Celebrating the Contributions of Women to IP

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Now in its 23rd year, World Intellectual Property (IP) Day provides an opportunity to promote how IP rights—patents, trademarks, industrial designs, and copyright—further innovation and creativity. As the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) celebrates women inventors, artists, creators, and entrepreneurs in 2023, we’re recognizing the Morgan Lewis lawyers who help ensure a balanced IP system that protects the IP rights of those who contribute to global innovation.

Some of these lawyers share how women contribute to the IP system, their experiences working with and being inspired by other women, and how Morgan Lewis is moving the dial to support women in IP.

Why is it important to increase the participation of women in the IP system?

Manita Rawat: We have all heard the saying that “representation matters” and that extends to why we need to increase the participation of women in the IP system. Most women in IP can share at least one experience of feeling excluded or “not good enough.” Even when we see many female associates at law firms in the patent law field, the numbers at the partner level are still relatively low. The only way to change these barriers is for us to see more women in the IP field and in leadership positions. For example, the USPTO is now under the leadership of a female director, Kathi Vidal, and she is ensuring that positions in her administration are filled with qualified women. Such leaders are finding ways to increase the participation rates of women in the IP systems, which will only further and help develop our economy. More importantly, such representation will encourage the next generation of women to participate in the IP system.

Rachelle Dubow: Women bring a different perspective to problem solving than our male counterparts. That is true on the innovation side, whether inventing a new product, process, or technology, and on the branding side when considering new trademarks, logos, or overall brand identity. It is also true on the legal side, as issues such as protectability, enforceability, and monetization are considered. Every team is stronger and more creative when there are multiple voices, with different perspectives approaching the task at hand. Without a critical mass of women in the IP system, the system itself loses the benefit of that diverse skill set.

Julie Goldemberg: Women represent just 13% of US patent owners, 20% of patent attorneys, and argue less than 10% of private sector patent appeals at the Federal Circuit. Yet there is no doubt that women are just as capable and as talented as their male counterparts. Increasing participation of women in the IP system combats the current gender inequality and breaks the glass ceiling, making it easier for the next generation of women to have equal access to opportunities.

Can you share an example of mentorship or sponsorship experience (within the IP space) that has positively influenced or impacted you?

Natalie Bennett: My partner and friend Brent Hawkins, who has mentored me since the day I started practicing law, and I are building an IP team that is inclusive and that reminds me that resilience in Big Law, and in IP, has its place. Over time, the opportunities for women and people of color have increased, but it is by staying and driving outstanding results that we serve our clients and persist to train the next generation. My years practicing with Brent as a mentor remind me of the power of staying. It is a long journey to become the person who translates the most complex issues into non-technical terms. This journey requires patient mentors who are willing to teach the courtroom-facing and client-facing required to develop a successful IP litigation brand.

Julie Goldemberg: My mentor (who is also now my law firm partner) is always looking out for new opportunities for me to argue more appeals at the Federal Circuit. He could take those opportunities for himself, but instead he recognizes how important it is for me individually, for the firm, and for the profession to have someone like me—a woman—argue at the Federal Circuit.

How is Morgan Lewis helping to move the dial?

Rachelle Dubow: We are incredibly fortunate at Morgan Lewis to have the strong and visionary leadership of our Firm Chair, Jami McKeon, who sees the value in attracting, supporting, retaining, and promoting women. She has led by example from her first day as chair—identifying female talent and giving our women lawyers opportunities to lead practice groups, industry sectors, and firm initiatives. She encourages our women to lean in and bring their authentic selves to the table, and she has given our women an opportunity to thrive in those roles. One great example (though I note there are many) is the firm’s commitment to our ML Women initiative. ML Women brings our women together to promote and enhance business development and provide opportunities to connect with our women clients and our women partners around the globe. Morgan Lewis is an extraordinary firm for women lawyers to develop practice, rise up through leadership, and truly shine.

Christina MacDougall, Ph.D.: Morgan Lewis helps to intentionally move the dial on every level, from our female Chair, Jami, to female leaders at every level of management. I feel diversity is a core tenet for Morgan Lewis and one of the characteristics I most admire about the firm. I have personally benefited and continue to be a part of our female leadership focus, given my promotion this past year to the San Francisco IP local practice group leader position. Our female leaders, including myself, strive to give back by actively participating in numerous programs the firm supports, such as ML Women, participating in ChIPs, being mentors for our Associate Mentoring Program as well as participating in the Diverse Associate Sponsorship Program and the IP practice’s Pathways to IP program. Pathways to IP engages science and engineering students who may not be aware of how the education and skillsets they’ve cultivated translate to careers in IP law.

Julie Goldemberg: Morgan Lewis has a diversity mentorship program specific to the IP group that helps our diverse and female associates receive extra attention and guidance as they build their practices. Having a team behind every diverse associate helps them succeed.