19 Feb
2021

EUIPO ditches fax and CDs; JPO implements earthquake procedures; Reebok brand up for sale – news digest

Every Tuesday and Friday, WTR presents a round-up of news, developments and insights from across the trademark sphere. In our latest round-up, we look at Nestle selling its US bottled water business, Anaqua acquiring Quantify IP, Mombasa port seeing an influx of fake vaccine shipments, and much more. Coverage this time from Trevor Little (TL), Bridget Diakun (BD), Jonathan Walfisz (JW) and Tim Lince (TJL).

Market radar:

Nestle agrees to sell US bottled-water business for $4.3 billion – Bloomberg has announced that Nestle will be selling its US water unit to private equity firm One Rock Capital Partners for $4.3 billion. Brands that will be changing hands include Poland Spring, Pure Life and Deer Park. The Swiss multinational’s international premium waters, such as Perrier, San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, are not part of the deal. The divestment of less profitable labels, particularly within snacking, allows the food giant to focus on areas with more growth potential like coffee and pet food. Further, the move to offload bottled water will remove Nestle from a business that is criticised for pollution and the use of valuable water reserves. (BD)

Associations urge urgent US administration appointments The American Apparel and Footwear Association, along with fourteen additional associations (including the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition and United States Fashion Industry Association) has submitted a letter to President Biden encouraging him to fill four key positions critical to IP enforcement at the earliest possible opportunity. Specifically, the letter urges the administration to appoint a new US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, Chief Innovation and Intellectual Property Negotiator at the USTR, director of the USPTO and Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection. (TL)

Reebok brand is soon to be on the market – Adidas has formally started the process to sell the Reebok brand after failing to revive its performance for over a decade. The German sportswear maker will present more details on its strategy to exit the business on 10 March. Although the pandemic could dampen prospects for the sale, one analyst suggested in December that the brand could fetch up to $1.2 billion. Notably, Adidas acquired Reebok for $3.8 billion 15 years ago. According to Bloomberg, Adidas is expecting to attract interest from rival companies, particularly in Asia, as well as private equity firms. Further, several special purpose acquisition companies have also shown interest. (BD)

KitKat goes vegan – Nestle continues its crusade into healthier snack alternatives with the announcement of a plant-based KitKat bar. The food giant will start offering the product, called KitKat V, this year. It will be available online and at selected stores in a handful of markets as a test run before a possible expansion. Alexander von Maillot, head of Nestle’s confectionery business, said “Demand for plant-based food is growing everywhere. KitKat was a logical choice, as it’s by far the biggest brand and a global brand”. Nestle has already penetrated the plant-based market with meat alternatives as well as non-dairy ice cream and coffee products, but this is the first step to revamping its confectionary lines. There are a number of smaller companies that make vegan milk chocolate, but many of the major chocolatiers have yet to break into this up-and-coming market. Lindt & Spruengli AG has started selling oat milk-based chocolate bars under its Hello brand, and Mars Inc. has launched a vegan version of its Galaxy bars in the UK. (BD)

Stellantis has a brand problem – Stellantis, born out of a merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA Group, has a brand problem. Mainly, it has too many. The automaker has 14 brands, some of which are in desperate need of investment and fixing up. Supporting such a large number of brands is taxing on company resources, and it is worth noting that Stellantis’ rivals have been streamlining their own portfolios in part because they were “too capital-intensive to sustain”. Stellantis chief executive Carlos Tavares has already said he does not plan to cut any of the brands, and a company spokesperson added that the company finds value in a diverse lineup. However, there is a genuine risk to brand equity and reputation if  the struggling automotive brands are not given the investment they need. (BD)

Anaqua acquires Quantify IP – Anaqua has acquired global cost estimating software company Quantify IP. The purchase will strengthen the data provider’s line of IP management solutions and will offer clients advanced portfolio cost budgeting and forecasting tools. Anaqua will invest in each of Quantify IP’s flagship offerings, Global IP Estimator and Portfolio Estimator. The former generates worldwide future-cost estimates for trademark, patent, design, and utility model applications. The latter helps calculate global costs for an entire patent portfolio or trademark portfolio. Both solutions will be offered standalone and integrated with Anaqua’s IP management software platform. The purchase will allow Anauqa to provide practitioners with more insight into their IP spend. (BD)

Sinopharm Tech acquires stake in anti-counterfeiting firm – Chinese investment holding group Sinopharm Tech bought a 25% stake in anti-counterfeiting firm Shenzhen Ficus Technology for about $26 million. The move is a diversification for Sinopharm Tech, which has been mainly active in  China’s welfare and sports lottery industries and providing personal protective equipment. With Shenzhen Ficus’ patents on anti-counterfeit packaging devices, Siopharm Tech says it intends to apply the security technologies to its lottery tickets business. (JW)

Mombasa port sees influx of fake vaccine shipments – Mombasa port in Kenya has become the “primary conduit for vaccine supplies from India and China to landlocked East African countries, such as Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, plus South Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” reports News24. Interpol East Africa crime intelligence analyst John-Patrick Broome has identified the port as a “key facility” in the trade of fake and substandard medicines, in large part due to a noticeable reduction in inspections in Mombasa and other ports in the regions. The reduced inspections are a result of efficiency needs due to pandemic-related delays, however this has led to organised crime groups taking advantage of the situation. As the international procurement mechanism for vaccines, Covax, picks up, many of the vaccines coming to Africa will be shipped by Mombasa. (JW)

Office radar:

(For more of the latest coronavirus-related updates from national IP offices, please read our dedicated article which is being continuously updated)

JPO introduces emergency procedures following earthquake – The Japan Patent Office (JPO) has launched its emergency evacuation procedure following this week’s earthquake in the Fukushima area of the country. The registry states that anyone that cannot complete IP documents within the designated period due to the earthquake – either through evacuation or damage caused – can submit a document and receive a relief period of between 14 days and two months (depending on the specific procedure). A full list of the procedures can be accessed on the JPO website. (TJL)

EUIPO enters new era of communications – The EUIPO has announced a ‘new era in communications’ from 1 March 2021, with various changes that could impact users. Specifically, it is moving to a ‘100% eComm’ model – with fax services now discontinued, and new file-sharing methods will be introduced. Furthermore, hyperlinks will be sent to users instead of physical documents sent by the EUIPO. Furthermore, users will need to submit documents of evidence for use in proceedings by USB flash drives, and not by external hard-drives, CDs or DVDs (which will not longer be allowed). (TJL)

On the move:

WBK promotes two attorneys to partner Wilkinson Barker Knauer has announced that Radhika ‘Ronnie’ Raju and Michael Keegan have been elevated to partner at the firm. Raju’s practice spans patents, trademarks and copyrights, and she regularly counsels clients on the selection, adoption and enforcement of trademarks, offering not only legal guidance but also providing strategic advice as they develop their brand strategies. Keegan helps clients navigate the federal energy regulatory system, and is particularly involved with electric sales and transmission issues that arise under the Federal Power Act and Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act. “Ronnie and Michael have played a key part in building and diversifying WBK’s practice and I am delighted to announce their promotion to Partner,” said WBK managing partner Bryan Tramont. “Their expertise, insight and energy have had a profound and positive effect on the Firm in general — and the energy and trademark practices, in particular — and I look forward to their continued leadership as firm partners." (TL)

Jorge Arciniega joins Loeb & Loeb – Intellectual property and brand protection lawyer Jorge Arciniega has joined Loeb & Loeb’s Los Angeles office as a partner in the advanced media & technology department. Arciniega has over 30 years of experience counseling clients in trademark portfolio management and has worked with companies across a broad range of industries such as hospitality and financial services. “Jorge is well known in the global trademark community and has worked extensively in Loeb’s core industry verticals,” said Alyse Pelavin, managing partner of Loeb’s Los Angeles office. “We are delighted to welcome such a seasoned practitioner to Loeb.” In addition to handling complex trademark and copyright matters, Arciniega also advises on advertising, marketing and promotion matters; internet commerce; right of publicity; and privacy and defamation issues. He previously practiced at McDermott Will & Emery. (BD)

McKool Smith brings in Alan Whitehurst – Joining McKool Smith, Alan Whitehurst is the new principal of the intellectual property practice in its Washington DC office. A patent trial pro, Whitehurst will focus on intellectual property and unfair competition litigation with a specialisation in telecom-related disputes. “Alan  has decades of experience guiding industry-leading companies through a broad range of complex patent disputes involving cutting-edge technologies in and outside of the telecom sector. Our clients will benefit significantly from his technical skills and deep trial experience. We are very happy to have him on board,” said David Sochia, McKool Smith’s managing principal. Alongside Whitehurst, he will be joined by Nicholas Matich, previously the acting general counsel for the USPTO. (JW)

And finally...

WTR Connect returns next month with five days of strategic content – The second WTR Connect series of digital events will take place the week commencing 15 March 2021. The event will offer more than 20 interactive digital sessions, each designed to facilitate discussion, benchmarking and the sharing of best practice around key topic areas and challenges facing trademark and brand leaders. The theme for the event is ‘exchanging cost-effective and resource-efficient best practices’ and each day will start with a keynote address from a major industry figure, which is followed by live breakout discussions lasting for a maximum of 60 minutes. Registration is free for WTR subscribers and participants can register for as many sessions as they like across the week, building their own schedule. For event timings, and to sign up to attend, please click here.

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WTR Editorial