Anna Olsen

What led you to a career in IP law and what advice would you give anyone considering the same?

It was a happy twist of fate as I had actually spent my first few years working as a solicitor in the field of environmental law in New Zealand. 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.

You have celebrated some significant wins recently, especially in China. How do you decide which cases to pursue and how do you continue to maximise resources when disputes last longer than expected?

I am very lucky that the company I work for treats the protection of its IP rights as a top priority and that, given the value and heritage of its brands, it has taken a zero-tolerance approach to infringement. We therefore take action against infringers wherever possible, including in the copycat and counterfeit space. That said, we cannot pursue every target; we tend to prioritise these based on the materiality of their presence in the online or offline market, as well as how aggressively they are attempting to use and register conflicting rights. In terms of ensuring the ongoing allocation of resources for disputes, you should always be prepared for the long game in China and manage business expectations in this regard right from the start. It is also important that the leadership team clearly understands the importance of your objective and its long-term ability to materially contribute to the value of your brand, in order to ensure ongoing support and commitment.

On that topic, what are the benefits of highlighting enforcement successes in China and internationally?

It is important to communicate your brand protection achievements as this instils confidence in your brands and nurtures the trust of partners and consumers. It also helps to dissuade negative (often highly inaccurate) rumours in the market and acts as a deterrent to infringers and bad-faith operators.

What are the key qualities that you look for in outside counsel when building and maintaining an international IP strategy?

External counsel need to have not only excellent technical knowledge, but also a deep knowledge of our brands and business and a strong case history working for similar clients or industries. On a day-to-day level, I like to work with counsel who are responsive and commercial and who understand our legal strategy in the context of our broader business objectives – and, of course, budgets. As we all work so closely together, it is also great to work with external teams that have a good sense of humour and that demonstrate strong, collaborative working relationships.

In what ways do you think the brand protection landscape will change in light of recent global events?

When referring specifically to the covid-19 pandemic, the initial impact was arguably a temporary reduction in infringing activity because both genuine and counterfeit supply chains were interrupted by mandatory government closures. However, this is now expected to pick up again and we will continue to focus on enforcement both online and offline, although we do expect to focus more and more on online marketplaces as shoppers – and infringers – turn increasingly to this space.

Anna Olsen

Global Director, Intellectual Property
[email protected]

Anna Olsen is the global director of intellectual property at Treasury Wine Estates – one of the world’s largest wine companies, listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. Ms Olsen leads the company’s global IP group and is responsible for protecting its wine brands, including Penfolds, Wolf Blass and Beringer, in more than 100 countries worldwide. She is also responsible for implementing a comprehensive brand protection programme in Asia to monitor and enforce the company’s IP rights against copycats and counterfeits.

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