The 2013 AIPLA Annual Meeting, A Rookie’s Perspective
By Jessica Ergmann, Dräger – IP Counsel, North America
I arrived at the AIPLA Annual Meeting in a red dress in a sea of black suits. That is one way to stand out amongst 2200 IP professionals. Another way to stand out is purely biological – being a woman. Women currently make up 14% of the patent roster. Annette Kahler, Attorney at Heslin, Rothenberg, Farley & Mesiti P.C., presented this fascinating statistic, among many others, at the highlight of the week, the Women in IP Breakfast.
The Women in IP Breakfast. Yes, it’s at 6:45am, and yes, you may have had a few too many tastings of scotch the night before. (I must admit, I did find it a tad evil that the breakfast begins approximately four hours after the scotch tasting ends, but as most did, I sucked it up and put on the suit – yes, a black suit.) Let me tell you, it was worth it. Not only were there many powerful, inspiring women in attendance, I was pleasantly surprised to see the men well represented too. As one woman comically pointed out, and I paraphrase: “Over the years, the attendance of men has grown – They want to know what we are up to. They want to know what we are talking about.” She was dead on, but not only that, men want to help women grow. Men want to work with us. Men want our perspective and insight. Let me give you an example: A man by the name of Anthony Greene attended the breakfast, and he made a statement that made everyone pause, and then applause. Mr. Greene stood up and stated, “Women are judged by their performance. Men are judged by their potential.” I had to meet Mr. Greene, so I made it a point to find him later that day and tell him how much I enjoyed his comments and perspective. We have already been in touch via email, and there is no doubt we will maintain contact. That is precisely what this event is all about – Education, Inspiration and Mentorship.
Regardless of gender, I was warmly welcomed by many AIPLA members as a new member and first time Annual Conference attendee. However, there are a few women I would like to specially thank for their overwhelmingly warm welcome to AIPLA, and those women are Naomi Voegtli, Mercedes Meyer, Georgann Grunebach, and Debora Plehn-Dujowich. These women each took me under their wing, welcomed me to AIPLA, introduced me to some wonderful people, and I am very grateful. Thank you.
Oh, and I must add, my two favorite presentations – both given by women. The first was covering the topic of patent trolls, presented by Felicia Boyd, Attorney at Barnes and Thornburg, LLP. She was educational, conversational, multi-toned (trust me, this was appreciated more than you can imagine), and most notably, engaging. The second woman, Annette Kahler, presented at the Women in IP breakfast referred to above.
Admittedly, it was a bit unnerving to attend the conference for the first time. I wondered – Who am I going to meet? Will I have people to talk to? Well, let me tell you, by the end of the first day, it was like walking the halls of your high school.
The seminars, panels, luncheons with presentations by major leaguers in the field of IP (oh you know, just Teresa Rae, Deputy Director of the USPTO, and Chief Judge Randall Radar, Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit), the receptions, and the black tie event, topped with dessert and finished with a night of dancing. Who said IP attorneys aren’t any fun?