director general I have always put a lot of emphasis on
international cooperation,” she says.
In addition to serving as the vice-chair of the
European Patent Office’s administrative council,
Erlingsdóttir is the chairman of the board of the
Nordic Patent Institute.
Erlingsdóttir sees massive opportunities for ISIPO
at a time when Iceland’s economy is at a turning
point, drawing on its old industries to drive
“Traditionally, the Icelandic economy was
almost entirely dependent on natural resources,
but we are starting to see the massive potential for
sustainable growth through innovation and IP,”
The transformation of the country’s fisheries
sector into an IP industry is a perfect example.
Alongside creating innovative solutions to create
more value from each fish caught, the sector has
created a side industry in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics
and biotech, which creates value from what was
previously considered waste. The IP industries
and sustainability are growing hand-in-hand, says
She is aware of the challenges facing the ISIPO,
challenges that mirror those facing larger IP offices
Rapid technological and sociological changes such
as those currently seen are posing some fundamental
questions about the nature of IP and IP ownership,
At the same time, these changes are affecting
the way IP offices examine, provide services and
communicate. Although the developments provide
tools to increase efficiency in examination, increased
demands and customer needs mean IP offices need to
change their approach.
“We need to be faster. We need to keep the process
simple. We need to keep up and continuously
improve quality. We need to provide services that
are in line with the needs of innovators today. We
also need to find new ways to reach and engage with
“We cannot just sit and wait for companies to
come to us. We need to be proactive and maintain a
close connection to our stakeholders to help them
protect their IP,” warns Erlingsdóttir.
These are exciting challenges for all IP offices,
national and international, and very interesting times
for the IP community, she says.
In some ways, IP offices are being forced to
rethink their roles. Erlingsdóttir adds that we must
all consider the whole innovation process and how it
creates value for companies and society.
After all, the reason IP offices do what they do is to
help companies create value for society, she explains,
adding: “We need to see ourselves as an important
chain in the innovation link.” l
Erlingsdóttir believes this quotation should
resonate with all girls and women, whether in art or
Erlingsdóttir’s own journey didn’t begin in IP—
she started out studying architecture but soon her
interest gravitated toward law, in particular IP law
which fascinated her right away.
“I knew exactly which side of the table I wanted to
be on. I wanted to be involved in the fast-changing
world of IP and affect it on a policy level,” she says.
“There were opportunities in the private and public
sectors but I knew where my journey would lead.”
When a job opened at the Icelandic Patent Office
(as it was then known), Erlingsdóttir was determined.
“There were a lot of applications, but I showed up
with my thesis thinking to myself: ‘I will get this job.’
And I did.”
Erlingsdóttir took a year off to study an LLM in
law, science and technology at Stanford University
and, when she was returning to Iceland, the position
of director general was available.
“I am always open to new challenges and ways to
make my, and Iceland’s, voice heard in IP matters. As
WIPR Influential Women in IP 2020
will equip us
better to find
are facing in a