March 10, 2022
On the International Day of Women Judges, WIPO pays tribute to the important work of women judges in the field of intellectual property (IP), and in ensuring that the IP system enables innovation and creativity for the benefit of all. As the cultural, social and economic significance of IP rights increase, the breadth of IP judging is also expanding across the world. Women judges are playing a prominent role in allowing our societies to take up the opportunities and address the challenges raised by IP in the fast-changing, contemporary global landscape.
WIPO is committed to achieving gender equality and diversity across the world of IP. On the occasion of International Women’s Day on March 8, WIPO reiterated its commitment to work together with all stakeholders to close the gender gap in IP, for the good of everyone. This work involves not only promoting greater recognition and protection of women innovators and creators, but also fostering inclusive structures that allow societies to benefit from the contributions of women at all levels of the IP ecosystem.
Through the WIPO Judicial Institute, WIPO has the privilege of working with extraordinary women judges who actively contribute to the field of IP adjudication within their jurisdictions and beyond, and is honored to be able to share some of their stories with you today.
Morocco has a long history of women in the judiciary - the first woman appointed to be a judge in Morocco was in 1961. Unfortunately, however, the number of women judges is still low, at about 25 percent. In the Superior Council of the Judiciary (Conseil supérieur du pouvoir judiciaire), there were three elected women judges among the ten members.
When I started to practice as a lawyer, I felt that I was not born to be an advocate – I was born to be a judge. I was drawn to the role of judging, which requires seeing the case from an overall perspective, and adjudicating on the basis of fairness between the parties.
Being a judge has been a truly great experience. I have worked in a tribunal of first instance, where I heard many cases in diverse areas of law, and learned an enormous amount about how to manage hearings, how to manage myself to be calm and understanding, how to listen to people, how to assure a high level of fairness, and how to analyze and consider carefully. I often think and rethink many times before reaching any conclusions, because my decisions have a big impact on people, communities, the economy and the society.
When I served on the Court of Cassation until 2021, I had the opportunity to become an expert in certain areas of law, including in IP, and this was a lot of responsibility. I am now the Director of Education at the Higher Institute of Magistracy, where I myself did my judicial training, and have the opportunity to help shape future judges. In fact, I have become the first female Director of Education at the Institute, and I am one of two judges who provide training courses specifically on IP.
My biggest role model is my mother, who is wise, calm, serious and generous. Even though I didn’t have the opportunity to be mentored by other women judges, my role models outside of the law have been inspiring for me.
The greatest satisfaction is to arrive at a decision that is fair for all the parties. This requires having a deep knowledge of the law, strong analytical skills, applying the law appropriately and ensuring the proper conduct of proceedings, all with the aim of reaching an equitable resolution.
IP has certain particularities, including that it brings together various kinds of rights that all originate from the common goal of protecting the work of the mind. Protecting all the different forms of works of the mind brings immense satisfaction to me.
To adjudicate IP cases, you not only need to understand the law, but to engage with the technical aspects of IP. The significance of these rights makes it necessary to have judges with specialist understanding of IP.
My advice is that being a judge is not a profession, and not a job title – it is a daily mission. You become a judge not just as a way to make a living, but to contribute to achieving important goals, particularly fairness and equity.
I wanted very much to be a judge for many years, even though no one in my family works in the legal profession. When I was studying to complete my masters in law, I had the privilege of having a professor who was also a judge of the Supreme Court. Not only did she have great knowledge, but she was also a wonderful personality, with a very open mind, and I wanted to be like her. So after I was admitted as an advocate, I pursued judicial training and jumped at the opportunity to compete for a judicial role when it was announced by the Ministry of Justice. When you meet a person who is an example for you, it’s much easier to take these steps.
Professor Elzbieta Skowronska-Bocian was not only an important teacher, but she is like my professional mother. We are still in contact after many years, and we continue to discuss both law and life together. It is very rewarding when she is proud of me.
In my role now, I am often asked to be a mentor, and to help train young lawyers who are training to become judges. It is a great pleasure for me because when I have the possibility to work closely with a person, I can observe their growth and share their satisfaction.
Being a judge requires being open and using all of your senses and faculties to fully understand reality. You also engage with very diverse areas and legal provisions. I recently dealt with a case involving a transfer of copyright in a contract that was governed by Finnish law, so I had to understand and apply Finnish contract law, but determine the appropriate remedies under Polish law – so in one case, I dealt with two different legal systems. I really enjoy the logical, almost mathematical thinking this requires.
Of course, there are some difficult moments in this job as well, because you are responsible for decisions that affect not just the market, but individuals and society. And, ultimately, it is a responsibility that you carry alone. You have a lot of input in the form of evidence and expertise, from advocates, and from the decisions of superior courts, but at the end of the day, you make the decision alone and put your name on it. Even though you have all this knowledge, sometimes it can still be difficult to be alone with the decision – but it’s part of the job.
Each IP case is different, so this area of law is never boring! There is no risk of falling into a routine – in fact, you have to think rigorously constantly, because there is always new material to understand. In IP cases, you can have impact on what is happening in the market, and help to ensure that it operates appropriately.
You have to be extremely careful about balancing interests, and in defining the borders of exclusivity of IP rights, because of the significant impact that your decision can have on the market. Learning and understanding highly technical areas and vocabulary that is constantly new can be challenging. Sometimes I spend many hours thinking about the technical details of the case, and when I understand and decide the case, it is a great source of satisfaction.
Don’t forget that you have to have an open mind and an open heart at all times. Don’t lose your sensitivities because they are important in perceiving and understanding reality fully. Don’t be afraid, because only the person who does nothing makes no mistakes. Be yourself.
As a young child, I was enraptured by a television series called “Crown Court” that dramatized mainly criminal cases. Later in my life, I had the privilege of practicing law at one of the largest law firms in Trinidad and Tobago. After 20 years of practice, I had acquired a great breadth of knowledge across many areas of civil law, and knew that it was time to give back to my country. With my experience, I felt equipped to make a unique contribution to the bench.
I have had many women mentors, and not only in the law. In my family, I have always been surrounded by strong and resilient, yet kind and humble women. I credit all of my professional achievements to the examples that they continually set for me. My Mum is the best exemplar of these qualities … I call her my “Wonder Womum”.
Then, when I entered the legal profession, I gravitated toward a number of inspiring women advocates. I was in awe of one woman lawyer in particular, who was not only brilliant, respected and very active in court; she also carried herself with confidence, wore beautiful clothes and jewelry and made no excuses for being a flamboyant woman. She was one of the first women solicitors to be recognized as Senior Counsel for her contribution to the law. I knew that I wanted to be like her. When I joined the bench, I found myself among an amazing cadre of women judges, who continue be mentors for me. And now, I find myself being able to be a mentor to other women in the profession.
The best part is the satisfaction of delivering a judgment that resolves the dispute in accordance with the law, and that ultimately all parties and any other stakeholders accept and agree as a fair and reasonable disposition of their case – when all concerned can say that justice was done.
IP law brings together my love of all things creative and my love of the law. There is a great deal of joy in being able to protect creative rights.
IP cases in Trinidad and Tobago are relatively rare, as most IP disputes are settled before they come to the Courts – though the numbers are increasing. More often than not, IP cases involve some aspect of our world-famous Carnival, whether it be concerning the soca songs performed, photographs taken of the masqueraders in their costumes, or the role of Collective Management Organizations.
I am currently in the throes of my most challenging IP case, and I hope that my judgment can go some way toward settling the law. The lack of judicial precedent in IP cases in this jurisdiction presents a challenge but also opportunities for us as judges to ensure that we add value to our local jurisprudence.
Read, read, read… not just cases, but also books, journals, newspapers. Stay up to date. Avail yourself of every training opportunity that comes your way. Always take the chance to speak up, whether at meetings, at conferences, in court, or in any other forum where you know you can add value. Work smart, plan always and delegate often. Surround yourself with women and men whose qualities you admire, not just in the law. Be a mentor, no matter how young or inexperienced you are. Enjoy the practice of law, and if you’re not enjoying it now, take some time out to rediscover what attracted you to the profession in the first place. Stay humble and remember that you serve the law.
I practiced for 25 years in area of corporate IP law, alongside some pro bono litigation. This allowed me to build expertise in IP, but I realized that law is a very vast field, and felt that I wanted to be in a position to give back to society and be of service. I was attracted to the bench because, as judges, we can bring about important changes in people’s lives, as well as help to shape the systems in which we work.
For example, some of my non-court work as a judge has involved working on various committees and contributing to judicial administration, such as the recent creation of an exclusive IP Division in the Delhi High Court, which receives around 500 fresh IP cases each year – the highest across the country. I am very proud to have recently been appointed as one of two specialist IP judges in this Division, together with another colleague and woman judge, Justice Jyoti Singh. Becoming a judge has allowed me to grow enormously, not just by dealing with all areas of law and jurisprudence, but also as a person.
There are a number of women who have inspired me. My grandmother taught me self-confidence and how to be independent. Judges in India provide very inspiring examples. Justice Ruma Pal, who is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India, was an extremely competent judge, including in corporate disputes, and advocates were always very happy to submit complex cases before her. So she proved wrong the old stereotype that women lawyers and judges were suited to non-corporate areas of law, such as family disputes. There was also Justice Leila Seth, who was the first woman judge on the Delhi High Court, and the first woman Chief Justice of a state High Court. Internationally, I looked to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court as a role model, not only for how she judged, but also for how she conducted her life through to her older age.
To be able to do justice and to solve people’s problems immediately, right then and there. This is a lot of responsibility, and it can be used to bring peace and harmony to people’s lives, whether in their families or in commercial disputes. The positive impact you can have as a judge makes the work so worthwhile.
For me, there are two important dimensions to IP: first, how the focus of innovation is to solve problems for humanity, such as by creating vaccines during this pandemic. And second, that IP aims, while solving problems for humanity, to make those innovative products accessible to society. I have always done my best to advance both innovation and access to innovation in unison – to protect IP and make it more accessible.
IP law is facing its biggest transformation due to the digital revolution. IP moves globally, and territorial boundaries are often broken in IP violations, which makes cases increasingly complex. There is also the overlap between IP law and competition law, which stand at two ends of a spectrum, and judges have the difficult task of applying the appropriate balance between the objectives of each.
I would like women to know that IP is an excellent area to practice in; it brings a lot of satisfaction and happiness! Irrespective of which branch of law they practice in however, I would like to see more and more women becoming judges. I see that women make excellent judges, and are able to balance the many different challenges of judging very well, and to mould positive outcomes for each case, in all areas of law. Within the judicial system, the way women will grow is to ensure that they are not limited to hearing only certain types of matters – they should gain experience in judging across the board, including technical IP cases.