What led you to a career in brand protection and what has been the secret to your success?
During the earlier part of my career, I was lucky to be involved in groundbreaking trademark litigation relating to non-traditional marks and transnational overflow reputation. Since then, I have taken a keen interest in how best to protect brand owner reputations and in brand protection in general.
Keeping an open mindset is vital in intellectual property, as it is in any area of law that constantly grapples with the ever-evolving consequences of digitisation and innovation. Being open-minded and keeping abreast of new developments is vital for lawyers to continue to adapt and seek new legal solutions in the face of change.
You are responsible for the IP strategy of a leading international bank in more than 60 markets. What are the biggest challenges when it comes to enforcing IP rights across so many jurisdictions and how do you overcome these?
Given Standard Chartered’s diverse geographical footprint across Asia, the Middle East and Africa, my biggest challenge is getting a consistent legal outcome across all regions. This in turn ensures that the IP strategy aligns and fully supports the bank’s global brand strategy. It is often tricky to obtain a consistent set of IP rights, particularly for non-traditional marks and when dealing with a multi-jurisdictional IP dispute. Despite these challenges, I have learnt to manage ambiguity, especially in jurisdictions where the boundaries on certain critical trademark issues may not be as well defined as in others.
How has digitisation changed the face of brand protection in the banking industry over the past few years?
Digitisation has revolutionised how we approach brand protection given that cybersecurity is now critical for banks due to the increase of malicious online activity. We take a multifaceted and multidisciplinary approach towards online brand protection, using a range of digital tools and services for monitoring and taking down threats where appropriate. Traditional dispute resolution mechanisms such as the UDRP are still important but are used less often now as we try to be more proactive than reactive in our brand protection approach.
Digitisation has diversified our trademark portfolio, which now contains many non-Standard Chartered brands, including internally grown start-up/venture businesses seed funded through our intrapreneurship programme or via strategic joint ventures such as MOX, our Hong Kong virtual bank, which was launched last year. Given the diversification of our trademark portfolio, it is even more critical to clear brands for use. The trademark infringement risks for fintech business are often more nuanced yet potentially material, given the convergence of tech companies and traditional banks in the banking sector.
Standard Chartered is the main sponsor of Liverpool FC. How do such relationships affect your approach to brand positioning and reputation management?
We have a special relationship with Liverpool FC as we have been its main club sponsor for over 10 years now. Given the longevity of our partnership, the club has backed many of our initiatives that go beyond a standard sponsorship. I am very proud to see our global sustainability brands on the front of Liverpool shirts for one home game each season, whether it be our SEEING IS BELIEVING programme, which has raised over $100 million for the visually impaired, or our new FUTUREMAKERS programme, which seeks to address inequality by promoting greater economic inclusion in the local markets that we serve.
Aside from our key relationship with Liverpool FC, the current trend of convergence in banking is resulting in strategic partnerships that go beyond the traditional credit card and insurance partners of yesterday. Today, non-traditional partners include fintech start-ups and large tech companies. Standard Chartered has also launched a banking-as-a-service offering where we work with non-banking partners (eg, e-commerce platforms and retailers) to enable their consumers to access financial products via their non-banking platforms.
From a reputation management perspective, in this evolving world of partnerships, it is critical to get the synergies right with any new partner – whether it be a pure co-brand, a brand endorsement or a broader alliance partnership. The consistency of brand positioning by all partners is vital.
Which core technologies/technological tools do you rely on most for your day-to-day role?
A selection of videoconferencing apps, a decent headset, OneNote – which has now replaced my old-fashioned paper notebook – and, of course, my stovetop espresso maker.
Head of Intellectual Property and Brand, Senior Counsel
Nigel King is the head of intellectual property and brand legal and senior counsel at Standard Chartered, an international bank operating in more than 60 countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. He is responsible for all global IP law matters including trademarks, patents and technology IP strategy. He is also the lead counsel for the group corporate affairs, brand and marketing function.