World Intellectual Property (IP) Day takes place on 26 April, highlighting the essential role IP rights play in encouraging innovation and creativity.
This year, World IP Day will celebrate the leading role women are playing in driving change in the world. To mark the occasion, we put five questions to Ingrid Baele, the newly-appointed Chair of the ICC Commission on Intellectual Property.
Ms Baele is Vice-President of Philips Intellectual Property and Standards (IP&S)—the organisation handling all Royal Philips’ IP matters—and has a great deal of international experience in IP management and strategy.
You are the first female Chair of the IP Commission. What made you decide to accept this role?
Having served as Vice-Chair of the commission for seven years, I gradually grew into this leadership role. As I am interested in a broad range of IP topics, including how views differ around the globe, I greatly appreciate the diversity of views and experiences represented in the multi-sectoral and international membership of the IP Commission, which is quite unique. For me personally, it was more or less a logical step to become Chair, though I still feel honoured to have been approached for this role.
How does IP contribute to innovation, sustainable development and inclusive growth?
IP protects innovation and, as such, provides a return on investment for those investing in innovation. It is widely accepted that innovation will be key to reaching global sustainable development objectives. IP enables innovators to grow, creating and realising great ideas and resources for sustainable development, and opportunities for inclusive economic growth.
You are also a senior executive at Philips, where you are responsible for Philips’ IP offices and operations worldwide. What changes have you seen in recent years in the way IP is perceived and used around the world?
Perceptions of IP are, and will remain, different throughout the world and may vary depending on innovations or technologies. On the one hand, in the era of digitisation and widespread information-sharing, the openness and speed of development have increased. This may have an influence on patents, for which the relatively slow speed of granting procedures can create a problem.
On the other hand though, IP is about more than patents, and other types of IP, like designs, trademarks, trade secrets and copyrights, are becoming increasingly important. Companies, research institutes, and individuals investing in innovation will often want to see something in return, and IP is one of the assets that can fulfil that role.
Have you seen an evolution in women participating in scientific research and in IP management over the years?
Yes, indeed. Over the years, the percentage of women in scientific and technical functions has increased but there are several factors contributing to that. The economic role of women in a culture or country may have generally developed over time and participation depends on the technical area under consideration. Starting with an unequal distribution of male and female students, for example, it is not realistic to expect a 50-50 distribution in a technical work environment. Although a mixed gender team may have different dynamics compared to a purely male or purely female one, I think we should always go for the best candidate with a proper balance of hard and soft skills.
Do you have any last thoughts on the theme of World IP Day: “Powering change: Women in innovation and creativity”?
Women are sometimes considered to be too modest about their capabilities and what they can achieve but I think there is in fact no difference in creativity between men and women in general. What is important to me is that men and women are addressed together with the same messages and not treated or addressed differently. In the end, we are all part of the same society, and have to work together and learn from each other.