Francis Gurry led WIPO as Director General from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2020.

Gender Issues in IP Debuts at WIPO General Assemblies

October 26, 2015

A panel on Women and Intellectual Property took place on October 13, 2015 during WIPO’s General Assemblies. In a historic first for WIPO, this was the first time an event on gender issues in IP had ever taken place during the General Assemblies. The panel welcomed a range of speakers and highlighted the need for more work in promoting gender equality in the field of intellectual property.

Video: High-level panel discussion Video

The high-level panel discussion was organized as a lunchtime side event of the WIPO Assemblies, the objective of which was to showcase good practices of WIPO member states and to exchange ideas. Five high-level speakers from the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Poland, Sweden and the U.S. joined the panel, which was moderated by Mr. John Sandage, Deputy Director General, Patents and Technology Sector, WIPO.

Photo of room
The room was packed, with only standing space remaining (Photo: WIPO)
Members of the panel
(From left) Dr. Ruth Lockward, Dr. Alicja Adamczak and Mr. John Bäcknäs (Photo: WIPO)

The speakers were

  • Dr. Alicja Adamczak, President, Patent Office of the Republic of Poland
  • Mr. John Bäcknäs, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Sweden in Geneva
  • Mr. Allan Gepty, Deputy Director General, Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines
  • Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto, Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva
  • Dr. Ruth Lockward, Director General, National Office of Industrial Property (ONAPI), Ministry of Industry and Trade, Dominican Republic

A global context

WIPO's Director General opens proceedings
WIPO Director General Francis Gurry provided opening remarks. (Photo: WIPO)

In his opening remarks, the Director General of WIPO, Mr. Francis Gurry, placed women and IP in context. He highlighted that achieving gender equality is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals recently adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015. One of the targets within goal 5 – “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” – is for women to gain equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over property. Property, naturally, includes intellectual property.

Raising the bar

The panel settled on a number of recommendations, designed to further equality in the field of intellectual property:

  • It is advisable to highlight more female role models who are successful in the broad area of innovation, i.e. “success stories”.
  • Legislation and structures are necessary to sustain and build upon progress. Planning, implementing and monitoring are essential. Champions are needed.
  • No one size fits all - Gender gaps and problems are different from one country to the next. It is necessary to come up with different, diverse approaches and to work on them at all levels.
  • There is a need not only for top-down approaches, but also for bottom-up approaches to correct imbalances, beginning from elementary education.
  • Governments should discuss with and encourage the media to adopt a more positive role in influencing girls and their career paths. Change the public discourse.
Speakers on the panel
(From left) Mr. Allan Gepty and Dr. Ruth Lockward (Photo: WIPO)
WIPO's Director General and other speakers
(From left) Dr. Alicja Adamczak, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry and Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto (Photo: WIPO)

When asked what they expected from WIPO, the panel was clear that more work was needed. Suggestions included:

  • Mainstreaming gender equality in policies, programs, and projects. Maintaining consciousness and awareness at all levels.
  • Conducting more gender analysis. A question to be raised in such analyses is: Does activity X have a gender impact?
  • More actively promoting gender equality in the field of IP through conferences and lectures in all parts of the world.
  • Encouraging women to be more active in IP and to leave their comfort zones.
  • Demonstrating leadership in the form of personal commitments through, for example, the Geneva Gender Champions Network.

Useful resources

  • Women and IP PHL Experience, Mr. Allan Gepty, Deputy Director General, Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines PDF, Presentation: Mr. Allan Gepty
  • Women in Industrial Property in the Dominican Republic, Dr. Ruth Alexandra Lockward, Director General, National Office of Industrial Property (ONAPI), Ministry of Industry and Trade, Dominican Republic PPT, Presentation: Dr. Ruth Alexandra Lockward (Spanish presentation PPT, Presentation: Dr. Ruth Alexandra Lockward, Spanish)
  • Women and IP Fostering Women’s Innovativeness and Entrepreneurship - Good Practice from the Polish Patent Office, Dr. Alicja Adamczak, President of the Patent Office of the Republic of Poland PPT, Presentation: Dr. Alicja Adamczak
  • Swedish Patent Office 2014 Statistics, Mr. John Bäcknäs, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Sweden in Geneva DOC, Presentation: John Bäcknäs