World IP Day: The Faces of CIPO

World Intellectual Property Day 2023 – Celebrating Creativity & Innovation (

"When women enter the IP universe, we accelerate innovation and creativity and everyone's a winner." – World Intellectual Property Organization

World Intellectual Property Day is celebrated every year on April 26. It gives us the chance to celebrate all the players in intellectual property (IP), and to explore how IP drives the innovations that shape our world.

This year, the theme is "Women and IP: Accelerating innovation and creativity." We wanted to start by putting the spotlight on some incredible women pushing the needle at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO): Neena Kushwaha, Lily Yu, Saida Aouididi, Maya Urbanowicz and Kelly Brady. Here at CIPO, we recognize and showcase the achievements of women that contribute to providing the framework that supports innovation.

Neena Kushwaha: Chair of the Patent Appeal Board

Picture of Neena Kushwaha

Neena is the chair of the Patent Appeal Board (PAB), an advisory body that gives recommendations to the Commissioner of Patents, which is quasi-judicial in nature and advises on patent policy matters.

What do you do that accelerates innovation?

By providing a fair and efficient course for resolving impasses in the patent examination process, the PAB helps to ensure that valuable inventions receive patent protection and that inventors and innovators are incentivized to continue developing innovative technologies. This increases investment in research and development, the creation of new products and services, and ultimately, economic growth and job creation.

How can women in the IP ecosystem support each other? How do you lead by example?

Women in the IP ecosystem can support each other by sharing their experiences and knowledge, collaborating on initiatives and advocating for one another. As a founding member of the women's mentorship pilot program at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), I hope to provide support, guidance and opportunities for our participants to advance their careers and achieve their professional goals.

What are some of the challenges women face in the IP ecosystem and how can we improve things?

Women face numerous challenges in the IP ecosystem, including underrepresentation in leadership positions, gender bias and lack of mentorship and sponsorship opportunities, which are often critical to professional advancement. Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort from individuals and organizations to promote diversity and inclusion, combat unconscious biases and support the career development of women.

Lily Yu: Senior Patent Examiner

Picture of Lily Yu

Lily is a senior patent examiner in the Chemical Division of the Patent Branch at CIPO. As senior patent examiner, it's her job to make sure that applications comply with the laws (Patent Act and Patent Rules) before being granted as a patent. Her technical background is in chemistry. Prior to joining CIPO, she worked in drug discovery as a medicinal chemist.

What do you do that accelerates innovation?

I read and analyze inventions described in patent applications, ensuring that they are new and useful. On average, applications have 50 to 200 pages but the longest application I've been assigned was over a thousand pages. On average, I review 20 to 25 applications per month. A big part of my job involves explaining why certain discoveries can't be patented.

How can women in the IP ecosystem support each other? How do you lead by example?

One of the difficult parts of the field is getting into the profession itself; making the transition from scientist to IP professional. We can support each other by being a stepping stone to help each other gain entry into the field. From a personal perspective this means I have a responsibility to maintain my own personal network of mentors, but that I also make a conscience effort to mentor others. This is especially important both as a woman and as someone who is a visible minority, to support those that are underrepresented in this field.

What is the best piece of career advice you ever got from someone?

"Commit to challenging yourself." For me this means every year I commit to working on 1 project that I find scary. Probably the scariest project I've ever participated in was as a Panel Head for CIPO's Patent Quality Summit in 2019. This was a meeting organized and hosted by CIPO for internal and external clients on patent quality issues. My job was to work behind the scenes with the other 2 panel heads and ensure group discussion panels ran smoothly.

Saida Aouididi: Chief of International Affairs

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Saida is the Chief of International Affairs at CIPO. She gives political analysis and advice to senior management on all of CIPO's international interactions. She also represents Canada at the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property at the World Intellectual Property Organization. She holds a master's degree in economics from the University of Ottawa.

How can women in the IP ecosystem support each other? How do you lead by example?

Supporting each other must be the objective regardless of women or men or the expertise. In my opinion it must be the only way. Supporting each other to reach whatever objective we have set. It works way better and it is inclusive.

What is the best piece of career advice you ever got from someone?

A teacher once told me: "Your future is in your hands. It's your job to learn what future you want in order build it." 'This always stayed with me. I must have been 13 or so. I remember thinking about it for weeks after. Trying to make sense of it. I did. I believe in this advice. Ultimately it means that you can do it if you really want it.

Is there a woman in the IP world that you find inspiring?

I find so many women in the IP world inspiring. Virginie Ethier and Christine Piché would be at the top of my list—both for their capacity to perform at the highest level with such grace.

Maya Urbanowicz: Acting Director of IP Awareness and Education Services

Picture of Maya Urbanowicz

Maya is the acting Director of the IP Awareness and Education Services team and a key member of the team since its launch in 2017. The team creates impartial and credible information on IP so that Canadian innovators, entrepreneurs and businesses think about IP differently and recognize its importance to business growth. She holds a bachelor's degree in industrial design and has always been a creative and innovative person—little did she know then that she would end up working at CIPO!

What do you do that accelerates innovation?

Eighty-four percent of small and medium businesses aren't aware that they own IP.Footnote * At CIPO, we know that they do. Every business has at least one of the following: a business name, a logo, products and services they sell, innovations they're working on, or a website. My team is increasing the knowledge and understanding of IP by Canadians so that they can strategically use and leverage IP for commercial and business success. We develop online tools and resources, deliver training sessions and webinars to partners and the public, attend tradeshows and key events, and meet directly with entrepreneurs and businesses across Canada.

How can women in the IP ecosystem support each other? How do you lead by example?

As an innovator, it's important to build a strong network to support each other, what I like to call 'your circle of trust'. You must identify mentors or people you aspire to be like, develop strong partnerships and collaborations with like minded women, or those that have a particular expertise that might help you grow your business; someone who can give you honest feedback. This is how I established my own network of connections through my different work opportunities, the different creative skills I can support with or need support with, and I try to be there for other people as well.

What is the best piece of career advice you ever got from someone?

"Believe in yourself and your abilities." Especially when it comes to innovation, there is a lot of competition and you have to think outside the box, so you have to stay focused on what you want to achieve even though it might take a few tries. As an industrial designer you develop your brand and style, and you know you won't please everybody along the way, but you have to believe in yourself and believe that you have what it takes to make this world a better place.

Kelly Brady: Acting Deputy Director, Trademarks and Industrial Designs Branch

Picture of Kelly Brady

Kelly began her career in IP almost 25 years ago. She started her career into the amazing world of trademarks at a trademark firm in Ottawa. She became a trademark agent and then joined the Trademarks and Industrial Designs Branch in 2008 as a trademark examiner. Her combined experiences, first as a trademark agent, then as examiner, team leader and manager, have given her a unique perspective in her current role as acting Deputy Director. She uses her expertise to provide guidance and contributes to granting quality trademark rights in Canada.

What do you do that accelerates innovation in IP?

Over the last 15 years, I have been afforded many opportunities to participate in the growth and development of the branch by working on special assignments and innovative projects. These include the Next Generation Trademark system, quality programs, chairing the review panel, and coaching and mentoring colleagues.

How can we improve things for women in the IP ecosystem?

In my view, having a diverse workforce, including women, in the IP world is extremely important, since it helps ensure we take into account different perspectives in our overall policies, as well as day-to-day work.

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