What led you to a career in intellectual property and what advice would you offer anyone considering a similar route?
My path to a career in intellectual property was not planned. I became interested in the law through a deep interest in environmental matters. I thought I would work in public policy, having spent time in local government during the latter stages of my undergraduate studies. While I was at law school I began an internship at a large firm in Chicago, where I was assigned an IP matter and I fell in love. The rest, as they say, is history. I began to take courses to focus my studies on intellectual property and after law school I sought positions in IP law, which has led me to where I am today.
My advice to others is to keep an open mind and to force your way into an IP project, no matter how big or small the role might be, to see if it is truly something that excites you. You can also spend time learning about it on your own to get a real sense of whether it is an area in which you would like to focus. The path is not always obvious – do not get frustrated!
How should current trademark industry leaders ensure that they are nurturing the talent of future leaders?
Helping to develop careers and mentorship is a passion of mine. I find the most joy in helping people reach their full potential. It is even more satisfying when you help them achieve things that they themselves did not think were possible. As a leader within my organisation, I dedicate a noteworthy portion of my time to such work and often press my team managers and peers at other companies to do the same. It takes commitment and prioritisation, but as leaders in the industry it is crucial for us to focus on this to help the next group of outstanding leaders rise and carry things forward.
What are the biggest challenges that you face in enforcing Facebook’s brands, and how do you overcome them?
My answer here is not Facebook-centric. It is something that many large companies with famous brands deal with: how do we prioritise enforcement that is most important and impactful and focus the bulk of our resources on this? The pool of infringers and bad actors is endless, but not all infringers are the same. We have worked hard to prioritise our enforcement efforts to protect our users. This requires us to really understand what is happening in the market and where our users are most vulnerable and then work vigilantly to stop those bad actors.
How can trademark owners and regulatory authorities work together with social media platforms to better enforce IP rights online?
Facebook regularly engages and collaborates with policymakers around the world to educate them on our IP protection measures. We also support collaborative initiatives, including those under the auspices of government institutions. For example, Facebook Marketplace became a signatory to the European Commission’s Memorandum of Understanding on the Sale of Counterfeit Goods via the Internet. In our view, collaboration with governments, trademark owners and other stakeholders is the most effective way to address IP infringement online and allows us to gather trends and feedback to continually develop our own measures.
How do you measure success in your brand-focused endeavours?
One thing that we have focused on over the past couple of years has been to become much more deliberate about goal setting and measuring our impact against these targets every half. We use the objectives and key results goal-setting model and it has been wonderful; we prioritise the most pressing and important work, our team members are bought into the process, projects and aims, we are collectively more accountable, and we celebrate our successes. To set our goals, we have to have a deep understanding of our cross-functional partners’ roadmaps, priorities and objectives, and understand how best to support those. So we are always very focused on relationship building and strengthening those cross-functional partnerships.
Mike Yaghmai joined Facebook’s legal team in 2013 and currently heads its brands and marketing legal team. The group is tasked with protecting the company’s portfolio of famous global brands and empowering it to navigate marketing, legal and regulatory risks so that it can effectively communicate with the world. Prior to that, Mr Yaghmai scaled Facebook’s product IP counselling team, which advised the product and engineering orgs on complex IP and platform matters. Before Facebook, he spent a number of years in a variety of senior legal roles at eBay Inc and was a senior associate at Howrey LLP.