Black History Month IPIC Member Spotlight - Tony Sabeta
In celebration of Black History Month in February, IPIC has developed a spotlight series featuring BIPOC leaders within the IP profession. These spotlights help to highlight the significant contributions BIPOC professionals have made to the IP industry and to inspire the next generation of IP leaders. The following spotlight features IPIC member Tony Sabeta, Partner / Patent Agent, Aird & McBurney LP.
Tony Sabeta is a Partner / Patent Agent and Director of the Startups Group at Aird & McBurney LP, Toronto, Canada. He has over two decades of experience counseling innovative early-stage technology companies and working closely with them to develop successful patent and comprehensive IP strategies that maximize patent protection for their lead products and position them for successful exits. Tony’s practice is focused on patent preparation and prosecution in the following technological fields: computer architecture, computer software, digital circuits, telecommunications systems, blockchain technology, machine learning, medical and diagnostic devices. He is also experienced with investor-side and company-side IP due diligence, as well as conducting studies regarding patentability, patent validity, patent infringement and freedom-to-operate/product clearance.
Tony is a member of the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee.
Why is equality, diversity, and inclusion important to the IP profession?
I would like to answer that with a question: Why would anyone not want to work in a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace? Most young IP professionals consider diversity an important factor when considering firms, or companies, and job offers, so an inclusive workplace has the potential to attract and retain top talent from all walks of life. In addition, research has shown that a heterogeneous workforce is more productive, creative, innovative and financially successful than a homogeneous one. While most workplaces, including law firms, have made progress on diversity, equity and inclusion in recent years, more work still needs to be done.
Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?
I would have to say that my proudest accomplishment is non-work related. Raising three well-rounded, adventurous, self-sufficient, and bright children with my amazing wife would be it.
On the professional side of things, about 10 years into my IP career, having worked at two top Bay Street firms, in-house at a medical device company and at a global telecom company, I hung out my shingle with only a single client. Over a period of 5 years, I steadily built up my client base and book of business through attending countless networking events, IP conferences, tradeshows, speaking engagements, sponsoring events and referrals. Many lessons were learned on that journey including: persistence, resilience, work ethic skills, business development, building relationships and gratitude, and these lessons serve me well in my current position.
What advice would you give to those who are just joining our association as they look to advance their careers?
I would advise those joining the profession, especially young practitioners, to seek a mentor. Early on in my IP career I was fortunate to have an awesome mentor who helped me develop strategies for advancing my career, and taught me soft skills that I continue to use to this day. IPIC has a roster of mentors who are eager to help, so new members should avail themselves of this service.
I would also encourage new members to join one of IPIC’s 23 committees, it is one of the best ways to connect with and build stronger relationships with peers, and contribute to the growth and future success of the association.
What will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of BIPOC leaders in the IP profession?
I believe the biggest challenge remains “representation”. For example, if you look at Black representation in the IP profession, in 2022, I can count the total number of registered patent agents in Canada on two hands (with three fingers to spare). The next-gen BIPOC leaders will have to recruit, retain, advance and promote BIPOC candidates into leadership positions. This will require them to seek out allies, diversity champions, working towards that goal.
How has your background/influences brought you to this position, and what made you want to volunteer for IPIC?
From an early age, I have always been fascinated by technology, and curious about out how things worked. Growing up in the ‘80s, I used to go to my friend’s house after school, and there would be IEEE Spectrum magazines laying around. I would pore over various articles about designs of the Commodore 64-kilobyte home computer, futuristic newspaper-fetching robots, and early specifications for high-definition television (HDTV). His brother was an electrical engineer, young, and Black like me. He was happy to explain these technologies and concepts at a level I could understand, and he inspired me to study electrical engineering in university. Back then, young Black potential engineers had few role models that looked like them, and/or came from similar backgrounds, that they could emulate, and so representation in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields really matters, even today. As a patent agent I get to be on the forefront of technology, and help clients protect some of their most important inventions - nothing could be more exciting and fulfilling than that.
Volunteering as an instructor for the IPIC Patent Agent Training Course, and as an IPIC mentor, has given me an opportunity to pay it forward, and hopefully my contribution is as impactful as what I received as a mentee.
 The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers