Archives for August 2009

Leveling the IP Field for Minorities: Why A Game Driven by Creativity is Worth Playing

celina-diaz-12-5-07 Note: This article is from a guest contributor, Celina Diaz, an associate at Carstens & Cahoon. Ms. Diaz is a native Texan, born in Corpus Christi after her parents moved from Peru. Ms. Diaz majored in both Chemistry and Spanish Civilizations at the University of Texas at Austin, while taking pre-medical courses. She studied in Spain for a semester before going back to Austin to attend law school at UT. She is an example of an excellent minority patent attorney who overcame the odds to first, obtain a technical degree, and second, to attend a top tier law school. Ms. Diaz is a member of the 2008 Dallas Association of Young Lawyers Leadership Class, Women in IP law, Dallas Hispanic Bar Association, and the Dallas Chapter of Texas Exes.

 

Although minorities have grown to recognize the rewards of the legal profession, intellectual property law continues to be under-represented. Intellectual property (patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets) plays an important role in an increasingly diverse range of areas, from literature and the arts to genetic engineering. Yet there is a relatively small pool of diverse attorneys in the practice of intellectual property (IP) law.

At least in part, this is due to the technical qualifications (a degree in science or engineering) that one must have in order to sit for the patent bar exam. The small number of minorities with such a background that go into law school contributes to the small pool from which employers can diversify their firms or companies. Further, because of the variety of careers that the practice of law offers, many qualified potential minority candidates may never be exposed to the IP field. Finally, even as the number of minority candidates steadily rises, another obstacle minorities face is the limited number of mentors to which we can relate and vice versa. One of the ways to surmount all of these obstacles is to educate young minorities, law students, and attorneys about the great rewards and opportunities that a career in IP has to offer.

IP is a field dedicated to advancing technologies needed to address the problems and needs of society. Many corporations gain a competitive edge in the market by investing in the protection of IP. Without such protection, a business could lose millions or even billions of dollars in financial opportunities.

A career in IP allows an attorney to combine his or her technical knowledge and/or creative interests with the principles of law. In any one day, an IP attorney may register a copyright for the next best selling novel, counsel a client on the patentability of its most recent innovation, prevent a competitor from using a client’s trademark, and secure a client’s rights to the next big invention. An IP attorney can practice these tasks in any number of settings-whether government agency, law firm, corporation or any institution involved in research and development.

As companies and law firms increasingly conduct e-commerce and global business, the demand for acceptance and understanding of other perspectives, cultures, and languages has also increased. A diverse work environment will become increasingly important to help produce global thinking and solutions as well as foster interpersonal relationships with innovators and agents of other countries.

Severe competition already exists among employers and businesses for qualified minority IP attorneys. In further recognition of the importance of more diverse candidates, there are a number of organizations that encourage minorities to break through the barriers by offering scholarships, mentoring programs, and seminars for those who intend to practice IP law. Many organizations also offer chances for current minority attorneys in IP law to become more visible and hold leadership positions.

In today’s economy, it is essential that minorities seek out and embrace these opportunities. It is also important that we all encourage minorities to consider the economic and cultural impact they can have on the diversity of global innovation and that we all support those organizations and individuals that strive to help those brave (and savvy) enough to pave the way for future generations and businesses.

-Celina Diaz