Meet Rachel – our First Vice-President
A passion for trade mark law and a keenness to connect the IP profession globally demonstrate why Rachel Wilkinson-Duffy can be considered a perfect fit as our First Vice-President.
Her role has taken her around the world already, her journey started thanks to her colleagues and First Vice-President at the time Catherine Wolfe.
“I attended a ‘London Evening Meeting’ with my colleague Birgit Clark, very shortly after qualifying and was excited, and a little in awe, when she introduced me to Catherine”.
Rachel’s visible enthusiasm for trade marks lead to an invitation from Catherine to join to our Law and Practice Committee.
“It can be easy to take it for granted that changes just happen naturally” Rachel told us, “but when you start to get involved it is incredible how much influence associations such as CITMA have in shaping and influencing policy, not only in the UK, but internationally”.
Now the current chair for the Law and Practice Committee, and our First Vice-President, it seems Rachel has found a place to channel her passion for trade mark law.
Igniting the spark
Rachel joined CITMA as a Student member in 2004 while she was working as a legal secretary for a small trade mark firm.
As her interest in trade marks began to develop, Rachel’s trade mark attorney colleagues encouraged her to take the foundation papers.
“I still have a vivid memory of our formalities manager trying to explain to me that copyright was not quite the same thing as trade marks and that "Community CTMs" in letter subject lines was not correct.
Rachel laughs at herself when she begins to get indignant about others making similar mistakes.
Rachel qualified in 2007 and is now Of Counsel at Baker McKenzie, advising on all aspects of trade mark and design protection and enforcement.
Prior to being elected as our First Vice-President, Rachel served as our Second Vice-President and Treasurer for two-years.
Aside from her love for law and practice, Rachel enjoys meeting and working with a variety of different people from all over the world.
“I really enjoy working with the wide range of volunteers, from those who are more seasoned and provide a wealth of knowledge and insight into the history of our profession to those just starting to become engaged and bring a fresh perspective to the committees and working groups”.
On her first visit to Beijing for the UK-China IP Symposium, Rachel was particularly impressed by Baroness Neville-Rolfe who had only just taken on the role of Minister for IP.
“She was not just holding her own, but already knowledgeably leading very high-level discussions with delegates with decades of IP experience. Not a woman to underestimate!”
Travelling around the world and meeting influential people are a few highlights that come to mind when Rachel reflects on her favourite memories.
“Gosh, there have been so many!” Rachel remarked.
It’s not all just serious IP work according to Rachel. She shared that she has been able to network with key players in the profession including the UK IPO and British Embassy staff, as well as CIPA representatives in exciting places.
“I remember a particularly good evening with Gwilym Roberts of CIPA and Catherine Wolfe, who introduced me to the wonders of mapo dofu at a restaurant on Houhai Bar Street”.
Helping behind the scenes does require extra work and responsibilities, but it also comes with benefits like travelling the world, meeting new people and making an impact within the profession.
Covid-19 and Brexit have presented a whole new set of challenges to the profession, but Rachel believes hard work and determination will get us over the line.
“I am confident that continued hard work and dedication from the working groups and committees will help pull us through in the end” Rachel shared.
The speed and the efficiency in which we have taken on the various challenges of Brexit is something Rachel is proud of.
“I felt very proud that CITMA was able to assist the UK IPO and government with formulating their approach to the maintained protection of registered and unregistered IP rights”.
At the end of this year, the UK is due to complete the transition period following formally exiting the EU earlier this year. This will bring significant changes to the intellectual property profession.
The contentious aspects of the Chartered Trade Mark Attorney profession and the increased UK work post-Brexit will no doubt result in more dispute work before the UK IPO.
In line with her passion for law and practice, this is something Rachel is particularly interested in. It is clear Rachel recognises what this means for the profession and is already thinking about how she can support our members.
“I would like to focus on supporting Richard Goddard in ensuring our members are provided with the support they need to fully embrace the new opportunities this will offer”.
CITMA President, Richard Goddard, and Rachel have worked together for a number of years.
“I have had the pleasure of working together with Richard for a number of years now and I know he is going to do an exemplary job in bringing CITMA through the challenges of Brexit and the COVID-19 crisis during his term”.
Everyone loves a volunteer
A benefit of helping behind the scenes is have the opportunity to work with a wide range of people.
We asked Rachel what advice she has for anyone thinking of joining a committee or working group.
“Put your hand up for tasks and don't be afraid to speak up. Everyone loves a volunteer and I think the best way to start is often by just throwing yourself into the deep end”.
“My first Law and Practice Committee meeting was admittedly a little scary, as I felt very much like the baby in the room surrounded by experienced committee members”.
But Rachel quickly learnt that “there were no ‘stupid’ questions” and said she felt welcomed and included right from the start.
“I have absolutely found the old cliché true that you get back what you put in, so if you don't properly engage you are not going to get the same experience from it”.
Rachel has already made an impact. We’re looking forward to seeing what she does next.