WTR article summary – Tackling the stigma of disability in IP.

Tackling the stigma of disability in IP: exclusive interview with IP Ability co-chairs

This article is a summary of the full article, by the same name, first posted by the World Trade Mark review, that can be found here.


Marianne Privett, AA Thornton’s Diversity & Inclusion Partner, and Francesca Rivers a Solicitor at Cancer Research Technology were recently interviewed by Jonathan Walfisz for World Trademark Review. Marianne and Francesca are co-chairs of IP Ability, one of IP Inclusive’s most recently launched communities. IP Ability aims to support disabled people and carers who work within the IP profession or who are seeking to enter the profession. IP Ability focuses on issues relating to disability and long-term health conditions of all kinds, be they mental or physical, visible or invisible, permanent or temporary, sudden onset or progressive. IP Ability also hopes to tackle the stigma associated with disabilities and help employers support disabled employees.

IP Inclusive has made great efforts to improve diversity and inclusion within the IP profession, led by former CIPA president Andrea Brewster. A number of people within the IP profession (including Marianne and Head of People, Karen Genuardi) had contacted Andrea to express an interest in or concern regarding disability related issues and it was Andrea who recognised the mutual interest and brought those people together.

During the interview Marianne explained that she has been in the IP profession for over 15 years and travelled extensively in that time visiting the EPO and attending conferences, and yet she’s never met a single visibly disabled IP professional. The IP profession has a lot of catching up to do regarding diversity and inclusion in comparison with other professions. Francesca explained that when on secondment at a large global bank she realised that in contrast to the working environment she was used to seeing in a law firm, the working environment in the bank was much more representative of London’s diversity.

Both Marianne and Francesca recognise that one of the barrier’s for improving diversity within the IP profession is the relatively small size of the IP firms that employ the majority of IP professionals. However, as Francesca explained, even a small employer can signpost an inclusive community (such as IP Ability) to show their staff that they care.

IP Ability started their community with a launch survey and the initial results have confirmed that one of the greatest issues faced by disabled members of the IP profession is the stigma associated with disability. Although an employer can do its best to dispel stigma, external influences may mean that some with disabled employees may not want to draw attention to a disability by requesting equipment or working arrangements that differ from those available to other employees. Hence employers can help accommodate disabled employees by offering all employees workplace adjustments and flexible working arrangements, not just the employees who identify as disabled.

IP Ability have been approached by employers asking what they can do to help support disabled employees. Francesca explained that making sure policies related to disability and workplace adjustments are readily available can help since then employees can obtain guidance before deciding whether to talk to their employer. Workplace adjustments are to the benefit of employers as well as employees and can often be provided at a relatively low cost.


AA Thornton recognise the value of diversity and inclusion with an internal committee that arrange regular talks and publicise external diversity and inclusion events. AA Thornton also ensure that their Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy is easily accessible and provide support to all employees on a wide range of issues through an Employee Assistance Programme. You can read more about some of our efforts here.


Category: Latest Insights | Author: Marianne Privett | Published: | Read more