World Intellectual Property (IP) Day, celebrated annually on April 26, is an opportunity to recognize the role of IP in fostering innovation across the globe. This year’s theme, “Women and IP: Accelerating Innovation and Creativity,” highlights how women everywhere are leading advancements that make the world better.
Throughout history, women have pioneered developments across disciplines, including science, business, and art. Empowered by IP protections, these efforts have led to breakthroughs and inventions still common today. For example:
- Gertrude Elion, an American biochemist and pharmacologist was the developer of 45 patents including for new drugs to treat leukemia, AIDS, malaria, gout, herpes and organ rejection.
- Rosalind Franklin, a British chemist and x-ray crystallographer, played a central role in understanding the molecular structures of DNA, RNA and viruses.
- Melitta Bentz, a German entrepreneur, invented the paper coffee filter brewing system in 1908.
- Tu Youyou, a Chinese pharmaceutical chemist, discovered breakthrough medicines used to treat malaria, saving millions of lives.
- Janaki Ammal, India’s first woman botanist, developed plant breeding practices that enhanced the country’s food supply and economy.
- Katherine Johnson, an American mathematician, calculated orbital mechanics critical for the first and subsequent space flights.
- Frida Kahlo, a famed Mexican artist, is remembered for groundbreaking self-portraits and the use of bold colors.
Today, women continue to spur new ideas to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues:
- Sarah Gilbert, Teresa Lambe and Catherine Green led the research and development that helped to manufacture the first batches of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
- Katalin Karikó discovered how to enable mRNA to enter cells without triggering the body’s immune system, laying the foundation for the mRNA vaccines being used to fight COVID-19.
- Dr. Merlinda A. Palencia, founder of Envigor Natural Products Manufacturing Inc., created an organic process for cleaning wastewater for irrigation purposes across the Philippines.
- Isabella Springmuhl launched Down to Xjabelle, an inclusive clothing line that focuses on Guatemalan designs for all body types.
- Nzambi Matee founded Gjenge Makers, a Kenyan company that produces sustainable building materials across Africa.
- Neeam Al Harrasi, a young inventor from Oman, invented a decomposable plastic that helps combat ocean pollution.
Women across the globe continue to make remarkable achievements in innovation with the support of the IP system. Women make up nearly half (48%) of the STEM workforce and biopharmaceutical companies, medical device companies and diagnostic firms have been recognized as industries with “the greatest proportion of female inventors named on U.S. patents.”
World IP Day underscores the crucial role of IP in fostering advancements that move the world forward. This year, we reflect on some of the women who have made such advancements possible, as well as the work that remains so that all innovators benefit from robust IP rights and protections.
“World IP Day underscores the crucial role of IP in fostering advancements that move the world forward. This year, we reflect on some of the women who have made such advancements possible, as well as the work that remains so that all innovators benefit from robust IP rights and protections.”