• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Empowering women innovators: Increasing knowledge of Intellectual Property

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Intellectual property (IP) is critical in protecting and promoting innovations, creations, and inventions. It encompasses a wide range of legal rights, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, and more.

However, despite the growing importance of IP in today’s knowledge-based economy, women still face challenges in accessing and utilizing IP protections for their innovations.

Therefore, empowering women innovators by increasing their knowledge of IP is crucial to promote gender diversity in innovation and foster creativity. This article will explore why increasing women’s knowledge of IP is essential and discuss strategies to achieve this goal.

The Gender Gap in IP Knowledge
Studies have shown a gender gap in IP knowledge, with women being less aware and less likely to utilize IP protections than men. Several factors, including social, cultural, and economic barriers, contribute to this gap. Women often face biases and stereotypes that can discourage them from pursuing careers in STEM fields where IP is prevalent. Moreover, women may have limited access to resources such as funding, mentorship, and networking, which are crucial for learning about and utilizing IP protections. These factors can make women less informed about IP and its benefits, leading to the underrepresentation of women in IP-related fields and missed opportunities for protecting their innovations.

For example, WIPO statistics reveal that only 16.5 per cent of inventors named in international patent applications were women.

Although there has been a progressive increase in the number of women named in patent applications in the past decade, progress appears slow. WIPO estimates that, at the current pace, we will only reach gender parity amongst PCT-listed inventors in 2061.

Also notable is a study by the Global Art Market which revealed that works by women artists fetch less at auction than those by men. Also, male authors register twice as many copyrights in the United States as their female counterparts.

WIPO estimates that, at the current pace, we will only reach gender parity amongst PCT-listed inventors in 2061

Importance of increasing women’s IP knowledge
Increasing women’s knowledge of IP is vital for several reasons:
Protection of innovations: IP protection can safeguard women’s innovations, creations, and inventions, giving them exclusive rights to use, commercialize, and profit from their work.

By understanding IP, women can identify the appropriate forms of protection, such as patents for inventions, trademarks for branding, copyrights for creative works, or trade secrets for valuable business information. This can prevent others from copying or stealing their innovation and enable women to monetize their intellectual assets.

Business success: IP can be a valuable asset for businesses, as it can provide a competitive advantage and enhance the value of a company. Women entrepreneurs and innovators who are knowledgeable about IP can use it strategically to build and grow their businesses. For example, IP protection can be used to attract investors, secure partnerships, negotiate licensing agreements, and enter new markets. A solid understanding of IP can contribute to women-led businesses’ overall success and sustainability.

Empowerment and equity: Increasing women’s knowledge of IP can empower them by giving them the tools and resources to protect and leverage their innovations. It can also contribute to achieving gender equity in innovation ecosystems by reducing the gender gap in IP utilization.

When women are knowledgeable about IP, they are better positioned to assert their rights, participate in IP-related decision-making processes, and benefit from the economic and social opportunities that IP can offer. This can lead to increased representation and recognition of women innovators, creators, and entrepreneurs in IP-related fields.

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Strategies to increase Women’s IP knowledge
There are several strategies that can be employed to increase women’s knowledge of IP:
Awareness and advocacy – Raising awareness about the importance of IP among women innovators and advocating for gender-inclusive policies and practices in IP-related fields can help increase women’s knowledge of IP. We can achieve this through campaigns, workshops, seminars, and other outreach efforts highlighting the benefits of IP protection and the available resources for women innovators. Advocacy efforts can also focus on addressing gender biases and stereotypes in IP-related fields and promoting diversity and inclusion. An example of such awareness is the World Intellectual Property Organization’s practice of annually celebrating World IP Day on the 26th of April.

Education and training – Providing education and training programs specifically targeted towards women innovators, creators, and entrepreneurs can increase their knowledge of IP. These programs can cover topics such as the basics of IP, different types of IP protection, the process of IP registration, enforcement of IP rights, and strategies for IP management.

Such programs can be offered through workshops, seminars, webinars, or online courses. They can be tailored to the needs and interests of women innovators.

Access to resources– Ensuring that women have access to resources that can help them learn about IP is crucial. This includes providing access to relevant publications, online resources, databases, and tools related to IP. It also involves providing access to legal and technical experts who can provide guidance and support in understanding and utilizing IP protection. Access to funding and grants targeted explicitly towards women innovators can also enable them to engage in IP-related activities and acquire the necessary knowledge and skills.

Mentoring and networking: Establishing mentorship programs and networks that connect women innovators with experienced IP professionals can be beneficial in increasing their IP knowledge.

Mentors can provide guidance, advice, and support in navigating the complexities of IP, and networking opportunities can facilitate learning from peers and experienced professionals.

Partnerships– Forming partnerships and collaborations with organizations that are focused on promoting women in innovation and IP can be an effective strategy. Collaborating with universities, research institutions, IP offices, and industry associations can provide opportunities to share knowledge, exchange best practices, and create tailored programs for women innovators.

Engaging with existing networks and communities of women innovators and entrepreneurs can also foster peer learning and support.

Role models– Highlighting and promoting the achievements of women innovators, creators, and entrepreneurs who have successfully utilized IP protections can serve as role models and inspire other women to learn about IP.

Increasing the visibility and representation of women in IP-related fields through events, conferences, media, and awards can encourage women to engage with IP and develop their knowledge and skills.

Increasing women’s knowledge of IP is critical for empowering women innovators, promoting gender diversity in innovation, and fostering creativity. By providing education and training, mentoring and networking, access to resources, partnerships and collaborations, raising awareness and advocacy, and promoting role models and representation, we can create an enabling environment that empowers women to utilize IP protection effectively.

This will not only benefit women innovators but also contribute to overall economic growth and societal development. It is imperative that we take proactive measures to accelerate the knowledge of IP among women and create a more inclusive and equitable innovation ecosystem.

At AELEX, we believe the world is better off when women and girls are empowered to contribute to innovation and creativity. This informs our resolve to provide the required legal support to women inventors, creators and entrepreneurs.

Tiwalola Osazuwa is a Partner at AELEX and Adeoluwa Ademola is an Associate at the firm.