work.”
Women are proving to be really good innovators, said Dr. Janice Denoncourt of the University of Nottingham School of Law, because they bring different perspectives based on their own experiences and the challenges they have had to face.
It is important to highlight the importance of intellectual property for women, said Dr. Bola Olabisi, CEO of the Global Women Inventors and Innovators Network, given that women are coming up with new innovations every day. The conference featured two inventors who found it challenging to understand and secure vital intellectual property protection for their breakthrough inventions.
“What I found challenging about IP was not knowing where to go or who to speak to,” said Patience Nwodu, inventor of the Chibu® reusable food carrier bags and boxes. “I launched a product which is now being used by industry professionals in the food industry…. There was nothing like it in the market, and the next thing I needed to do was to secure my intellectual property. [But] I didn’t know anyone who had already invented a product, so finding where to go or who to speak to was a challenge for me.”
Kirsten Tapping, founder of Go Rolloe, the company that developed air purifying bicycle wheels, said, “There are many challenges that face new inventors … One is that you’re not sure if your idea is any good and that you’re support to put intellectual property on it, but you don’t want to spend money if you’re not 100% sure that it’s going to work.” Mentoring on IP issues would definitely help new inventors, said Tapping, because “you don’t know what you don’t know”.
Intellectual property such as brand protection is particularly important for women entrepreneurs, said Sarah Talland, a trade mark attorney at Potter Clarkson LLP. “Often I’ve found the women entrepreneurs I work with are looking at filling a gap in the market in terms of aiming their products at women,” she said. And women entrepreneurs are more likely to start businesses that are online only; she referred to a recent Etsy study which found that 83% of its online sellers identify as women. A strong brand can help women charge the right price for their business and establish themselves at the place in the market that’s best for them, she explained.
John Ogier, chairman of the IP Awareness Network, noted that the conference had featured entrepreneurs, inventors, IP educators, and others involved in championing and enabling women’s rights in intellectual property. “I’m sure this will be of benefit to individuals and indeed to the whole of society as the creative talent of women in a diverse and inclusive society is released to all,” he said.