The Women to Watch Series was established by the Women in IP Committee as an avenue to recognize women within the AIPLA community for excellence and accomplishments. Through a peer-nomination process, the Women to Watch Series strives to honor women who have created their own paths, who lead through strong examples, and who are achieving successes as a result of their choices and leadership, but who may not be widely known in the AIPLA community.
We are pleased to introduce Audrey Nickel, in her own words:
Years working in IP: Seven
Years with current organization: One
Current location: Cleveland, Ohio
Current role: Patent Agent / European and German Patent and Trademark Attorney
What I do: My practice mainly includes preparing and prosecuting patent applications. I also have experience in post-grant and litigation proceedings before the Opposition Divisions and Appeal Boards of the European Patent Office and before the German Federal Patent Court.
Previous roles: Before joining Pearne & Gordon, I worked for over five years at several prestigious IP law firms in Munich, Germany. Prior to entering the field of law, I worked as a firmware engineer for a Cleveland-based firm specializing in the development of automatic RF meter readers. Following this position, I gained additional experience as a software engineer at a German firm specializing in the development of high-end construction statics software based on finite elements.
Years and involvement with AIPLA: I joined AIPLA in 2016, and now serve as a voting member of the International and Foreign Law, IP Practice in Europe, and Women in IP Law committees
Q. What was the best professional decision you ever made?
A. My best professional decision was to go ahead and have kids before I was fully qualified. This gave me time (during parental leave, which is 1 year per child in Germany) to focus on other professional achievements that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I hadn’t had kids. After my first child was born, I spent a few months doing some low-key preparation to pass the U.S. patent bar, which helped me to get my current job. And while I was pregnant with my second child, I took time off from clerking to write a legal handbook, “US Patent Law for European Patent Professionals”, which became a bestseller. In summary, the demands of having children enabled me to choose different tasks within the field where I could manage my time more flexibly than at a law firm. This brought me a few important professional distinctions that I wouldn’t have gotten if I had just clerked full-time, straight through.
Q. What was the worst professional decision you ever made?
A. Sometimes I wish I had discovered patent law earlier — I didn’t discover it until three years after I had completed my Master’s degree. A friend of mine whose uncle was a patent attorney told me that he thought patent law would be perfect for me and I should really give it a try. At first, I didn’t even want to believe him. But it turns out, he was right!
Q. What would you consider your greatest professional achievement so far?
A. I am proud to be one of few people who is qualified to represent before three different patent offices: namely, the USPTO, the European Patent Office (EPO) and the German Patent and Trademark Office (GPTO). Practicing at this intersection of three jurisdictions is very interesting, and my clients value my combined expertise, as it saves them the time and expense of consulting multiple attorneys.
Q. In your opinion, what could women be doing better to advance their careers?
A. I think women in career-track positions are already doing a lot and working very hard to achieve success. And the world has so much to gain from having women being represented proportionally in leadership positions — not just in government, but also in business and in law. But it can only happen if all of the people in our society — and not just career-track women — realize that and work to make it possible. Therefore, I would actually like to see more involvement from people other than career-track women toward reducing unequal opportunity in the workplace. It’s a fact that in order for women to have successful careers, we need the help of both men in career positions and men and women who are off the career track. In summary, my view is that career-track women don’t “own” this problem. Society, as a whole, does.
Q. What is the best advice you have received?
A. Two pieces of advice (in German): “Reden, Reden, Reden” — communication is key to solving problems! And “Liebe. Wichtigste.” The most important thing is love.
More about Audrey:
If they bottled my personality, the label would read: You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me
Something I said I’d never do, but did anyway: Move back to Cleveland, Ohio!
One thing people are surprised to find out about me: I’m related to a globally renowned Hearthstone player, Zalae (he’s my little brother).