IP: It’s a Woman’s World


By Trinh Nguyen

Traditionally, some of the toughest glass ceilings to crack are in government and business. However, today we are seeing women take board rooms and executive offices by storm.  And while we take stock in March for Women’s History Month, we find that in no place is this more evident than in the intellectual property (IP) sphere, where women are at the steering wheel of every U.S. IP institution.

The United States could very well be the only country in the world that has women marshal every federal aspect of government IP agencies. This incredible group of women include:

  • U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Acting Under Secretary Teresa Stanek,
  • IP Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel,
  • Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante,
  • Commissioner of Trademarks Deborah Cohen,
  • Commissioner of Patents Margaret (Peggy) Focarino,
  • Chief IP Enforcement Negotiator at Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Kira Alvarez,
  • and last (but not least), Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank.

To say that the efforts by these women leaders are crucial to maintaining our economic competitiveness is an understatement. Their work in IP has profound impacts on American employment (55 million IP-intensive jobs), wages (30% higher wages), exports (74% of exports), and GDP ($5.8 Trillion).

But government service is only half of the picture—women are also driving innovation and creativity in enterprise. IP rights are empowering women from Sri Lanka to Silicon Valley to pursue innovation and benefit from their subsequent creations. In a study, the National Women’s Business Council found that “women demonstrate increasing leadership in patent and trademark activities,” with the number of patents granted to women in the United States skyrocketing by 34% between 2009 and 2010.

And this innovation and creativity has changed the world! The circular saw? Invented by a woman. The chocolate chip cookie? Woman. Windshield wipers? Woman. Kevlar (bullet-proof vests). Woman. Best-selling author second only to William Shakespeare? Woman.

Women have excelled at harnessing the potential that IP rights afford them. We’re proud of those who have risen through the ranks, but we’re also proud of those who are still struggling to make their dreams into realities.

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