We observe World Intellectual Property Day annually on the 26th of April.
The focus of the day is to raise awareness of how Patents, Copyright, Trademarks and Designs impact on daily life and encourage innovation and creativity. It also highlights the contribution made by creators and innovators to the development of societies across the globe. This year’s theme is Powering Change: Women in Innovation and Creativity. The aim is to celebrate the brilliance, ingenuity, curiosity and courage of the women who are driving change.
What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual Property refers to creations of the mind. We create inventions, literary and artistic works and designs through imagination and knowledge. Patents, Copyright and Trademark Laws protect Intellectual Property. It ensures inventors and creators earn the recognition and financial benefit they deserve.
Copyright Law ensures creators have rights over their work. Similarly, Patents also gives an inventor an exclusive right over their invention. It gives the inventor the right to choose whether others can use the invention. Trademarks are all around us. They’re essentially signs which distinguish the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises.
The History of Women in Innovation and Creativity
Over the years the benefits women inventors and creators have brought to our society through their work is undeniable. From ‘astrophysics to nanotechnology and from medicine to artificial intelligence and robotics’, women’s minds are truly powerful. For example, Marie Curie created the Theory of Radioactivity, Rosalind Franklin discovered the DNA Double Helix and Ann Tsukamoto invented stem cell isolation which has been vital in learning more about cancer and could one day lead to a cure. In addition, famous female creators include authors Agatha Christie, Beatrix Potter and actress Audrey Hepburn. There are so many influential female inventors and creators whose work has been invaluable to society.
Innovation, Creativity and the Gender Gap
Unfortunately, ‘data shows that fewer men than women use the Intellectual Property System and more men gain Patents for their inventions’. ‘At current rates, gender parity in the use of the System will only be reached in 2076, 60 years from now!’ All over the globe ‘women lag behind their male counterparts in creations and inventions being registered. For example, ‘just 7 percent of the world’s film directors and 20 percent of screenwriters are female.’ This highlights the lack of gender equality in our patriarchal society.
Limiting women’s opportunities to have their imagination, creativity and intelligence heard is a disastrous mistake. Without creative and inventive female role models young girls are lacking the insight into how valuable creating and inventing is. It allows us ‘to express our true selves and identities, create a rich cultural heritage and also transform the lives of others for the better.’ Women role models in Intellectual Property could inspire the next groundbreaking scientist, they could make someone smile and they could save a life.
What are the barriers to women innovators and creators?
There are many barriers to women innovators and creators which create the gender gap in Intellectual Property. This gap reflects gender inequality as a whole in our social and economic climate. A much lower proportion of girls than boys study scientific, technical, engineering and medical (STEM) subjects which are the fields producing the most technical innovation.
Prejudices, preconceptions and stereotypes
Prejudices, preconceptions and stereotypes surrounding girls and women limit their opportunities. There is a notion that women can only do traditional roles such as office-based and caring work rather than be potential leaders in science, technology, business and the arts. If we don’t challenge these misconceptions we will be self-perpetuating inequality for women, leaving them unable to fulfil their self-actualisation in life.
Economic and Social Structures
Furthermore, our inflexible economic and social structures act as a barrier for women in achieving equality in Intellectual Property. What’s known as the ‘glass ceiling effect’ restricts career prospects for women, even though they have huge talent and promise in their fields. Additionally, promotions later on in a women’s career are few and far between, especially if they take the time out to have children. Developing Intellectual Property involves a financial commitment. Therefore, a woman with a family is seen as prioritising her families income over taking risks in Intellectual Property. The ultimatum between a woman’s family and her work needs to stop and the theme of this year’s Intellectual Property Day will spread awareness around this issue.
Empowering and Inspiring Women
It’s time we encourage and support women to use the Intellectual Property System. There is recognition of the gender gap in Intellectual Property and a push for positive change. We’re starting to see more campaigns with the aims of promoting women’s involvement in science. Also, various fiction reflects this, with female characters playing scientific, inventor, creator and leadership roles.
We need to effectively tackle gender bias and stereotypes. This needs to begin during socialisation where our secondary agents of socialisation, such as education, can urge parents not to put limitations on their children in terms of toys they play with. If a young girl would rather play with a science kit rather than a doll, we should encourage this. From a young age, girls and boys both need to know that they can achieve anything they put their mind to and, as a society, we need to ensure that the only barrier they will ever face is themselves and not inequality within society.
How to take part in this year’s World Innovation Day
It’s important as many people as possible are aware of and take part in this year’s World Intellectual Property Day. You could;
- Organise an event such as stage exhibitions, public performances and public debates. These will encourage discussion on how we can solve the key IP issues;
- Run essay competitions on themes relating to Intellectual Property and innovation for women;
- Celebrate the works of notable inventors and creators;
- Find out more about Intellectual Property and Women in Innovation and Creativity;
- Spread awareness around the facts and statistical data in relation to Intellectual Property;
- Post your photos and posters and also join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #worldipday;
- Finally, send your event details to World Intellectual Property Organisation so they can put the event on their map.
If you have any questions regarding Intellectual Property law or any other issues regarding gender gap issues please contact us.