Private practice perspectives on diversity: “We must push forward in the name of achieving greater equality”

Private practice perspectives on diversity: “We must push forward in the name of achieving greater equality”

Today’s World Intellectual Property Day, centred on the theme ‘Powering change: Women in innovation and creativity’, celebrates the brilliance, ingenuity, curiosity and courage of the women who are driving change in our world and shaping our common future.

To explore the theme in more detail, and gain a trademark industry perspective, we invited a number of leading professionals to share their reflections on both the theme and diversity in the trademark field, and consider whether the community could do more to support innovative and creative women. We also invited them to identify individuals that exemplify the qualities being championed today.

In this part, we present the law firm professional perspective.

“It is important for firms to continue to work hard to hire and cultivate female lawyers”

Though the field of intellectual property law historically has been predominantly male, on the trademark side of things there has been a pretty good gender balance. That being said, it is important for firms to continue to work hard to hire and cultivate female lawyers in the intellectual property field, and in fact some clients are demanding and even incentivizing firms to staff their matters with diverse legal teams as they believe this leads to better results. Firms are increasingly focused on implementing training, education and mentoring programs to support the career development of female attorneys – and they are even adopting innovative approaches like partnering with Milk Stork, a breast milk delivery service for female attorneys traveling on business while nursing.

I have encountered some great female role models and trailblazers in the field of trademark law. One of them was Dolores K Hanna. Dolores was a prominent trademark attorney who became the first female president of INTA and in the 1980’s she chaired the Trademark Review Commission which recommended the changes enacted in the 1988 Trademark Law Revision Act, which was the first comprehensive update to US trademark law since 1946. Dolores was recognized with many accolades during her life, including being inducted into the IP Hall of Fame in 2008. One of her most important contributions to trademark law was her role in founding the Saul Lefkowitz Moot Court Competition that INTA puts on every year, which is a moot court competition focused on trademark issues. I have had the privilege of working on the Saul Lefkowitz Moot Court Competition for many years and it is exciting to see talented law students get drawn into the field of trademarks through this top notch competition. Dolores was a wonderful role model, a talented lawyer and an advocate for women in the field of trademark law. She passed away on January 15 2018 at the age of 90, but her legacy most certainly lives on.

Cynthia Johnson Walden is principal at Fish & Richardson, based in Boston

“As a lawyer and mother of six I can attest to the challenges that women face”

My first-year class at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto (’91) was the first to have more women than men. This was big news at the time. In the past few decades women have entered private practice in record numbers; yet, women are also leaving in droves – so much so that the Law Society of Ontario commissioned a study in 2008 to examine the retention of women in private practice. The report concluded that the legal profession had not (and arguably, still hasn’t) adapted to the realities that women face, including childbirth and a greater share of family responsibilities. As a lawyer and mother of six I can personally attest to the challenges that women face.

On a positive note, the field of trademark law appears to be more balanced in terms of gender equity than other legal fields. My own firm is a woman-led firm, in which 100% of our trademark team, and 60% of our IP group, consists of women. There are several prominent women-led trademark firms, both in Canada and abroad, and it is not unusual to see women in leadership roles, such as the chair of the Canadian Trademark Opposition Board, Annie Crousset; IPIC past-president (and CBA past-president), Janet Fuhrer; INTA president, Tish Berard; and ASIPI President, Maria del Pilar Troncoso, to name a few.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in the patent field, where a technical background is essential. There are declining rates of women studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which limits the number of women entering the patent profession. The same is also true for women inventors: CIPO recently conducted a study to determine the percentage of women inventors in PCT filings originating in Canada, and concluded that there had been little change in the number of women inventors in the last 15 years. Women represent a mere 23% of full-time STEM jobs in Canada.

Paula Clancy is managing attorney at Clancy PC + Brion Raffoul in Ottawa

“The mansplaining during meetings, the #metoo moments during conferences and the gender pay gap”

All the problems and consequences of gender inequality are present in the legal and trademark world. The mansplaining during meetings, the #metoo moments during conferences, the gender pay gap and the inequality of women in positions of leadership. It is all there but much more visible than before - and therefore hopefully changing. Having a diverse work place is a big part of the solution and should be a goal to every person in a position of leadership, I believe that every change that is pursued in an individual scale when combined might completely change the status quo.

For this reason, I am very lucky to work in firm that takes an active role to foster diversity. Daniel is the largest woman-owned IP firm in LATAM and our inclusion policies over the past few years have resulted in the tackling of gender pay gap and also in 50% of our workforce and 50% of our principals being women. There still a long way to go but I feel that we are taking the lead and that we actually get to be a part of the solution.

Isabella Cardozo, partner at Daniel Legal & IP Strategy, based in Rio de Janeiro

“I find it encouraging and inspiring to see a growing number of women leaders in the practice”

As a woman in the trademark bar, I find it encouraging and inspiring to see a growing number of women leaders in the practice everyday. Not only is it exciting to contribute to such an important and interesting area of the law, but I have had the exceptional opportunity to learn from the women who have come before me. Integral to my success has been the mentorship I have received – from both men and women – who have taught me practical skills, offered professional advice and constructive feedback and pushed me to become a better trademark lawyer. I am lucky to work for a firm that is committed to providing support to women advancing their careers – through training and mentorship (from both women and men, such as David Bernstein, who despite a crazy schedule goes out of his way to mentor younger lawyers), flexible schedules for parents, and even an innovative website dedicated to creating a forum to discuss issues of interest to women in business and the law (visit ‘’). It makes a big difference.

I am also fortunate to work with several clients who are also role models in bringing about change in the profession, including Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, whose trademark department consists of several incredibly successful and intelligent women under the leadership of general counsel, trademarks, Jonas Kölle, who creates an environment for all of his staff and outside counsel to succeed, and group general counsel Friederike Rotsch, who seamlessly guides a team of hundreds of lawyers and other staff (in more areas than just in trademarks), both while having young children at home. This company’s leadership sets an example to all companies to recognize the importance of supporting and developing female talent, as well as ‘paying it forward’. The ratio of men to women in leadership trademark professions is not yet perfect, but it is improving.  Now more than ever, it is important for men and women in our practice area to visibly help others advance in the profession. I look forward to playing my part.

Megan Bannigan is counsel at Debevoise & Plimpton, based in New York

“I don’t believe ‘trademarks’ as an IP area has a diversity problem”

I don’t believe ‘trademarks’ as an IP area has a diversity problem. Incidentally, whether in India or internationally, I have always noticed that there is a sizeable representation of women in trademarks  whether in-house counsel or within law firms, but not so much in other IP practice areas such as patents. While it is heartening to see that many legal heads and senior partners at law firms are capable, strong and brilliant (women) leaders in trademarks, I do think there is a gap between the top legal luminaries and those seeking to emulate in their footsteps. I believe that more can be done to guide and mentor newcomers into the industry and to groom them for leadership. One of the ways this is possible is to enhance contact between the two groups so that the latter can ‘be what they see’.

In India, I have found that there are still some barriers in the trademark world. For example, one of our now-senior legal associates told me about her first few trademark hearings at the Indian Trademarks Registry. While she was asked multiple questions about her educational background, her law qualifications, how long she had been practicing for, how many cases she had handled etc, the opposing counsel (who wasn’t female) was not put under the same scrutiny. She said she found it intimidating and also irrelevant to the purposes of the hearing, as the necessary power of attorney was already on file. Later, she realized that one way to stop the questioning was to mention the name of the law firm she represented - R K Dewan & Co - which has more than a stellar reputation for IP in India. I wonder what happens to those who don’t have a strong firm backing them. I don’t think she or any other woman should be put in a position where they have to justify their credentials where there is no need perceived to expect the same from male counsel.

During the course of my career, I would like to see the industry move towards a model where gender is not the basis for determining the expertise of counsel. And where I can just talk about leaders, not women leaders or male leaders as I have had to do in this article!

Disha Dewan is a patent attorney and head of global business operations at R K Dewan & Co, based in Pune, India.

“It is incumbent upon us to continue to push forward in the name of achieving greater equality”

I have had the honour and privilege of practicing in the trademark space for nearly 25 years. During the past quarter century, the trademark landscape, legal profession and world have significantly changed. While the basic tenets and foundation of trademark law remain essentially the same, the ways in which these principles are applied have evolved at such a rapid pace that the profession has likewise been forced to adapt at breakneck speed. The Internet simply did not exist at the time I started practicing, and it has revolutionized the ways in which the world - and our clients - do business. This means that the way we practice, the day-to-day needs with which our clients present us - and the speed at which we need to respond to those needs - have completely changed.

I am proud to say that the trademark bar, and the law in general, have made some great strides in presenting equal opportunities for all professionals, including women in the profession. When I reflect on the mentors and sponsors I have had over the course of my career, many of these individuals are women - women who are pioneers. They are outstanding practitioners and professionals who are thoughtful, innovative and who greatly influenced not only the body of trademark law as we know it today, but the entire profession and community as well. They paved the way for people like me and for future generations, and it is now my responsibility to pay it forward by bringing others along. While we have achieved much success, we can always do a better job in recruiting, retaining and promoting women in the law, and we must not rest on our laurels. It is incumbent upon us to continue to push forward in the name of achieving greater equality, by every measure.

Christina L Martini is a partner at DLA Piper, based in Chicago.

To read the perspectives of leading in-house attorneys, click here.

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