For World IP Day 2023, which has a focus on women and IP, we celebrate some of the women at Marconi, who are working in careers accelerating innovation and creativity in IP. In this article, Bing Zhao, our Asia Communications Manager, profiles three of her colleagues from around the globe.
The world of intellectual (IP) exists at the intersection of two traditionally male-dominated areas: law and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). While education and practices in the two spheres may have their own challenges, individual organizations which operate in the IP sector certainly have the power and responsibility to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for women in IP.
As a leader in creating solutions to simplify patent licensing and facilitate technology sharing, Marconi has built a global team, spanning time zones and cultures, to be close to our customers both in diversity and geographically.
Marconi women across three continents have contributed tremendously to our success, with their unique and valuable perspectives. We’d like to introduce you to three of them and let them share their stories of working in IP.
Marianne has been interested in pursuing an interdisciplinary career combining technology and law since she graduated from law school. Her first encounter with intellectual property was observing a supplier in the oil industry who customized a generic product to fit their client’s specific requirements, which led to inventing new solutions that could be patented.
Her involvement in IP deepened during her tenure as Senior Vice President, Legal and Compliance at a Norwegian chipset and module manufacturer. She saw that there was controversy around indemnification in the supply chain, together with challenges in addressing the subject in distribution agreements. She spent a year renegotiating the company’s distribution agreements, which began a journey of SEP education with potential customers. This created opportunities for the company to collaborate creatively with patent owners, setting it apart from many other module manufacturers.
During those years, Marianne spoke with numerous IoT implementers of all sizes, concluding that the IoT industry would benefit tremendously from simple and efficient joint patent licensing solutions provided by independent platforms. That realization led her to join Avanci, where she is currently leading and developing innovative licensing solutions for IoT beyond automotive.
“Making industry led solutions is not a walk in the park, it is more like an ultra-run!” For our programs to work, we need to listen, contemplate, and understand considerations and priorities from both sides in order to find a solution representing a compromise to be endorsed by industries. “The size of these puzzles we are trying to piece together is perhaps what makes it feel even better when we succeed. Being inspired and encouraged by how my colleagues have found a successful solution for the automotive industry through the Avanci Vehicle platform, I am very optimistic for my IoT programs.”
Besides finding an industry solution, Marianne is also very passionate about mentorship for women, saying “as women, we should support and lift each other up.” This is exemplified by her deep involvement in the Norwegian community, mentoring young girls to explore technology and advance in IP and legal careers. “I feel grateful to have a great female manager who guides and supports me. We need to be good role models for other females in the company and in the industry.”
Marianne believes that challenge is key in cultivating strength and happiness. “Human beings are generally happier if they have problems to solve. Overcoming challenges and solving problems offers a sense of joy.” If challenges are being disregarded or removed, we would not feel happier, most likely the opposite. “We grow, evolve, and develop through challenges, which is the case with my job. No two days are the same. I am having fun trying to find solutions for the industry, speaking extensively with IoT product companies as well as patent owners.”
Yui’s first awareness of IP started with anti-counterfeiting products. Prior to embarking on her career in a major Japanese technology company, she studied IP law and her interest in IP expanded into innovation and patents. One project which Yui was deeply involved in during her previous role meant working with Avanci from outside. The Japanese firm’s automotive business unit and its R&D had differing views on joining the Avanci Vehicle platform, which were ultimately resolved and resulted in the company becoming the first licensor with an automotive industry background to join Avanci Vehicle 4G. That experience of bridging business and R&D units was meaningful and memorable and is extremely helpful for her current role in Marconi, where she is a local interface to our Japanese partners.
She took great pleasure in developing and strengthening relationships with customers, in particular when helping licensees understand the benefits of our independent joint licensing platforms. “My support on the ground in Japan helps us and customers, which give me a great sense of joy and pride.”
A crucial but challenging part of operating a joint patent licensing platform is reliance on support from licensee and licensor partners. “It is almost impossible for us to complete a project by ourselves.” Admittedly, it is key to successfully establishing relationships and continuously nurturing cooperations.
Working in IP usually requires a combination of technical and legal skills. It takes time to harness and sharpen both skills. Women are gradually making inroads into this male-dominated fraternity, especially with a gradual rise of women IP leaders and inventors in the electronics sector. But female IP leaders and inventors are still rare in other sectors in Japan.
Yui sees the growth of patent licensing would bring more opportunities for women to be leaders in IP. She believes that women can have better instincts and more advantages in pool licensing, given that the latter requires more cooperation with others across a large group of companies, compared to bilateral licensing. In her experience, women tend to be more communicative, considerate, and collaborative.
Another appeal to hopefully draw more women into IP is the flexibility and freedom. “IP related work is fairly flexible, and it is not always restricted to working in a fixed location, so it is easy to keep work and life in balance.”
Maria combines her extensive knowledge of patent office practice with in-house engineering experience to build and identify strategic portfolios. Starting as a software telecommunications engineer, Maria recounts that a 3G wireless R&D project introduced her to corporate IP patent strategy from an inventor perspective. She pivoted to patent law after finishing law school.
Her professional journey in IP started at the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) as a patent examiner, which she describes as the hardest job, but also the best experience. Subsequently, she moved to a boutique IP firm, gaining in-depth experience in patent prosecution as a patent attorney. This led to an in-house position at a company with a strong patent portfolio and successful licensing program, where patent prosecution and the assertion and monetization of IP were merged.
This ultimately led to her role at Marconi, where she brings all that experience into play. As a registered patent attorney, Maria applies her technical expertise to patent application and prosecution, patent portfolio analysis and related matters.
“It’s interesting to understand the concepts and ideas behind the technology of future products and also get an insight into what the future holds,” says Maria. “That is particularly so with telecommunications, where IP is filed on inventions years before it becomes available to the public.”
Though Maria has worked in a variety of roles, one thing remains constant – women remain dramatically underrepresented in the patent world. “There is definitely room for more women in IP, and especially patent attorneys. In other types of IP practice (trademarks, copyright, litigation), while you need a law degree, a STEM background is not required, and I do see more women practicing in those areas.”
Marconi was founded on a vision of transforming patent licensing, of doing things differently, of challenging accepted wisdom and conventional norms. As part of this, we recognize the value of creating a diverse workplace, one which reflects the diversity of markets and industries that we serve and of our customers around the world. As we continue to grow, we want to ensure that we explore diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives that can support our vision.
Marconi, together with its Avanci and Innovius businesses, is proud to have joined ADAPT.legal to support their programs and initiatives to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion within the intellectual property profession.