Having been a member of Venable’s Diversity Committee, what role do diversity and inclusion initiatives play in the law firm environment and how can firms better support these?
Last year, I co-authored a WTR article “Stronger Together: Building Diversity and Inclusion Through Partnerships” (WTR 81) on this critical issue, which discussed how diversity and inclusion are linked to the success of not just a trademark practice but the whole law firm. Because of the global character of the trademark profession and the symbiotic nature of foreign relationships in this field, trademark attorneys are natural ambassadors for diversity and inclusion within firms.
This has been true at Venable, where the trademark group has led by example, developing diverse and inclusive leadership and working teams; fostering an extra-collaborative working environment; publicising team successes to the firm; playing an active part in social events that showcase the varied interests and personalities of team members; and demonstrating commitment to key issues such as unconscious bias, by attending firm presentations and openly discussing the issues raised. When professionals interact in an open and equal way, diversity and inclusion are advanced and a greater sense of belonging is created. To sum up, we all share the responsibility to further diversity and inclusion – and we all share the rewards.
You represent a wide range of clients – from start-ups and celebrities to non-profits and multinationals. What would you say are the top three characteristics that all brand owners look for in elite-level IP attorneys?
Brand owners want lead trademark attorneys who can manage crisis situations and leverage favourable settlements in hard cases, remain detail-focused without losing sight of the big picture, and manage a team that mirrors that attorney’s high standards for quality, responsiveness and cost efficiency.
How do you build strong, long-lasting relationships with overseas contacts and why is an international network important?
I have worked hard to develop deep and longstanding relationships with select attorneys in the world’s most critical business markets – typically, just one per jurisdiction – who share a business-minded approach to trademarks and are regularly available to collaborate by phone on whatever critical issues may arise with local or global implications. I recognised early on that those who are most passionate about these relationships and work to foster them achieve greater client success and personal happiness. There is a special satisfaction in solving complex problems with someone from a completely different background.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing US brand owners at present, and what can attorneys do to help clients overcome these?
US brand owners have always faced two internal challenges, which could become more acute in the age of covid-19: bridging the gap between legal and marketing departments and addressing brand valuation. In-house counsel should take the following steps to address the first problem:
- be empathetic to the perspective of marketing executives;
- become more relationship-oriented and a little less task-oriented when working with marketing and introduce them to outside counsel;
- demonstrate practical intelligence, not just analytical intelligence, when providing counselling and reporting search results;
- find a way to gain some say in the brand creation process;
- give marketing executives a voice, if only a minor one, in the brand clearance process; and
- be a better advocate for the value of trademarks and the role that lawyers can play in building that value.
As for the second challenge, INTA’s Brand Value Special Task Force Report (April 2020) details the ways that progress may be made in this key area and is well worth reading, particularly as brand valuation may be of greater interest to owners during times of business challenge. Being fluent in this area is another way for in-house counsel to demonstrate their own value.
Finally, how do you think US and global IP strategies will change in light of recent global events?
In the age of the coronavirus pandemic and the increased importance of brands online, IP owners have shown a stronger interest than ever in enforcing key brands and developing new ones that can deliver a wide range of protection. This interest will likely continue as economies rebound, but in the meantime, clients may make room in their budgets by weeding out underperforming and borderline brands. One thing is certain: brands remain a major business priority. As one client put it: “Trademark lawyers will always be needed because every organisation is built on one thing: intellectual property.”
Andrew Price, co-chair of Venable’s trademark, copyright and licensing group, is a globally recognised IP attorney who helps clients establish, protect and profit from their brands worldwide. He manages large portfolios of trademarks, exploits IP opportunities and controls crisis situations for clients of all sizes – from start-ups and celebrities to non-profits and multinationals. Mr Price focuses on brand strategy, as well as clearing, registering, licensing, enforcing and defending all types of trademarks worldwide.