22 Dec
2020

Trademarks during the year of covid: exclusive insights from law firm experts in England and Israel

As 2020 draws to a close, IP practitioners from around the world share their experience of how the covid-19 crisis shaped their trademark practice – and how changes adopted this year could shape the future of the industry.

Today, WTR presents exclusive insights from Chris McLeod, partner at Elkington and Fife in England, and Ronit Barzik-Soffer, head of trademark practice at Reinhold Cohn Group in Israel.

Insights from Ronit Barzik-Soffer at Reinhold Cohn Group:

How have the events of 2020 impacted your trademark and brand protection practice?

Many people started working from home as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, and thus the boundaries between work time and family/private time completely disappeared. It became common and even expected (by clients and colleagues) to work in unusual hours. This disturbed the work-life balance significantly. Moreover, this, by itself, increased the workload: when everybody, all over the globe, works close to 24/7 and everyone tries to process their emails and “roll the ball” to the next “player” ASAP the general pace of activity simply gets higher and the volume of incoming work increases.

What has been the most significant challenge for your trademark practice caused by the pandemic?

Having to start working completely paperless all at once. We were on our way but not yet there…

Since the beginning of the year, did you make any changes to help clients that may be facing challenges due to the pandemic?

Yes. In some cases – payments were consensually postponed, in other cases we made special reductions.

How have you engaged in new business and client generation during the pandemic, and will elements of this approach remain in place post-covid?

I gave presentations via Zoom and Microsoft Teams; I participated in online conferences; I made virtual meetings with potential clients. I estimate that virtual meetings will replace many of our professional telephone conversations, as well as some of our face-to-face meetings, also after the pandemic is over.

What are your thoughts on how associations and IP offices have adapted to ensure continued service to members/customers?

Most of them adjusted surprisingly well. The Israeli IP Office managed to work remotely very well. Virtual conferences were a little strange at first, but the associations found the way to provide good value, even if different than in traditional physical events

Did you attend any trademark-related virtual events during the pandemic?

The networking was not as good as in a physical conference. Ultimately, virtual networking cannot replace the personal feeling of a physical meeting. But apparently for this reason, the content was generally better – the organisers tried to compensate for the inherent downside of a virtual meeting (compared to a physical one).

Looking to the future, do you expect to attend as many physical trademark-related events in future years as you did prior to 2020? 

Personally yes, I look forward to getting back to my previous conference routine. But I expect the virtual option to exist too. I assume that the international conferences will include both options.

Insights from Chris McLeod at Elkington and Fife:

How have the events of 2020 impacted your trademark and brand protection practice?

We have had to adjust to almost 100% remote working, but so have most of our clients and foreign associates, so everyone is in the same boat. It has not been easy, but we are ultimately fortunate that we can work effectively from home.

What has been the most significant challenge for your trademark practice caused by the pandemic?

Probably the combined effect on trademark offices and the varying periods and extents of suspension which they implemented, extended and sometimes ended with short notice.

Since the beginning of the year, did you make any changes to help clients that may be facing challenges due to the pandemic?

The main allowance we made was to keep clients informed of extensions to deadlines at no cost to them.

How have you engaged in new business and client generation during the pandemic, and will elements of this approach remain in place post-covid?

It has been difficult because virtual conferences are unknown territory, so the cancellation of in-person conferences and meetings has hindered making new connections. However, there is still a healthy amount of IP activity and in some ways, we have had more time to devote to potential new clients via Zoom and other means, and to continue other business development activities such as activity within CITMA, including its free online advice clinics, writing case reports and other articles, and making submissions to the legal directories. I think that elements of this approach will remain in place because some were already there, and that others will remain in place for some time as we return to a degree of normality and can meet in person again.

What are your thoughts on how associations and IP offices have adapted to ensure continued service to members/customers?

Associations have continued to represent the interests of their members well, perhaps because there has been greater availability for meetings and interaction during lockdown.

The considerations for IP offices have clearly been different because they tend to involve large numbers of staff being in the office five days a week and are process-heavy. There have been clear knock-on effects in the slower processing of new applications, examination, registration and in relation to inter partes matters. However, this is understandable and communication has generally been clear.

Did you attend any trademark-related virtual events during the pandemic?

I attended various webinars and other meetings. The content was generally good, but networking opportunities were limited in comparison to physical events, which is inevitable.

Looking to the future, do you expect to attend as many physical trademark-related events in future years as you did prior to 2020? 

I hope to, as there is plenty of fun to be had in networking. I don’t see virtual conferences as the future, because our profession thrives on interaction and this is simply not the same via video conference. However, having over 10,000 delegates flying mostly long-haul is not ecologically sustainable, so we may see a hybrid of the physical and virtual conference.

How do you expect the covid pandemic will affect your trademark practice and/or your firm’s trademark department going into the future?

I don’t like to end on a depressing note, but there is little doubt that we will experience a global recession which is only just starting. This will have a negative effect on IP budgets which will affect all IP firms. However, having already worked through two recessions, I have confidence that our sector is robust enough to get through a third. IP seems to expand and contract, depending on the economic climate, but even when business has a reduced appetite for new initiatives, it still tends to protect what it has, and perhaps even more fiercely.

Tim Lince

Author | Senior reporter

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Tim Lince