Attorney, entrepreneur, expert in Intellectual Property, consultant, Special Advisor under President Clinton’s Administration…Charlene Flick surely wears a lot of hats! And she accepted to share with us her experience and to answer a few of my questions.
Charlene, you began your career as an attorney and specialized yourself in Intellectual Property (you served as Special Advisor for IP during President Clinton’s Administration). You are now, with Transcend 3D, advising companies in regards of 3D printing. You also founded “3D Printing Entrepreneurs Meetups” in NYC. How did you get involved with 3D printing for the first time?
Charlene: Well, it’s sort of a funny story. It was only about two years ago, really. I had heard a lot about this technology as it was already in the news, but it wasn’t until I decided to make a pet product for my rescue dog, Benelux (he’s a Belgian Schipperke), that I began to appreciate its potential.
Essentially, I had an idea and limited funds and couldn’t afford a mold made in China. And I really didn’t know how to even approach anyone in that country who could make me a mold. So then I thought, “What about that 3D Printing technology I’ve heard so much about?” With 3D Printing, I soon realized I could make my product locally cutting down expenses drastically and have the ability to create a one-off customized product for Benny if I so chose. As a global IP and technology attorney, this brave new world also intrigued me. Plus, I have a passion for design so I absolutely threw myself into this and I’ve really never looked back.
3D printing raises number of questions around Intellectual Property. Designers, brands and various companies are still wondering how their IP can be protected. As an expert of the IP question, how do you usually answer their concerns?
Charlene: As all good lawyers do, I answer with “it depends.” And it does, really. On the facts, on the uses, on the business objectives of the brands, on the desire of the part of the designer to give away his or her work for free and join the “sharing economy,” or to profit off of his or her investment, in which case it would behoove the designer to enforce his or her bundle of intellectual property rights.
But mostly, I reiterate what I wrote in an article for 3D Printing Industry Magazine last year — that content is the only constant in an ever-changing technological landscape. That the existing legal framework, while needing to be tweaked to accommodate such change, hasn’t gone out the window completely in modern times in the face of the gramophone, the player piano, the Internet or….I surmise…..3d printing. Everything old is new again.
During your career as an attorney, then as an IP expert, have you noticed some male-female disproportions?
Charlene: I went to a law school that had more women than men enrolled and was started by two women in the late 1800s. So many years ago when I surfaced as a newly-minted attorney, I was truly shocked at how few women there were at my first job with the FTC. And how few of them held positions of power.
But over the years, I have noticed the legal profession has most definitely become evenly split with respect to the ratio of male to female colleagues. Although, how many of those women hold positions of power even today is another issue.
As far as 3D Printing, I am most always the only woman in the room. The bulk of the people involved in this emerging profession seem to be engineers, and they seem to be skewed heavily male. That is why I am so thrilled you started this group, although I recognize it might even be hard to get a card game started with the number of women in the profession currently.
Could you share your personal experience as a female in this industry? Would you say it helps to be a woman in your industry?
Charlene: When I was first learning everything I could about 3D printing and attending every meeting I could think of (now, strangely, I speak at many of them), I was consistently not only the only woman in the room but the only lawyer. Most of my lawyer friends told me I was crazy for looking at this area altogether, so that’s how I knew I was on the right track. I’ve always had a knack for early adoption and even used the Internet in the late 1980s while at university. If had a nickel…….but I digress.
I attended one meeting where the discussion was about perfume bottles. One of the presenters said, “Forgive me, but women choose their perfumes based on the ornamentation of the bottle.” And he looked directly at me, as I was the only woman. I mentioned that just perhaps we chose the fragrance based on the scent, but it was interesting to be singled out that way.
Standing out can be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it, I guess. But from my experience thus far, being a woman working in 3D Printing does not go unnoticed.
As the founder of “3D Printing Entrepreneurs Meetups” and Transcend 3D, I am pretty sure you must meet with various entrepreneurs, sharing their projects and ideas. Is there any project in particular we should keep an eye on?
Charlene: Actually, I am working with a client now who I believe has all the right ingredients to finally shake up the home printing market. The company is called “New Matter” and they have created the “Mod-T,” which is an absolutely beautifully designed 3D printer — a rare animal, as you know — that will be priced under 400 US dollars. The price is right and I also like that they understand that a printer is nothing without content to print. “New Matter” is committed to creating a great marketplace of great designs that respects the IP of the designers should they choose to profit from their work.
So I am thrilled that the team at “New Matter” is collaborating with “Transcend 3D” and I think they would be an interesting company to follow.
I personally think there are more and more female decision-makers in companies, small or large. You are the perfect example of a female serial entrepreneur. Do you confirm there is an increase in female decision-makers in our industry?
Charlene: Well, I agree that there are definitely more female decision-makers in companies and in governments across the globe than there have been. But I think there is still a long way to go. The fact is that in 2015, women still experience discrimination in the workplace and are often not afforded the opportunities of their male counterparts.
There are extraordinary women with much to contribute to workplaces and societies across the globe. And if these women have the potential to cure diseases or lead countries down the right path or dream-up tomorrow and actually bring those dreams to fruition, then I look forward to having them by my side. I can’t imagine why other intelligent people wouldn’t share this view, value them, and compensate them accordingly.
Thank you Charlene for your involvement with Women in 3D Printing!
You can find more information about Charlene by reading her Bio.