Technology and Consumer Electronics Team of the Year: Apple
It goes without saying that 2017 was a successful year for Apple. Continually beating analyst estimates, the company’s stock rose 48.5% through the year and a range of new products – including the iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch 3 – were rolled out. Tasked with overseeing the company’s valuable brands are two internal legal teams, each with a distinct focus.
The trademark and copyright group is headed by Thomas LaPerle, director, legal and an Apple veteran for almost 19 years. His team is responsible for trademark clearance, prosecution, maintenance and policing worldwide – the latter in relation to both registry and marketplace infringement – is based in Sunnyvale, California and comprises around 20 staff. It also handles pre-litigation work, copyright registration work and related advice, copyright takedowns and Digital Millennium Copyright Act notices, social media work and domain name portfolio management. Meanwhile, a dedicated enforcement group – headed by director, IP enforcement (global) Scott Gelin and benefiting from staff in the United States, United Kingdom and China – focuses its activities on anti-counterfeiting and online marketplace enforcement.
Apple boasts a deep bench in terms of trademark expertise – in the 2018 edition of WTR 300: The World’s Leading Corporate Trademark Professionals, the company led the way with regard to the number of professionals listed – the Cupertino-based team enjoying seven inductees. However, even with this depth of experience, local law firm expertise is critical to the company’s success and – given the importance of sophisticated legal partners – Apple instructs counsel directly, rather than via another firm. As to why such an extensive network is necessary, one need only consider the sheer number of properties that the company oversees.
The Apple portfolio consists of around 70,000 assets, with the company a proactive user of the Madrid Protocol. According to the most recent WIPO statistics, Apple was one of the top 10 Madrid applicants in 2017 and the top US-based user – the system therefore enables the company to benefit from coverage around the globe.
Over the coming year, Apple products will likely continue to be the focus of infringers and the legal teams will no doubt be tasked with expanding the company’s rights – both geographically and in terms of new products and services. Thankfully, under LaPerle’s and Gelin’s guidance, they are well poised to meet these challenges head on.