Valuing the monarchy, a counterfeiting crackdown and avoiding brand backlashes: news round-up

In our latest news round-up we report on a new collaboration that aims to leave counterfeiters with “nowhere to hide”, examine Brand Finance’s research into the brand value of the British monarchy, assess the Office of the United States Trade Representative’s IP priorities in the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations and look at the communication challenge facing brands when partisan tensions are at an all-time high. Coverage this time from Trevor Little (TL), Adam Houldsworth (AH) and Timothy Au (TA).

Legal Radar:

ICE teams up with industry in counterfeiting crackdown – The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has announced it is joining forces with Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator industry representatives from an array of sectors, as well as IP enforcers across the federal government, to exchange intelligence and develop new strategies to tackle IP crime. Led by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (NIPRCC) recently held a symposium to strengthen collaboration among IP enforcement agencies and rights holders. Speaking at the event, Nick Annan, the acting director of the NIPRCC, declared: “The creation of collaborative innovative strategies between industry and law enforcement will ensure that counterfeiters have nowhere to hide.” (TA)

UAE government comes to an understanding with fashion council - The Dubai Design and Fashion Council (DDFC) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Arab Emirates. The memorandum strengthens the existing framework of cooperation around IP protection, which the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Economy for Economic Affairs described as “the cornerstone of the growth and sustainability of the creative industry”. Representing the DDFC, Dr Amina Al Rustamani celebrated the agreement as a sign of the emphasis being placed by the government and her own organisation on intellectual property. The enhanced cooperation on IP matters is set to include workshops and events aimed to promote the creative industries in the country. (AH)

Proposed compulsory drug licensing may boost significance of pharma brands in the Netherlands - The Dutch Council for Public Health and Society has recommended the use of compulsory licenses in the pharmaceuticals industry to ensure a reduction in drug prices. The recommendations follow a request made by former minister Edith Schippers, who expressed concern over the high costs of some new medicines. If implemented, the mandatory licensing of drug patents to rival pharma companies could have significance from a trademark point of view. Stripping pharma companies of the exclusive right to market their patented drugs, it could make life sciences innovators more dependent on brand recognition and strength to maintain market share. (AH)

Vietnam’s ‘Well-known trademarks’ project comes to a close – Nhan Dan has reported on a ceremony in Hanoi to announce the results of the ‘Well-known Trademarks’ project, carried out by the country’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) in collaboration with the International Trademark Association (INTA). The project’s aim was to research, aggregate and evaluate information on the challenges of implementing current Vietnamese legal provisions related to the recognition and protection of well-known marks. At the event, the Deputy Minister of the MoST emphasised that the protection and use of well-known trademarks remains an urgent requirement for businesses and that trademark owners should have specific strategies in place to make the most of their brand rights. The MoST also signed another agreement with INTA at the ceremony, this time regarding the protection of IP rights in ecommerce. (TA)

Market radar:

Putting a price on the British monarchy’s brand – A new report by Brand Finance has valued the monarchy at £67 billion, estimating that it generates £1.77 billion annually, at a cost of £4.50 per person per year in Britain. While the monarchy’s tangible assets – including the Crown Estate, the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall, and the Royal Collection – make up over a third of the £67 billion value, approximately £42 billion is attributed to intangible value (understood as the present value of the benefits that the monarchy is expected to bring to the UK’s economy over the coming years). David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance, states: “Exactly 25 years ago, the Windsor Castle fire marked the nadir of the Queen’s annus horribilis when scandals drove the monarchy’s popularity down. Today, its universal appeal translates to the attraction of ‘Brand Monarchy’ offering considerable commercial benefits to all businesses and institutions associated with it.” (TA)

Singapore’s IP office chief discusses changes to promote innovation - Daren Tang, chief executive of the IP Office of Singapore, has expanded on several changes being made to the country’s IP administration in a bid to to boost entrepreneurialism. In an interview with Open Gov Asia, he noted that fees have been reduced by up to 30% for brand and technology rights filing. Additionally, IP consultancy services are being developed and improved to promote an understanding of IP as a strategic asset, and to assist smaller enterprises with IP protection. Finally, Tang spoke of IPOS’s collaboration with Makara Capital to help start-up companies gain access to investment. Summarizing the changes being made at his office, he said that IPOS was evolving “a registry and regulator to a builder of our innovation system”. In the IP office innovation index published by World Trademark Review last year, Singapore jointly occupied the second spot with France (behind the EUIPO). It is clearly keen to further bolster its innovation credentials and the forthcoming second edition of our index will soon reveal its current position. (AH)  

Shenzhen customs sweep into action - According to a report from Xinhua news agency, a special IP enforcement campaign is being undertaken by customs authorities at a national level in China, with customs agents around the country seizing more than one million IP-infringing products in 46 shipments bound for export since September 1. On the IAM blog, Jacob Schindler takes a look at the statistics on actions undertaken in the high-tech hub of Shenzhen - where local authorities have seized 260,000 export-bound products that infringe patents held by local companies. While the report doesn’t give any further detail, Schindler notes that these could be seizures stemming from design patents, infringement of which would be more straightforward for customs officers to spot. If so, the move illustrates the importance of design rights in the fight against counterfeit goods – with the customs enforcement focus a positive development. (TL)

GI protection takes centre stage as the USTR updates NAFTA negotiating objectives - United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has published an updated summary of the negotiating objectives for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which includes a number of IP-focused goals. The updated objectives reflect the goals of text proposals the United States has tabled in the NAFTA negotiations and include increased market access for agriculture, new transparency and administrative measures and trade deficit reduction measures. With respect IP, amongst its aims are the creation of provisions governing intellectual property rights that reflect a standard of protection similar to that found in US law, commitments to ratify or accede to international treaties reflecting best practices in intellectual property protection and enforcement, the provision of strong protection and enforcement for new and emerging technologies and prevention of government involvement in the violation of IP rights. One objective is to “prevent the undermining of market access for US products through the improper use of a country’s system for protecting or recognizing geographical indications”. With Canada’s recent CETA Implementation Act having recently granted 184 agricultural products status as protected geographical indications, this particular issue could prove divisive in the negotiations. (TL)

On the move:

Reed Smith welcomes former Mayer Brown JSM IP head – Reed Smith has announced the arrival of Xiaoyan Zhang to its global information technology, privacy and data security group. Zhang, who previously led Mayer Brown JSM’s China IP and technology, media and telecommunications practice, will serve the firm as counsel in the San Francisco contingent. (TA)

Media watch:

Brand transparency must be strategic – A blog on Brand Strategy Insider, written by Chris Wren, has argued that, whereas transparency is an increasingly important part of consumer-brand relationships, sometimes there should be a limit on what is shared, and scrutiny over the communication channels adopted. Specifically, while the need for brand openness about values and ethical credentials has increased, Wren notes that taking a political or social stance is not without risk – citing the case of coffee brand Keurig which, having removed its adverts from news broadcaster Fox and announcing the move on Twitter, became the subject of viral online boycott campaign. Wren argues that companies must realise that “story is now porous” and that individuals’ perception of a brand can be amplified by social media. While this can accentuate positive brand perceptions, it can also do the same for negative views. As we argued on World Trademark Review last week, with partisan tensions at an all-time high, companies should carefully consider social media and other public-facing communications protocols. Crucially, IP practitioners should take a proactive role in this preparation. (AH)

And finally…

Don’t forget to make nominations for the WTR Industry Awards – World Trademark Review is currently inviting nominations for its extensive annual research project, designed to identify and recognise the leading in-house trademark teams and individuals. Act now to ensure that the industry’s leading lights are recognised at the WTR Industry Awards 2018. The nominations window closes on December 8, nominations must be for corporate trademark professionals – any nominations for private practice/law firm professionals will be disregarded. Click here now to access our short survey form and ensure that your peers and colleagues receive the recognition that they deserve. (TL)

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