What led you to a career in intellectual property and what has been the key to your success?
I studied intellectual property as part of my law degree at the National University of Ireland, Galway and found it fascinating. Later, when I joined the Verizon legal department in New York in 2001, I started in the IP group working on patent licensing and patent litigation. In 2003 I switched to trademarks, copyrights and domain names, which has remained my focus ever since. I believe that my passion for intellectual property has been the key to my success. I have a keen interest in – and admiration for – the topic, which drives me to learn more about it, be better at my job and really make an impact at work. It has become a part of my life, which makes work more rewarding for me.
Telecommunications is an extremely innovative industry. How have you seen Verizon’s IP strategy adapt in response to new technology and innovation?
The industry has changed so much since Verizon was formed in 2000. Brands play a key role in response to new technology and innovation. Verizon launched an industry-leading initiative in 2004 to bring customers fibre-optic-based internet services called FIOS. This offering later expanded to include video services. In 2005 Verizon announced that it was acquiring MCI Communications, which launched the Verizon brand around the world, resulting in a global trademark portfolio and plenty of third-party trademark infringement to enforce against. Verizon has expanded its capabilities in the automotive and fleet telematics marketplace under the brand Verizon Connect. We also own a drone operations and management company called Skyward. In 2015 a new VERIZON logo was announced to mark the beginning of the next chapter to distinguish Verizon in the minds of consumers. This resulted in a new global trademark filing, which we hope to see completed and fully registered later this year. The world is only moving forward and I am glad to see Verizon lead the way in delivering the promise of the digital world.
What steps can corporate IP professionals take to engage other functions in the business and ensure buy-in from key stakeholders?
It is important to build a good relationship with business people. I recommend that IP professionals become business partners and bring more to the client than just legal expertise. By understanding the other functions in the business and knowing more about your industries and markets, you perform better both as an IP professional and as a business adviser. You can then counsel the client in the context of the business issue.
You recently uncovered a number of covid-19-related domain names using the Verizon name. What are the biggest challenges that you face when it comes protecting the brand from infringement online and how can these be overcome?
Unfortunately, even during a pandemic, domain name abuse is a concern for brand owners. We continue to see domain names being registered that incorporate our brands with the terms ‘covid-19’ and ‘coronavirus’. The lack of access to domain name registration data makes it extremely difficult to enforce against domain name abuse and infringement. Despite this challenge, we continue to contact registrars about this type of abuse and infringement and where necessary file domain name complaints using the UDRP. We recently prevailed in a UDRP proceeding at WIPO involving the domain names ‘myverizonwirelesscovid19.com’ and ‘verizonwireless-covid-19.net’.
With rapid advancements in the field every day, what emerging trends do you expect to see shaping your brand protection practice in future?
The brand protection landscape is ever-changing. Watch and takedown services remain important for our brand protection practice, so we monitor the changes in the brand protection software market, as well as keeping up to date on emerging online platforms to ensure that our intellectual property is well protected.
Senior Managing Associate General Counsel
Patrick Flaherty is senior managing associate general counsel in Verizon’s marketing, IP and digital media law and policy group, where he advises Verizon’s business units worldwide. Mr Flaherty received a bachelor’s in corporate law and an LLB from the National University of Ireland, Galway, and an LLM in IP law from the George Washington University School of Law. He is admitted to practise in New York and is a solicitor in England and Wales.