Reporting lines and team structure

Identifying exactly where the trademark function sits within the corporate structure is a natural way to begin our analysis. As the tables below show, a vast majority of in-house respondents – over 95% – state that the IP team reports to the head of legal, with 4% reporting to R&D.

This finding is perhaps no surprise – after all, the trademark function is largely legal in nature. But perhaps it should be a surprise that no respondents identified a direct reporting line to marketing. For many trademark teams (as will be noted later), marketing is the main business partner and the reporting lines could heighten tensions should legal be tasked with making decisions that affect marketing department plans. In some instances, this could place trademark counsel in a tricky spot.

Another notable finding is that nearly 20% of respondents say that the company’s head of intellectual property reports directly to the board or the CEO – with over 10% of heads of trademarks reporting to the upper brass too. Those that do are in an enviable position, as many trademark teams find it hard to attain senior management buy-in (again, more on that later).

In large part, though, the reporting line is head of trademarks to head of intellectual property to general counsel. This perhaps results in the often-cited siloing of the trademark function, where interaction with product development and finance is limited.

Of course, it is hard to change established reporting lines. However, this does provide important context when considering the struggle for trademark teams to break down barriers and engage with other internal stakeholders. In short, those barriers are structural as well as cultural.

Which division does the IP team report to (or is part of)?

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Which stakeholder does your company’s head of intellectual property report to?

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Which stakeholder does your company’s head of trademarks report to?

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Is there a clear separation of the trademark and patent functions in your company?

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Are IP employees integrated into operational divisions (eg, through a matrix system) or are they part of a centralised corporate function?

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Does your company’s trademark department have a clear separation by work type (eg, clearance, prosecution, enforcement)?

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Is your company’s trademark department separated in any other way?

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