Household & Consumer Goods Team of the Year: ZWILLING J A Henckels
The team at ZWILLING J A Henckels AG has the distinction of protecting one of the oldest existing trademarks in the world – ZWILLING was first registered with the Solingen Cutler’s Guild in 1731. As the German manufacturer of cutlery, cookware and beauty tools has grown over the years, it has amassed an IP portfolio comprising approximately 2,500 trademarks, 50 patents and 270 designs.
The IP team is part of the legal department and consists of four professionals, each dealing with various IP rights as well as IP-related aspects of contracts, licences and competition law. Carsten Schaal heads up the IP department, which provides advisory and consultancy services to group companies worldwide. Despite the group’s devolved corporate framework, the team collaborates seamlessly with all parts of the organisation, as Schaal explains: “The ZWILLING Group is structured in a decentralised form, with independent legal entities in its core markets. However, IP-related matters and the general focus are operated by the headquarters in Solingen. There is a very close relationship to the board and the marketing department, with fast decision making due to a flat hierarchy.”
Throughout the ZWILLING group’s history, many new brands have been integrated into its portfolios worldwide. “It is the team’s challenge,” says Schaal, “to ensure complete and international market-based IP protection and enforcement.” On the filing side, Sabine Vischer-Kippenhahn, head of trademarks, suggests that the key to success is “accepting the difference in legal systems all over the world and adapting one’s strategy to the needs of the markets in accordance with the legal system”.
For a compact team serving many different legal entities in different markets, strong relationships are essential to maintaining a robust enforcement stance. A commitment to keeping pace with evolving market situations and “trustworthy communication at eye level with external legal consultants worldwide” distinguish their approach, says Vischer-Kippenhahn: “We have a direct and positive working relationship not only with our colleagues in our independent entities all over the world, but also with our lawyers in all the different countries.”
Like other industry players, ZWILLING is grappling with the ways in which technology has changed commerce in the household goods segment. “The fast development and evolution of the Internet, domains and online marketplaces make it much more difficult to safeguard the company’s trademarks and products,” Schaal acknowledges. “Therefore, the fight against counterfeits and the misuse of our trademarks and names will be a key future challenge in IP protection.”
The achievements of his team to date would suggest that it is ideally placed to take on these challenges. Schaal chalks it all up to the human element: “Our success is rooted in a combination of our professionals’ long-time experience in IP matters, a deep passion for our products and brands, and knowledge of a high-quality standard, as well as a true and profound team spirit.”
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