Friday, March 23, 2007

AU’s Washington College of Law, 4th Annual IP/Gender Symposium

Introductory remarks by Margaret Jane Radin, Princeton University: She was always uncomfortable with “Women and the Law,” thinking that gender issues should be broadly integrated into the curriculum. Today, the “Unmapped Connections” between gender & IP may be more mapped than when this symposium started, but there are still many exciting insights to come.

Five areas explored by today’s papers: (1) IP and the feminist approach to law teaching/gender in the curriculum. (2) IP and feminist cultural iconography – the cultural reification of “femininity” and the propertization that undergirds the gender heirarchy. Trademark is particularly on point in cultural iconography. Mattel has contributed, perhaps unwittingly, to a lot of feminist analysis.

(3) IP as it affects women in traditional societies and developing countries, because of their existing position – a potential for disempowerment as well as empowerment. Many modes of women’s creativity don’t lend themselves to individualistic identification of sole authors. (4) An unmapped field: IP and women’s modes of perception and communication. Do women actually have different modes of thought and creativity? If so, is it cultural? Neurological? Should we care? Anonymous creation isn’t eligible for IP in current forms. IP’s emphasis on the visual could also affect the gender of IP rights.

(5) IP and feminist philosophical methodology – individualistic “versus” relational, logic “versus” narrative, and so forth. Radin thinks that feminist philosophy is related to the American pragmatists like Dewey. If we talk about IP this way, we start to question concepts like “the author” versus cooperative creation, PHOSITA, “the invention” in an inventor’s head versus cooperative evolving innovation. Questions of “plain meaning” of statutory text in patent law also have gender implications.

Finally, these papers reflect feminist political activism – consciousness-raising, community-building, inclusion rather than exclusion.

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