Which aspect of your work do you enjoy most and why?
If I needed to find a tagline for my job it would probably be: “Never boring.” My work provides me with the opportunity to deal with manifold IP issues spanning many countries around the world and to interact with people from diverse cultural backgrounds, whether internally at FIFA or externally. I am also fortunate enough to have the support of a fantastic team of IP professionals that give it their all every day. Finally, every few years during the FIFA World Cup and the FIFA Women’s World Cup I benefit from being able to get out from behind the desk and work on-site at the tournaments, leading FIFA’s brand protection programme. It is very satisfying to be part of an operational function at a major sporting event and to see all the preparation – both on the brand development/IP registration side and on the brand protection side – come to fruition.
What emerging trends or technologies have had the biggest impact on FIFA’s brand protection strategy over the past few years?
The ever-accelerating pace of digitalisation and shift to business online has opened many areas of opportunity for brand owners. On the flip side, it has also created new issues. Over the years, this has generated the need to put an even stronger focus on online brand protection efforts, including using technologically powerful and efficient monitoring and enforcement solutions.
Your team’s focus is on prevention and education, rather than enforcement. What responsibility do brands have to educate consumers on issues such as counterfeiting, and what practical steps can they take to achieve this?
FIFA’s brand protection programme has always put an emphasis on creating awareness of intellectual property. We believe that it is more beneficial to spend efforts on educating the public than having to enforce against innocent infringers who may simply not be aware of having crossed a line. This is the proverbial nipping the issue in the bud. In the context of our tournaments, we issue what we hope to be easily understandable educational material to provide guidance especially to small businesses and the general public. This is something that we believe every brand should consider doing as part of its interaction with consumers.
What are the biggest challenges that you face enforcing your brand in the build up to major events such as the FIFA World Cup, and how do you overcome them?
The FIFA World Cup is the world’s largest single-sport event and one of the planet’s most-watched sports competitions. It gains major interest from sports fans and the business world alike. At times, such interest is geared towards illicitly profiting from the tournament and the related intellectual property, whether through unauthorised association/ambush marketing or by means of counterfeiting. To shoulder the enormous cost of staging such a large event, FIFA relies on the significant financial support of its commercial affiliates (eg, sponsors and licensees). In turn, we have to safeguard the exclusivity of our licensed rights by ensuring, among other things, that these rights are fully protected and enforceable. Only then can we protect the value of the FIFA World Cup tournaments as a major source of FIFA’s income that significantly helps to fund grassroots football development programmes, which are enjoyed by fans and participants all over the world.
What does effective IP leadership look like to you, and how should those at the top help to build the next generation of brand professionals?
In the context of promoting the upcoming generation of brand professionals, I believe those in leadership positions should attempt to give back to the IP community. This can take many forms, whether it is sharing knowledge and experiences on substantive matters or assisting the upcoming generation to find or expand their footing in the industry. The crucial part here is to reserve time – despite busy schedules – to speak with those who meaningfully reach out and to provide advice, guidance and access to the vast networks that leaders in the profession tend to possess.
Head of Intellectual Property
Daniel Zohny obtained an LLM in intellectual property from Cardozo Law School in New York, where he worked for five years in private practice. In 2010 he took up an inhouse position in Europe and in 2013 joined FIFA in Zurich, where he is now head of intellectual property. He leads a department of nine specialised IP professionals and oversees the conceptualisation, registration, maintenance and enforcement of FIFA’s intellectual property, including the implementation of FIFA’s enforcement programme for the FIFA World Cup tournaments. Mr Zohny is an active member of INTA and in 2020 joined its board of directors.