Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity, inclusion and synergy: CIPA and IP Inclusive

Andrea Brewster (Fellow) provides a potted history of IP Inclusive and CIPA’s involvement in its creation, and why it continues to go from strength to strength.

This article was first published in the June 2022 issue of the CIPA Journal.

Without CIPA…

…there would be no IP Inclusive. I was Vice-President of the Institute when I set up a first round-table on ‘Diversity in IP’ in early 2015. CIPA provided the room, the coffee, the contacts, the kudos. We brought together senior representatives from across the UK’s IP professions, to ask ourselves: was there a problem with diversity in IP; was there anything we could do about it; and was there an appetite for change? The answer to all three questions was an astonishingly resonant ‘Yes!’

The early years

Over the following years, as IP Inclusive gained itself a name and logo, a plan and more of a following than we could ever have dreamed of, CIPA nurtured it in a thousand ways, both moral and practical. Chief Executive Lee Davies was a particularly strong ally. When you need to do lots of good stuff with very few resources, Lee’s your man.

The fledgling IP Inclusive was held on trust by the four ‘founding organisations’ who put their names to the commitments made in that first meeting. CIPA, CITMA, FICPI-UK and the IP Federation kindly accepted responsibility for the formal side of things, allowing us to open a bank account and enter into contracts with suppliers. Our official address is still CIPA’s, our bank account still administered by CITMA’s executive team. Strong support from the IPO gave us extra credibility and justified the hard work and resources that CIPA and the other three membership bodies were providing behind the scenes.

Floating free

But IP Inclusive was always intended to be wider than just the patent and trade mark professions. That was its strength, its inspiration and its character. In 2021, the time came to float free from our founders. They generously stepped back to allow us to restructure as an independent entity.

Freedom and opportunity

We now work alongside one another as genuine partners. CIPA still provides financial and other forms of support, for which we are grateful. But like our other Charter signatories, it now runs its own D&I (diversity and inclusion) affairs.

And relinquishing formal ownership has led to something much more powerful. We need each other. CIPA’s stake in IP Inclusive’s success will continue to reflect well on its commitment to D&I and its initial vision and courage. Its members, who represent a large proportion of our Charter signatories, value the resources and support we provide. At the same time, as a stakeholder, CIPA is free to influence what we do through the amount and nature of the feedback, support and encouragement it provides. It can walk away if it no longer sees a need for IP Inclusive – as can its members. Each of us is free to take issue with one another’s approaches or to adopt a different stance on a particular issue.

With that freedom comes a terrific opportunity to help one another grow. We can share resources, knowledge, ideas and contacts for the good of all our supporters. We can help each other find solutions to D&I challenges, and reinforce our respective efforts in the space. We can run joint events, collaborate on data gathering. The senior leaders’ ‘think tank’ that we established together in 2020, alongside CITMA, is a great example of how IP Inclusive can partner with the membership bodies to generate meaningful change: it now champions D&I from the highest level in the patent and trade mark professions, not least through the ‘Senior Leaders’ Pledge’ it launched in 2021.

Two different roles

CIPA and IP Inclusive come at this from different angles, of course, which is why the partnership works. CIPA’s approach to D&I – its support, guidance, resource provision and lobbying – is driven by issues specific to its members. Through its staff, committees and governing Council, through its everyday actions and communications and its underlying rules of membership, CIPA’s primary role is to establish an inclusive culture in the profession it represents, one where prejudice and discrimination have no place and everyone feels welcome.

What IP Inclusive brings is the links with the wider IP sector. We can offer different perspectives, access to broader networks and shared expertise. Our existence provides a more meaningful context, not to mention incentive, for the D&I work that CIPA does. And when it comes to issues affecting the IP professions as a whole, IP Inclusive speaks with a different kind of authority that can both amplify and harmonise with CIPA’s voice.

Why that works

IP Inclusive helps the various IP-related professions work in concert for the good of their sector. Three things have been key to its success in that role. Firstly, it embodies a unique blend of the pan-professional and the sector-specific. It unites people with shared values, a shared legal framework, a shared client base, and therefore closely linked futures. The pan-professional part means that different professions can learn from one another’s experiences and achievements. The sector-specific element ensures that learning is relevant and focused. By working together we can provide resources for a small, niche sector that might not otherwise have had access.

This approach has a tremendous power to strengthen relationships. Alongside the ethical incentives, there are real practical benefits to getting involved in IP Inclusive: professional and personal networks flourish, reputations blossom, business development and referrals follow. In the IP world, where trust and personal interactions really matter, that’s priceless. There have also been opportunities, through our combined efforts to improve D&I, for CIPA to build more meaningful relationships with other bodies: its overseas counterparts, IP offices, regulators, educators and recruitment sources. That all helps improve sector-wide understanding and influence.

IP Inclusive’s second strength is its inclusivity. Anyone can take part, regardless of the usual professional and commercial boundaries. Once you acknowledge that each human being is unique, it follows that everyone can benefit in some way from greater inclusivity. That’s why IP Inclusive has always worked across the different diversity ‘strands’ that can otherwise be so divisive.

Finally, IP Inclusive is volunteer-driven. The informal, low-stakes atmosphere empowers IP professionals at every level to get involved. It means we do the things that people need us to. And it allows us to achieve a great deal with very few resources. The good old British Wartime Spirit. Sticky-back plastic and make-do-and-mend. What better way to make something you’ll remember for the rest of your life? The approach is a direct legacy from our founding organisations; it’s how the IP sector has always worked.

The sum of these three parts is that same sense of ownership and engagement that CIPA has always strived to nurture within its membership. And IP Inclusive has helped CIPA members strengthen not only their own community but also the position of that community on the wider stage.


I think – but then I would, as a patent attorney – that CIPA members and IP Inclusive have together found that holy grail of the IP world: synergy. Perhaps, you might argue, it was obvious to try. But a lot of people have put a lot of work into making what began as a tentative idea into something amazing. Let’s not forget that at the time it was a gamble: we had no way of knowing whether the D&I message would even be heard, let alone supported. We have CIPA to thank for taking that gamble.

An excellent partnership

CIPA President Alasdair Poore recently contributed the following for IP Inclusive’s 2021-22 impact report. They are kind words and they sum up where the two organisations are now.

It is fantastic to see IP Inclusive go from strength to strength. CIPA is proud of the part that it has played in the creation and evolution of IP Inclusive, from an initial concept that we needed to work together to make the IP sector a more welcoming and inclusive place to work, to the establishment of an organisation that challenges our perspective on inclusivity and provides us with the support and resources we need to make careers in IP open to all. A test of the purpose of any organisation is simple: if the organisation did not exist, would we want it to? IP Inclusive passes this test with flying colours and we must continue to work together to ensure its future.

This is an excellent partnership. I for one am looking forward to taking it further, and to the many benefits that will bring to CIPA members, their businesses, their clients and the whole of the UK’s IP sector.

Thank you CIPA!

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