Creative and Innovative Women on the Stage on World Intellectual Property Day!

World Intellectual Property Day is celebrated every year to raise awareness on intellectual property on 26 April which is the establishment date of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and this year’s theme is creative and innovative women. The importance of gender equality is apparent in the field of intellectual property, as it is in every field. Throughout history, women made undeniable contributions to science, art and technology despite all difficulties and obstacles. Today, despite the glass ceiling syndrome women might expose in their professional life and the limited opportunities that women have in their daily lives compared to men, women are obviously behind the most important inventions, innovations, and designs. The development of science, technology and creativity, which play an important role in the development of countries, depends on the global protection of intellectual property rights and gender equality in the field of intellectual property.

According to TURKSTAT data, women represent 49.9 per cent of the population in Turkey. Even though the ratio of the number of women and men in the population is very close, the ratios change drastically when we look at the business world or students studying in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) departments or lecturers in these academic departments. Thus, TURKSTAT data shows that the employment rate of women is less than half of that of men. Similarly, the rate of female professors among the professors working at universities with the highest level of innovation opportunities is 33.2 per cent. Men are at the forefront both in the business world and in fields such as engineering, technology and science compared to women. Women put aside their innovator and creativity and are more involved in the service sector. Apart from statistical ratios, men are the first ones that come to mind in the majority of the society throughout history and even today when the words science, invention, inventor, creativity and entrepreneurship are mentioned. In its simplest form, the word "scientist" in English does not imply any gender, yet this word has entered our language as “bilim adamı” which can be roughly translated as "science man". "Scienceman" is defined as "a person who is engaged in scientific studies, science woman, scientist, scholar," in the dictionary of the Turkish Language Institution, which also includes the women engaged in science. In recent years, there has been a shift from the usage of the term “science man” to “science person” in order to eliminate the reflections of gender inequality in language. But when exactly will the concept of “science man” transformed into “science person” in our social perception and our biases will cease to exist?  One of the most recent examples is that Dr Özlem Türeci is referred to as Dr Uğur Şahin's wife in some newspaper articles or interviews.  Dr Özlem Türeci and Dr Uğur Şahin are outstanding scientists who developed the vaccine against the coronavirus epidemic disease that threatens the whole world and who also carry out significant studies in cancer research. This is the outcome of the prejudice that women as individuals cannot contribute to science and technology on their own. However, we come across inventors and innovative women in every field, from inventions and studies in the field of health to the tools and machines we use in our homes or workplaces. Numerous examples we can list include Marie Curie, the founder of radiology, Grace Murray Hopper, the pioneer of computer programming, Tabitha Babbitt, who invented the first circular saw and Mary Anderson who produced a windscreen wiper.

Women stand out not only with their inventions in the field of science and technology but also with their works in the field of industrial rights such as trademarks, designs, and utility models, which are also included in intellectual property and with the works they create in the field of intellectual and artistic works. At this point, the successful and dynamic life story of Ms Esin Öney, who is currently working as the clerical manager of the IP Law Court, can inspire many women. The designers she met in her court inspired her to accomplish her dreams. After becoming familiar with the branches of art and how the artist's ideas and works are protected with the help of the court files, Ms. Öney started to study Industrial Design and Stylist at the Istanbul Design Centre. She achieved the registration for her design of a bag garment including a bag and a vest that can be attached and detached to children's clothes during play and does not cause any restriction and discomfort in movement during her training. She also received various design awards, including the silver medal in the Women Inventor category at the Korea International Women's Invention Competition hosted by Seoul, South Korea.[1]  

At this point, one of the most important questions is the awareness level of women on the protection of the ideas they introduce and the products they produce and design with intellectual and industrial rights. Although the number of women like Ms. Öney who are aware of their rights and protect their designs and inventions is constantly increasing, the rate of women enjoying intellectual property systems is evidently much lower than men both in Turkey and worldwide.

According to WIPO data, the number of Turkish women inventors applying for international patents in Turkey has increased from 17.8% to 34.2% in the last decade. The data given in "PCT Yearly Review 2022" report published by WIPO shows that Turkey ranked second after Spain with 24.2% women in international patent applications where at least one of the applicants is a woman.[2]  Despite the gradual increase of the figures, they are obviously still much lower than that of men. The data clearly shows the gradual increase in women's success in the field of science and technology along with the increase in their presence in the academic studies of universities and in the R&D departments of corporate companies.

Empowerment of women and protection of their rights in the field of intellectual property, raising awareness in this field and providing incentives for women will lead to an increase in women's contribution to the economy. In this context, 'Special Expertise Commission Report on the Role of Women in Development' prepared within the Eleventh Development Plan (2019-2023) highlights the various incentives for women to be more active in the fields of research and development, trademark-patent development and innovation, which are important for the production and use of technology, and a special category is reserved for women inventors of most of the inventions in the Turkish Patent Awards held every year.[3]  For gender equality in the field of intellectual property, these incentives should be organized as accessible to women, and the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office should keep the data showing the ratio of women to men in patent, utility model, design and trademark applications filed like WIPO. It should also monitor the balance of this ratio over the years with concrete data.  Happy World Intellectual Property Day, which this year focuses on creative and innovative women in order to achieve gender equality in the field of intellectual property as in every field in the shortest time possible!