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Catching up with the COVID-19 Cohort

August 5, 2022

In 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic started, and life transitioned almost fully to the online sphere, a lot of individuals seized the opportunity to build their intellectual property (IP) knowledge and skills. In response to this shift, the WIPO Academy enhanced its support and flexibility to all participants across its offerings, including the Joint Master’s Degree Programs.

As the pandemic pushed the world to the online sphere, the Master of Laws (LL.M.) in IP, jointly offered by the WIPO Academy and the University of Turin, with the support of the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (ITC-ILO) moved online as well to allow the 29 students who could not attend physically to follow the lessons remotely. Seven students still came to the University of Turin to complete the residential phase of the program in-person despite the lockdowns. The program underwent significant flexibilities to accommodate the needs of all students despite the circumstances by recording all lectures for students to follow asynchronously in different time zones, providing flexible online office hours for all lecturers, and adding a new phase in between the distance learning portion and the residential period of the program. The new phase included online lectures by WIPO experts that were dedicated to scholarly readings and research methodology.

Two members of the first cohort of students who undertook a hybrid edition of the LL.M. in IP are sharing their experiences from this exceptional experience with the Academy. Faridah Saliu-Bello (from Nigeria) and Kostiantyn Danko (from Ukraine) graduated in August 2021 and are now helping to shape and influence the field of IP in their respective countries.

Faridah Saliu-Bello

Faridah was the only non-European student who physically attended the classes at the University of Turin during the pandemic. She sought the in-person experience because she was yearning to meet people and socialize after enduring the first lockdowns in Nigeria.

We were a very small group of students, but we became really good friends, because everyone had common interests and we helped each other out a lot both academically and professionally.

Faridah Saliu-Bello, WIPO Academy alumna
Faridah with fellow students
Faridah with fellow students who physically attended classes at the ILO Campus Torino, with Cristina Marullo (far right), the LL.M. administrative coordinator. (Photo: Massimiliano Tiberio)

Before enrolling in the LL.M. in IP, Faridah was an IP professional having worked as an IP associate at a law firm focusing on matters pertaining to registrations, legal advisory, licensing and franchising in Nigeria. She was first introduced to IP during her undergraduate studies in law at the University of Surrey, when she took part in an elective IP course during her final year. Upon completing the course, Faridah realized that the subject perfectly merges her passions for innovation and creativity. She was also encouraged to apply for the LL.M. in IP by her previous supervisor at the law firm, Chinasa Uwanna, an alumna of the program having graduated in 2018.

Faridah at the Intesa Sanpaolo building in Turin
Faridah at the Intesa Sanpaolo building in Turin. (Photo: Faridah Saliu-Bello)

Nothing beats access to the WIPO Academy’s network, it really can open doors and create opportunities for you.

Faridah Saliu-Bello, WIPO Academy alumna
Faridah biking
Faridah enjoying her latest hobby, biking.
(Photo: Andrea Demauro)

Since graduating, Faridah has been working as the IP advisor of the Nigerian Office of MTN, a career move she credits to the LL.M., and in the future she plans to continue building a career in the field of IP and technology in Africa.

The LL.M. gave me a competitive edge over other candidates because of the international experience and the fact that my IP knowledge encompasses a global perspective which is needed for the role. In my day-to-day work, the knowledge I gained about the international IP regulatory landscape like the PCT, through the program is key in enabling me to assess the ownership and value of a patent, which is an essential step in helping MTN maintain its position as a pacesetter in Nigeria and Africa. Eventually, I want to be at the forefront of policy in Africa that favors locally-grown technology, which can incentivize innovation and enhance the future of the region.

Faridah Saliu-Bello, WIPO Academy alumna

In her free time, Faridah enjoys biking, which is another skill she learned during her time in Turin.

Kostiantyn Danko

Kostiantyn is a Ukrainian aerospace engineer with three patents granted in 2010 for innovations that help increase the lifespan of a gas turbine engine, who decided to reorient his career towards IP law. He first realized the importance of IP to engineers, innovators, and researchers at the National Aerospace University ‘Kharkiv Aviation Institute’, when investors visited its annual invention fair, “KhAI Innovate”, and expressed interest in commercializing his work. This experience pushed him to learn more about IP, technology transfer, and good examples of university IP policies that he could replicate at his university to regulate the rights of researchers.

Kostiantyn with the organizing team at KhAI Innovate
Kostiantyn with the organizing team at KhAI Innovate. (Photo: Oleksii Lynnyk)

During his research, Kostiantyn came across the WIPO website and discovered the WIPO Academy’s IP higher education offerings. He decided to apply for the LL.M. in IP and was delighted to be accepted with a scholarship. Kostiantyn followed the LL.M. in IP program remotely given the sanitary restrictions at the time.

The LLM was the best academic experience I have ever had because it was a multinational and multicultural group of students, and I wasn’t the only engineer in the program either!

Kostiantyn Danko, WIPO Academy alumnus
Kostiantyn studying remotely
Kostiantyn studying remotely. (Photo: Nadiia Morozova)

After completing the LL.M. in IP, Kostiantyn was invited by the Rector of Kharkiv Aviation Institute to take on the role of Dean for the university’s Department of International Communications and Student Training. As the Dean, Kostiantyn was tasked with fostering an innovation ecosystem, and he further improved on the university’s IP policy using the WIPO template. He ensured that the IP policy became more structured in assessing which inventions are patentable and which ones can be accepted as trade secrets or utility models, to facilitate the commercialization of university-based innovations. Kostiantyn continued to serve as Dean until February 2022 when the war broke out in Ukraine. He recently received his Master of Laws degree from V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University and intends to get a qualification in mediation as he believes it is an effective alternative to litigation of IP and technology disputes, and there are plans for an IP court to be established in Ukraine in the near future.

Even a pandemic should not get in the way of your dream of pursuing the LL.M. in IP, with perfectly organized distance learning and a flexible approach to the educational process, you can follow the program from anywhere in the world as long as you have access to the internet. This program gives you a powerful push that can allow you to make a quantum leap in your professional growth. Also, don’t forget to stay in touch after graduation, because the network you build is important and can provide you great support.

Kostiantyn Danko, WIPO Academy alumnus
Kostiantyn in an online negotiation during lockdown
Kostiantyn in an online negotiation with a potential licensee during the COVID-19 lockdown. (Photo: Leonid Lytvyn)

Interested in building your IP knowledge and skills?

The WIPO Academy offers year-long opportunities for those wishing to develop their IP knowledge and skills through its Professional Development Program, Distance Learning courses, Joint Master’s Programs and WIPO Summer Schools.

To learn from our alumni and their experiences, please connect to our growing alumni community on LinkedIn by joining the WIPO Academy’s official “Academy Community”.

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