Thought leadership from our experts

A woman’s role in the IP industry

Leadership at an early stage of life is hard to describe. It involves growing with experience, and learning about the passion that makes humankind pursue its goals and dreams. Women have fought for inclusion and opportunities at various stages throughout history. At some point, responding to the needs of time, women started playing important roles as representatives of the most famous brands worldwide. Their beliefs began to be heard and their abilities were turned into successful businesses. Their achievements exceeded probably their own expectations. Just to mention a few, Gabielle Bonheur Vhanel, also known as "Coco Chanel" (1883-1971) was a French designer, business woman and co-founder of the Chanel brand. Mary Kathlyn Wagner known as Mary Kay Ash (1918-2001) promoted her business in cosmetics with great success, currently Mary Kay, Inc. When speaking of literature, we must admire Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), who used a reserved room as a metaphor for the free expression of women. She also did not accept a place on a special shelf for books written by women asserting that she was a human being, and should therefore receive the same rights as men. Olga Fisch, a Hungarian born in Budapest and a Jew and Bauhaus artist came to Ecuador in 1939 and in 1942, founded her brand in the industry of handcrafts and popular art. These ladies, among others, are an inspiration in many ways to women around the world. Indeed, they inspire me.

During my early years at high school, I was very anxious to pursue several dreams. Travelling of course was one (just like any young person seeking to learn about people and places), but one major goal was to find freelance job, so I began selling books and encyclopedias in Quito, my hometown. Back in the mid-80s, we only had the option to read books, physical books, so while promoting sales, I found the opportunity to satisfy my curiosity through reading and discovering authors such as Oriana Fallaci. I read her her magnificent book Interview with History, where she interviewed characters such us Henry Kissinger, Nguy?n Van Thi?u, Norodom Sihanouk, Golda Meir, Yasser Arafat, among others. I also read Marguerite Duras, Marguerite Yourcenar, Gabriela Mistral and Ecuadorian Dolores Veintimilla. I also read Louise Andreas Salomes´ story and her life with Nietzsche. Suddenly, I was gifted with my first daughter, Paula. Being a single mother at 19 probably determined my next steps. Universities were more open to women studying. Deciding on a career in law was, I believe, a way to pursue gender equality as essential for the development of a just society, a way to be together with my brother Miguel and my feeling that this profession contributes to human well-being.

Women in industry have been promoting equal conditions for decades. Fortunately, nowadays, not only are industries led by women, but they are also becoming a voice of power in political decisions. Francis Gurry, director general at the World Intellectual Property World Organization (WIPO), said: "Simply stated, unless we have gender equality, humanity is not realizing its full innovative and creative potential." To help drive awareness, WIPO chose the theme of "Powering Change: Women in Innovation and Creativity" for World Intellectual Property Day 2018. The initiative was celebrated. It showed women's contributions, especially in the patent field where statistics demonstrate an important growth. Unfortunately, with regard to copyright and trademarks, statistical information is limited. Gurry added: "More work is needed to ensure that both men and women can equally access and use the IP system and profit fully from their creative and innovative assets" and concluded that WIPO will continue with its best efforts to help rectify imbalances and ensure women equal access to the IP system.

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) also promotes equal gender participation and is involved in projects at the IP Commission. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to contribute, and it is pleasing to see women´s solid participation. At present the commission is lead by Ingrid Baele, vice president at Philips Intellectual Property. Personally, as the national ambassador of the ICC in Ecuador, and chair of the IP Commission at ICC Ecuador, it has been interesting and pleasing to study and promote best practices for industry and commerce with the ICC Knowledge Solutions approach just launched. Having co-chaired the Task Force on the Apostille Convention, three women managed to gain access to information relating to the intention to adopt the convention in more than 64 countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. We have promoted the incorporation of intellectual and industrial property infringements in the Organic Criminal Integral Code, the project of reform currently under discussion at the National Assembly in its second debate. Being conscious of the lack of laws and regulations, we also delivered more than 130 pieces of criteria and proposals to authorities for the project of General Regulation of the Organic Code of Knowledge that covers intellectual property rights. In the exercise of my profession, having the opportunity to advise national and multinational companies has exposed me to significant challenges. The combination of practice, participation in organisations and associations, team-building, trust for my colleagues and industry in-house leaders, knowledge and creativity have been important to me as a partner at my firm.

The Inter-American Association of Intellectual Property (ASIPI) is lead by Elisabeth Siemsen, partner at Dannemann Siemsen. With her clear vision, she has also decided to promote women´s leading roles on ASIPI´s work committees. As a result of her appointment, I have had the challenge to chair the Geographical Indications Committee for a second period. The GI Committee has long been organised into working groups, each working group led by a colleague has delivered a significant opinion and each term, a book on GI is published.

Fundamental roles must be taken by leaders to pursue objectives and reach results. Women´s role in the IP industry demands hard work. Learn to guide yourself, promote good communication, understand others' beliefs and thoughts, analyse circumstances, deal properly with situations, lead teams, welcome initiatives, promote ethics and independent decision-making, return to society the richness of one´s field and encourage knowledge transmission and best practices.

Combining working group analysis with professional practice experience is enriching. Pro-bono work is also one my passions. I collaborate with Fundación Chankuap founded by father Silvio Broseghini of the Salesian Mission of Wasakentsa in the Anchuar territory.

Being able to advise on this initiative for more than 12 years has been an experience and being able to share knowledge for this project has been satisfying.

There are women who have determined routes way before us, and have contributed enormously to society. It is our obligation to ensure that future generations provide women with an environment in which they can continue contributing to society, industry and commerce.