Special Feature: Get to Know IPLAC Chief DE&I Officer Atanu Das

Atanu Das founded the Diversity Equity & Inclusion (“DE&I”) Committee and, until last month, served as the Committee’s Chair.  He is now the Chief DE&I Officer, which is a new position within the IPLAC Board.  Atanu is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence and Law Professor at Loyola University School of Law, where he teaches several Intellectual Property Law courses and a course in Cyberlaw.  He has published law review articles on the intersection of Constitutional Law and Cyberlaw, and he is currently a practicing patent attorney at Guntin & Gust, specializing in patent prosecution and patent counseling.

Atanu’s membership with IPLAC goes back 15 years, to when he was drawn to the law association by the practical CLE incentives.  However, he has become much more involved in the last five years, as a result of noticing that there was a vacuum in terms of DE&I work in the IP world.  According to Atanu, “IPLAC has a rich history of being a very forward-thinking bar association and at the cutting edge.  A lot of leaders in the IP community were a part of IPLAC.  So, I thought IPLAC would be the best vehicle for pursuing broad DE&I changes.”  Learn more about Atanu’s journey to his current IPLAC role here.

A year ago, Atanu was looking for an avenue to not only pursue diversity education among our Members – which was the primary objective at the time – but to focus more on addressing systemic change within the IP community.  “I felt we needed a different type of role, and that’s why I approached the board a few months ago to create the Chief DE&I Officer board position.  Internally, I look at how IPLAC is addressing DE&I.  Externally, I look at how I can lead conversations with law firms, companies, and law schools to help promote DE&I issues in the IP community at large.  We try to create a coalition of law firms and client companies to foster systematic change in that area.  I think people are aware of what these issues are, but they don’t always understand how to address them.”  In his new role, Atanu works with IP leaders who would like to bridge that gap.

While there are several issues which compound into larger systemic problems, perhaps the easiest to wrap one’s head around is the “IP Pipeline”: “To take the Patent Bar, you need a STEM background.  As we know, historically in this country, this is an area that is pursued in a much lower proportional rate by women and certain groups of people of color.”  Atanu has tried to tackle this issue by working with undergraduate engineering groups, like the Society of Women Engineers, to encourage members to pursue careers in patent law or to become a patent agent.  But there are other ways to get around this issue: “If you want to increase people of color in patent law, you can recruit from historically black colleges and universities.  And you could recruit trademark and copyright attorneys who don’t need a scientific background.”

If you are looking to attend DE&I Committee events, keep an eye out for their regular book and film discussions every few months, as well as their CLE programming.

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