Women in IP Leadership

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Maria Zamkova is CEO, partner and Head of Patent & Design Department at Fenix Legal. She has a Master of Industrial Design, and has education in law, management, marketing and business economy from the University of Stockholm. Maria is a patent attorney and authorised European trademark and design attorney (EUIPO). Before joining Fenix Legal, she had experience from both global industry and other private practice IP firms. She is especially focused on patent prosecution, freedom-to-operate and IP due diligence (IPDD), and has led a number of IPDD projects involving both national and international client’s business development in the Scandinavian market.

  1. What inspired your career?

What inspires me daily is to see ideas develop into new technology that creates solutions globally and new jobs. In other words: To help both individual inventors and global companies to get protection for their intellectual property assets, and follow them through both the technical development and the business development, with their patents as the necessary basis for everything. I have the privilege of working internationally with something that has been of great interest throughout my life, together with a team who feel the same way.

What has also inspired me are a couple of the managers that I have had the privilege of meeting and working with early in my career, people that had the same view of technical solutions and business as I, with new productive ideas.

Further, I want to mention the female General Directors of the Swedish Patent and Registration Office (PRV), Gun Hellsvik (2001-2007) and Susanne Ås Sivborg (2008-2017), that during their mandate periods made a fantastic work in order to streamline the internal work, arranging open policy meetings with all Swedish IP attorneys where we could exchange our pros and cons in order to make our mutual daily work more efficient, activating politicians in their budget and legislative decisions, as well as educating the Swedish industry of the importance to protect their IP rights.

  1. How have you found the pathway to your current position? And can you offer advice from your experience?

A lot of work, creativity, seeing the possibilities and being decisive. Always be in the frontline with new ideas is necessary to grow positively, not only in the career, but also personally. And do not forget to inspire people with a bit of humour and positive examples. I have never been afraid to take the next steps in my working positions, and to learn new things.

My advice to women is: it is clearly important to actively show that you can contribute to both the company’s and clients’ development.

  1. What challenges have you faced? And how have you overcome them?

Working with intellectual property is a positive challenge per se, as you need to keep updated on all new legislation, practice and new technical development – independently of the technical or geographical area. I love these challenges and the opportunity to find new creative solutions for my clients.

One example is when you assist an SME that has limited budget but good ideas. You need to find a way to give the client the best combined protection in a cost-efficient way, in order to form a base for their business to expand. You need to educate both inventors and business leaders of the importance of good protection.

My general advice, independent of which kind of contact you have at the other side of the table is: Never take a “no” or “perhaps” in a negative way, see it is a new positive possibility to create an alternative solution.

  1. What would you consider to be your greatest achievement in your career so far?

The greatest achievement in my career is the company I have built, Fenix Legal, that has become well-known world-wide and offer full IP service based on our excellent staff consisting of patent and trademark attorneys, patent engineers, lawyers, business consultants and branding experts. I am proud each time a new global business or individual client, international organization or government contacts our specialists in order to get new protection, advice, creating IP policies, or feedback on legislation.

  1. What are your future career aspirations? And how will you work to achieve them?

My aspirations is to meet all these new chances in IP which are now coming every day, consistently, and to adjust the business with even better result, as well as to meet all these new challengers. For that, I need to – and look forward to – be continuously updated and in line with all the new possibilities and services in our intellectual property business.

  1. What changes would you like to see in the IP industry regarding equality and diversity in the next five years?

It is important to continue encourage more women to take the leading positions in the IP industry.

It is well-known during the history that innovative minds are equally presented independent of gender, nationality or age. In order to inspire women in IP, as well as to educate legislators and politicians, I strongly recommend and invite you to come to Stockholm, Sweden and there visit the Nobel Prize Museum in Old town.

There, you can see good examples from the 59 Nobel Prize Awards to women from all over the world (whereof Marie Curie, Poland/France, has been honored twice: in physics 1903 and in chemistry 1911).

Some of the other female Nobel Prize laureates are:

  • Rosalyn Yalow (USA), Physiology or Medicine 1977, “for the development of radioimmunoassays of peptide hormones.”
  • Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (born in Egypt, Affiliation at the time of the award: University of Oxford, United Kingdom), Chemistry 1964, “for her determinations by X-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances”
  • Andrea Ghez (USA), Physics 2020, “for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy.”
  • May-Britt Moser (Norway), Physiology or Medicine 2014, “for the discovery of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain.”
  • Donne Strickland (Canada), Physics 2018, “for the method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses.”
  • Barbara McClintock (USA), Physiology or Medicine 1983, “for her discovery of mobile genetic elements”
  • Emmanuelle Charpentier (born in France, Affiliation at the time of the award: Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens, Germany), Chemistry 2020, “for the development of a method for genome editing.”
  • Frances H. Arnold (USA), Chemistry 2018, “for the directed evolution of enzymes.”
  • Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (Germany), Physiology or Medicine 1995, “for the discovery concerning the genetic control of early embryonic development.”
  • Rita Levi-Montalcini (Italy), Physiology or Medicine 1986, “for the discovery of growth factors.”
  • Françoise Barré-Sinoussi (France), Physiology or Medicine 2008, “for the discovery of human immunodeficiency virus.”
  • Elizabeth H. Blackburn (born in Australia, Affiliation at the time of the award: University of California, USA) and Carol W. Greider (USA), Physiology or Medicine 2009, “for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.”
  • Tu Youyou (China), Physiology or Medicine 2015, “for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria.”

To summarize: There are creative women all around the world, we just need to give our voice heard and be duly recognized as important inventors, policy makers, business developers and leaders.

  1. How do you think the empowerment of women can be continued and expanded in the IP sector?

It is an unavoidable process, and we can already today see lots of steps in the right direction. Women have to take the opportunity and not be shy but acknowledge their inventive qualities and convey these to decision makers. But, it is also a question of a generational change: The younger generation does not have the same limitations, and judges people on the basis of their individual knowledge and abilities, talent and performance rather than on the basis of gender, nationality or physical characteristics. The future is gender neutral and inventive.

Previously published in Patent Lawyer Magazine May/June 2022

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