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Celebrating the brilliance of women entrepreneurs on World IP Day
24 April 2018 by Matthew Shaw

Setting out to raise awareness of the importance of trademarks and patents, World Intellectual Property Day on April 26th is dedicated this year to women entrepreneurs. Having helped two committed UK female innovators pick their way through the legal maze and grow internationally, IP specialist Forresters is well qualified to contribute to the debate.

Ruth Amos and Vanessa Fairfax began their respective businesses with a pioneering idea, and from UK beginnings are now seeing their brands spreading to other countries.

Starting life as an idea within a GCSE project in Sheffield, Ruth's patented StairSteady aid acts as firm but moving support for walking up or down stairs, helping people maintain independence in their own homes. Among other awards, Ruth has been named 'Young Engineer for Great Britain' while StairSteady was awarded 'Best Established Product' by the British Healthcare Trade Association in 2013. Today, it is used by a wide range of people, from the elderly and infirm through to people who are recovering from strokes, head injuries and chemotherapy.

Inspired by her time competing as an international showjumper, Vanessa Fairfax launched Fairfax Saddles, dedicated to the development of scientifically proven equestrian equipment. Developed with Olympic riders including Spencer Wilton, Kitty King and Australian triple Olympic gold medalist Andrew Hoy, their range of patented products include the Performance Girth, which was described by 'Horse & Hound' magazine as 'Team GBR's secret weapon' at the London 2012 Olympics.

Ruth and Vanessa quickly came to appreciate the benefit of IP. For Ruth, it was the key to gaining credibility. "Once I had a patent pending, people were much more inclined to take me seriously". For Vanessa IP provided protection. "Sadly, whenever there's a great idea, there's always someone who will want to copy it and sell the idea as their own. This is why game-changing designs and inventions such as ours are protected by patents."

A leading firm of patent and trade mark attorneys, Forresters helped both women develop and expand their businesses beyond the UK borders. "They advised licensing StairSteady in Europe, America and Canada, which gave me a secure and easy way to open up new markets" says Ruth. "Without doubt, Forresters helped accelerate the whole process and made life a lot easier." For Vanessa, the benefit lay in peace of mind. "A specialist like Forresters can nail down the process and give your protection a proper structure, making sure there are no loopholes and you're fully protected in all markets."

For the Forresters team, it has been immensely rewarding to watch these two women embrace IP and enjoy the rewards. Says Forresters' Dr Mark Connell who worked closely with Ruth: "Ruth was only 15 when she first thought of StairSteady. Watching her and her business grow has been an exhilarating journey, and an inspiration to us all." It has been a similar experience for Dr Jagvir Purewal who has represented Vanessa. "I have found Vanessa's innovative ideas very engaging and impressive for what can be a crowded field. The success of her products has been no surprise to me, and I'm delighted to have played a part in it."

Though both Ruth and Vanessa are keen to promote women in business, neither regards gender as a barrier to success. "Things like that shouldn't stop anyone, from any background," says Ruth. "I've met some amazing women in business. I'd just like to encourage more." Vanessa agrees: "Today there's absolutely no reason gender should make any difference. My advice to women is just to get stuck in." 

They also agree that World Intellectual Property Day is an important event in the calendar. Says Ruth: "It's taking place right off the back of International Women's Day, so we can bring IP and women entrepreneurs to the forefront of people's minds." Vanessa is an equally big advocate. "It's good to highlight that women are out there, making a big creative contribution. As IP has a big role to play, it's right that it's gaining wider recognition."

For more information on the range of IP services from Forresters - which itself has four female partners as part of a workforce that's 41% female - visit www.forresters.co.uk

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