Over the past several decades, women have been making waves in the IP field, often in areas traditionally dominated by men. Their groundbreaking contributions as attorneys, judges, policy-makers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and educators are reshaping the IP landscape and paving the way for future generations of women. 

World IP Day 2023 focuses on Women & IP and “celebrating the ‘can do’ attitude of women inventors, creators and entrepreneurs around the world and their ground-breaking work”. This article delves into the inspiring stories of pioneering women who have overcome barriers and challenged the status quo to redefine the IP landscape. 

Pioneering Women in IP Law

The field of IP law has seen remarkable contributions from trailblazing women who have left their mark as attorneys, judges, and policy-makers. Despite the historical gender gap in this domain, these women have played crucial roles in shaping the legal landscape: 

  • Judge Pauline Newman: appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1984, Newman is a prominent figure in IP law. With a Ph.D. in chemistry, she brought a unique scientific perspective to the bench. Her rulings have been influential in clarifying the patentability of biotechnology innovations and strengthening the protection of inventors’ rights. 
  • Michelle K. Lee: a trailblazer in both the technology and legal fields, Lee became the first woman to lead the USPTO. As a former Google executive and a computer scientist, Lee was instrumental in modernizing the USPTO and improving the agency’s IT infrastructure. 

Michelle K. Lee

Women-led Innovations in Male-Dominated Industries

Despite historical underrepresentation in traditionally male-dominated fields such as technology, engineering, and life sciences, women have made groundbreaking inventions and discoveries that have changed the world. Here are just a few examples: 

  • Dr. Roberta Bondar: as a pioneering astronaut, physician, and neurologist, Bondar became the first Canadian woman and the world’s first neurologist in space. Her research on the physiological effects of space travel has been invaluable in the field of space medicine – paving the way for long-duration space missions. 
  • Dr. Marian R. Croak: with over 200 patents to her name, Croak was a pioneer in the telecommunications industry. As a leading VoIP engineer, she revolutionized how we communicate by contributing to the development of technologies that enable voice and data transmission over the internet. 
  • Dr. Jennifer Doudna: Doudna co-invented the revolutionary gene-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9, which enables researchers to edit genes with unprecedented precision and efficiency. 

Dr. Marian R. Croak

Female Entrepreneurs & Startups

The business world has seen a rise in women-led startups that have successfully leveraged IP to protect their innovations and drive growth. Here are some inspiring female entrepreneurs who have built thriving businesses by harnessing the power of IP: 

  • Julia Hartz: as the co-founder and CEO of Eventbrite, Hartz has used IP to protect her company’s innovative technology solutions. By securing patents and trademarks for the company’s unique features, Hartz has built a solid foundation for her business, which has grown exponentially and now serves millions of users worldwide. 
  • Anne Wojcicki: Wojcicki co-founded 23andMe, a direct-to-consumer genetic testing company that has revolutionized the way people access and understand their genetic information. By patenting their unique method for genotyping DNA samples, Wojcicki helped position her company as a leader in the rapidly growing field of personal genomics. 
  • Dr. Rana el Kaliouby: as the co-founder and CEO of Affectiva, an AI-based emotion recognition technology company, el Kaliouby has leveraged IP to protect her groundbreaking work in emotion AI. Affectiva’s patented technology can analyze human emotions through facial expressions and voice and has applications in various industries, including market research and mental health. By securing IP rights, she has built a strong competitive advantage and attracted significant investment. 

Dr. Rana el Kaliouby

Empowering Women Through IP Education

Closing the gender gap in IP requires empowering girls and women through education, mentorship, and support. Several initiatives and organizations are dedicated to fostering gender diversity in IP-related fields: 

  • Girls Invent! is an initiative aimed at inspiring and educating young girls to become inventors and entrepreneurs. Through workshops, mentoring, and resources, Girls Invent! helps girls develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and creative skills necessary for success in IP-related fields. 
  • The Women in IP Law Committee is part of the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA), which focuses on promoting the advancement of women in IP law through networking, professional development, and advocacy. The committee offers a supportive community for women IP professionals, providing them with the resources, connections, and opportunities to succeed in their careers. 
  • Chiefs in Intellectual Property (ChIPs) is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing and connecting women in technology, law, and policy. By providing networking opportunities, professional development, and mentorship programs, ChIPs seeks to empower women in IP law and support the growth of a diverse and inclusive community of professionals.



The Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property, an initiative of the Michelson 20MM Foundation, provides access to empowering IP education for budding inventors and entrepreneurs. Michelson 20MM was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned spinal surgeon Dr. Gary K. Michelson and Alya Michelson. To learn more, visit 20mm.org.