In-house and private practice gurus offer words of wisdom for the next generation

This week WTR publishes its annual Global Leaders supplement, in which a select number of the trademark elite reflect on their professional journeys and offer insights and guidance into career development, practice management and trademark industry trends. 

In the final instalment of our series presenting key takeaways from these interviews, those at the top of their game – both in-house and private practice – pass on their hard-won knowledge to the new cohort of trademark lawyers coming up behind them.

Never get complacent

One of the traits that characterises stellar individuals is that they never consider resting on their laurels.I always tell my younger colleagues to be prudent and diligent in every task and to reflect and summarise from time to time,” counsels Chumeng (Jessica) Xu, a partner at JunHe LLP. “Also, it is critical to make studying a habit and to learn both the law and the practice. Finally, I would encourage young lawyers to keep their enthusiasm and passion for work and life: ‘Stay hungry, stay foolish!’”

Do not forget where you have come from

Today Kumpei Kogure is managing partner of the renowned BORDERS IP. However, he took the first steps on the path that would lead him there in the sales and marketing of a department store. “My advice for those considering a career change is to take a small step towards your new goal, and this should guide you to the right place. Your previous career will help you to make a difference and stay competitive.” With regard to founding your own firm, he advises those considering doing the same to keep faith with themselves. “When I started my firm from scratch, I had no clients and no guarantee of success. However, my previous clients and overseas friends kindly gave me new cases, and I gradually got busier, forgetting all the fears. I would say to those in the same situation that things will get a lot easier and do not worry too much. There is no formula to finding clients, but you can do that in your own way.”

Remember why you are doing this

As a field, the trademarks sector tends to appeal to people who love what they do and it is crucial to keep that passion alive. “Being a member of the trademark profession is a great privilege,” enthuses Mark Hiddleston, director of Hiddleston Trade Marks. “It is one of the most exciting and interesting professions. Be prepared never to know what will land on your desk when you come into the office each morning. Other than that, keep up to date with your knowledge of law and practice, be committed to the interests of your clients and work hard!”

The road less travelled can still lead to success

Another trait that many leaders in the trademark field have in common is that they forged their own career path. “I had actually spent my first few years working as a solicitor in the field of environmental law in New Zealand,” recalls Anna Olsen (nee Gibson), global director of intellectual property at Treasury Wine Estates, when considering what led her to a career in IP law. “However, when I went to Ireland in 2010, I managed to land a job working for Alistair Payne, who headed up the IP group at Matheson LLP in Dublin (and who is now a good friend of mine). Through that position I gained a broad range of experience working across both contentious and non-contentious IP matters and I have never looked back! To anyone considering a career in IP law, I say go for it. It is an exciting and dynamic area of the law that often allows you to work across multiple jurisdictions and to continue to develop your experience and knowledge in other fields, such as science or technology. It is also an increasingly important focus for both domestic and international companies as more and more assets and equity are tied up in IP rights, and a lot of the major challenges and opportunities that businesses face will be on an IP level.”

Grow your connections – especially the international ones

The global trademark community is a force to be reckoned with, so those who want to get ahead need to focus on making these links right from the start. “I would say choose a great place to learn and gather experience abroad,” muses ARNOLD RUESS partner, Peter Ruess. “And remember: the IP community is a very international, yet closely connected group. Get involved. Join INTA, the American Intellectual Property Law Association and the German Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property, to name just a few. If you are good (and fun), we will hire you.”

Free thinkers welcome

Those who have made it on the IP scene also share a tendency to think outside the box. “When I first heard the words ‘intellectual property’, it was like innovation itself,” recalls Christy Qingtao Chen, senior IP counsel at AkzoNobel. “The concept of protecting innovation is amazing and is what has led me to this career. If you are drawn to wacky ideas, technologies and fancy brands and wish to be at the forefront of tech and marketing innovation, then choose intellectual property as a career. It is an industry in which you will witness how humans explore new and unknown areas, how persistency and the passion for excellence drive people to innovate untiringly and how curiosity can be transformed into products that benefit our lives. I think that these precious values reflect the hopes of humankind.”

Spread the word

The trademark space is a fast-moving one in which to work, which means that those who are at the cutting edge have a responsibility to communicate developments to those in other areas. “I come from a country [Serbia] in which the protection and enforcement of IP rights was not as developed as it was in most European countries,” says Vladimir Marenovic, attorney at law at Zivko Mijatovic & Partners. “For me, it was all about the challenge. I had just graduated and started working in an area that many people at the time did not have a clue about. I will never forget one situation; I was less than 30 but had already been working in the IP field for several years when I received a call from a very experienced judge to discuss an IP issue that they had come across in proceedings not related to any of our firm’s clients. I realised then that my role is not only to contribute to the firm that I have been with for the past 15 years, but also to educate people about the importance of IP rights. My advice to younger practitioners is simple: do not just dream – dare to go after your dreams!”

WTR Global Leaders 2020 is published on 9 September. Other articles in this insight series include:

  • “Become business partners” and “prepare for the long game”: six tips for stakeholder buy-in and resource management? Read more here.
  • The six signs of an accomplished leader. Read more here.
  • “It is part salesmanship, part showmanship”: how to build a sturdy practice. Read more here.
  • Tips for obtaining well-known status in China. Read more here.
  • From classroom to boardroom: why practitioners must do more to raise IP awareness. Read more here.
  • “Never relax your guard” and “tailor your strategy”: the biggest challenges facing brands and how to overcome them. Read more here.
  • Five ways to beat the odds and protect your brand in Asia. Read more here.
  • Stakeholder buy-in, new AI tools and improved compensation: how to make change happen. Read more here.
  • “Brands must adapt or be eaten”: WTR best in class on fighting domain name abuse and online infringement. Read more here.
  • How to promote diversity and inclusion in the IP workplace. Read more here.
  • Top tips for a successful cross-border IP strategy (and partnership). Read more here.
  • “Brands will be more and more resource-challenged”: five predictions for the future of IP practice. Read more here.


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