Episode 9 in Season 2 of the Cipher Vision Podcast series
features Mike Binns and Braxton Davis, both Associate General Councel
Mike and Braxton shared with us their experience pioneering DEI
in the workplace and the current initiatives that they are working
on, including ADAPT and The NCPP.
They chat to the hosts of the Cipher Vision podcast, who are:
Entering the world of IP and overcoming
I worked for General Electric and decided that in a couple of
years, I wanted to go to law school and part of the reason for that
was after experiencing racial profiling on several occasions with
police and some negative experiences and contacting attorneys who
essentially said, Well, you know, we see police get off from
beating people all the time. So unless you have time and money to
fight a case, you know, it’s probably not going to be worth it.
And that was just very disheartening for me.
I began by thinking about, you know, how can I protect myself?
How can I protect my family, as a black male here in America? And
so I said, well, the next best thing I could do is go to law school
and learn my rights.
So I then took the Patent Bar and was gung ho about patent law
and enrolled in law school and was ready to take on the world, only
to get to law school and realise that it actually didn’t
prepare me for the task at hand of being a patent practitioner, for
drafting and prosecuting patent applications.
And so that’s essentially what led me on this course to
begin training, which later became a national councel on patent
practicum, with a real focus on getting more diversity within the
profession, whether it’s women, underrepresented minorities,
and really trying to do something about that, because that’s a
big part of what’s occurring within our profession right
I went back and studied and realised that there was this entire
world called patent law out there, where innovation meets the law,
and you effectively get to protect IP on behalf of innovators. In
my mind I am someone who loved innovation and technology was blown
at that point.
But law was even something that I had not intended to go
through, you know, I am from a Caribbean background, I was born in
Jamaica, West Indies.
I think that’s kind of part of the problem that we’re
looking to address is so many minorities, not just African American
men, or women, but I think minorities generally don’t often
hear lawyer as a profession, and less so patent law, which is this
entire field, within intellectual property.
On who currently Mike’s up
My name is Mike Binns, I love my name. I grew up in the 90s. So
I am a big fan of Mike Jackson, Mike Tyson, Mike Jordan, love my
name had a lot of pride in it. Statistically speaking, there are
more Michaels in the patent profession of roughly 90,000 in
existence, then there are racially diverse women. This is the one
time where my namesake kind of is negative, right?
The need to walk the walk
If you’re going to mandate something, then you need to be
doing those things yourself. And that’s really one of the
things that I think Meta has been great at. But it all boils down
to just really being intentional about it, and giving people
opportunities that they may not be privy to otherwise.
It’s not about targets. And let me explain why we don’t
focus on targets. Unfortunately, when you’re thinking about
DEI, when you lock in on a target, people often when they reach
that target tend to go a few, and then it stops, right? Then you
end up with this artificial number that’s articulated to
And while perhaps well intended, misses the mark of the purpose
of diversity, which is to bring diversity of thought, cognitive
differences, and various backgrounds and understanding together so
that you can create a better solution to not only the work that we
do day in and day out, but to further support the mission of the
And so it’s not about a data set. It’s just about a
mindset of saying, Where are we missing diversity of thought?
Our team is 67%, black, indigenous and people of colour, 48%
female, and our most senior leaders are half female, and all people
of colour. When we look out at the business units that we support,
we’re starting to emulate those numbers as well.
The personal impact of working in a diverse
We’re starting to see that each of those individuals can see
in us a similarity, which boosts relationships, boosts an
understanding of who they can come and connect with. And lastly, it
boosts that connection, right, which in Meta is extremely important, because it’s
a part of our mission.
It truly does make a difference. When you look across the room
and you see somebody who looks like you, and you know that
they’ve experienced some of the same problems that you have and
had to overcome some of the same barriers and hurdles.
It makes for a more perfect bond, a better camaraderie. And so
that’s very impactful, especially coming from an industry where
traditionally you walk into a room and absolutely no one looks like
It means a world of difference when it comes to your
professional aptitude, how you perform, how you feel about your
responsibilities and your day to day job.
On forging a new IP path
We’ve taken a different approach than law firms have
traditionally, right? In an industry where only 5% of attorneys are
even African American. Is there a pool of patent practitioners,
when only even a smaller percentage of that 5% is going to be able
to apply by virtue of the fact that they don’t have a science
or engineering degree?
And so the approach that we take that is unique to patent law,
specifically, is that we target engineers and scientists at that
phase where they’re at undergrad or recent graduates, because
that’s where you’ll get more impact and more magnitude from
a diversity perspective, right? You don’t have to go to law
school to be a Patent Agent.
We provide them the resources for the training and support that
they need to actually become technical specialists and patent
agents go to work for a firm which then also increases their
eligibility and potential for going to law school, not to mention
the support and outreach that we received from various scholarships
and law firms who are looking to support diverse candidates who are
technical specialists and patent agents to go to law school.
And this is what NCPP has done, to put that myth that, you
can’t find anybody, you can’t find diverse candidates, you
can’t train candidates to bet. We do the recruiting, we do the
training. And so we cut straight to the chase and get rid of all of
those excuses from the top.
How can IP teams get involved?
We formed a coalition called ADAPT, Advancing Diversity Across Patent Teams.
You can check us out at www.adapt.legal, the website is live and
it’s all going to culminate on September 28 2022, as a part of
LOT bridge, and a day of DEI call to
The focus of ADAPT is pretty simple. Increase accessibility,
create a database of information to help accelerate adoption of DEI
programmes by more companies to provide mentorship so that we can
create a programme to support diverse patent professionals through
a law school and an early stages of their career as Braxton
mentioned before they approach law school and lastly, technology,
track and published industry DEI statistics, that standardise DEI
reporting across the industry.
And this initiative was not just a partnership from Meta, but it was across collaboration with Google, Microsoft, Amazon, The Walt
Disney Company and Cruise. And I’m honoured to say that when
we launched and announced the initiative that several other
companies have reached out to say we’d love to be a part of
this and for other companies to join.
So you too, can jump into promoting diversity, equity and
inclusion in the space.
On diversity amongst inventors
We realise that there is actually disparity amongst minority and
underrepresented inventors as well. Traditionally, they do not own
as many patents as let’s say, their non minority
For us, particularly specifically at Meta, we’ve taken the approach of engaging
individuals, and beginning certain initiatives that will get to the
help get to the root of that problem, and really looking for
diverse inventors and looking to give them the resources and
support that they need to actually become the owner of a patent or
the inventor on a patent application which can change their
Increasing gender inclusivity
Braxton and I are both in Atlanta, Georgia, in the US, and it
resonates with us that the founder of Spanx is Sara Blakely. When
she came up with the innovative idea for Spanx, she embarked on a
journey to find a patent attorney in Atlanta that could represent
She only found Caucasian men as practitioners. And each one of
them declined to represent her most likely because they
misconstrued Spanx as being another pantyhose.
But the reality is it wasn’t until one of the attorneys
daughters overheard the concept and said, Dad, that’s
completely different, that that attorney was able to then assist
Sara Blakely in drafting the claims and application.
Sara Blakely was able to sell her company in 2021 for $1.2
What has that done for her, her family and the future of not
only herself, but the individuals that work in our company, right?
It changes lives.
And so that’s why it’s important to see a practitioner
on the other side that looks like you because they understand the
idea the innovation.
If we’re not actively engaging with diverse individuals who
have diverse problems, to create diverse solutions, well, then
we’re missing out as a society on tonnes and tonnes of relevant
ideas that can catapult us into the future.
Braxton’s key takeaway
The thing for us is really engaging with more international
practitioners, with more international vendors and understanding
their problems and trying to help them as well.
To get involved with us is not hard. Go to the website, the ncpp.org. Click
on the DEI tab, take the patent pipeline pledge and join us in trying to
change the industry forever.
Mike’s key takeaway
DEI can seem overwhelming when you start to consider the bias
and discrimination that marginalised communities face on a daily
basis. But truly, together, we can address the innovation
If we one recognise that we should not treat DNI, the separate
initiative from our jobs. It’s got to be a part of what we do,
and why we do what we do, too.
We need to continuously evaluate and measure whether our efforts
are addressing the problem. If we don’t see meaningful change,
then perhaps we should reevaluate.
And lastly, we need to build a community of committed allies. Cipher, the NCPP, ADAPT, all programmes are looking to work
together to pull in the same direction. And I’m confident that
we can see change in that regard.
Nigel’s Key takeaway
Braxton and Mike are phenomenal individuals, they are driven and
ambitious, so destined for individual success. But you’re
encouraged to look beyond this to what they strive to achieve,
diversity and inclusion.
This is a multi dimensional problem and one which matters. And
many other companies that support NCPP, ADAPT and the
diversity pledge are attacking from all directions.
As with all our conversations on Cipher Vision, we should start
with why. Of course this has a social dimension, but it’s also
rooted in economics. The future depends on technology and
innovation. This requires the very best talent to be attracted to
science and technology and the intellectual property rights that
protect the associated investment.
The reality that the IP profession is not harnessing this
potential on grounds of gender or race is economic negligence.
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