By Trevor Little
April 24 2012
The latest edition of World Trademark Review presents analysis of this year’s Global Trademark Benchmarking Survey. While there are a number of positives to take away from the findings, corporate awareness of trademarks remains a problem for many in-house teams.
Research for The Global Trademark Benchmarking Survey, conducted jointly by WTR and the IP Solutions business of Thomson Reuters, was conducted across February and March 2012. The survey form was sent to leading trademark practitioners across the world, both in-house and in private practice, and 832 individuals responded.
In 2011 16.3% of in-house respondents stated that, across their entire organisation, awareness of the importance and value of the company's trademarks was low. The figure this year was slightly up, at 17.5%. At the same time, the number of respondents boasting high corporate awareness plummeted by more than 12% (to 23.8%).
At a time when IP is grabbing mainstream media headlines like never before, the finding is an interesting one. A number of factors are identified as contributing to this picture (including lack of engagement by senior management), but the most prevalent has been the budgetary pressures teams are faced with. When resources are tight, they are naturally deployed at fighting infringement and co-ordinating the protection of a company’s IP assets – the lack of budget, staff and time to engage in enterprise-wide education efforts was cited by 39.7% of in-house respondents. Worryingly, 7.1% identified a hostile corporate culture with regards to trademarks.
As a result, alternative techniques for raising the profile of trademarks become necessary. One such could be working with other IP colleagues more closely. The second most cited reason for lack of trademark awareness was the perceived position of trademarks within the IP hierarchy. As patents are inextricably intertwined with R&D spend, and so potentially influential to the bottom line, they naturally command the attention of senior management.
However, trademark counsel can exploit the greater visibility of patents to their advantage, as International Trademark Association president Gregg Marrazzo outlines when explaining how things work at The Estée Lauder Companies, where he is senior vice president and deputy general counsel: “If you are at the early stages in an idea, you may get the patent people in to see whether there are any patent issues or opportunities. And then, because we are an integrated department, we will know about it and be able to get the trademark team involved.”
While the survey results suggest that resources are now being clawed back by trademark teams, the emphasis on external activities is likely to continue in the short term, meaning the struggle to create wider corporate awareness of the role trademarks play goes on.
WTR subscribers can access the full analysis of the survey findings here.
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