In 2018 you were appointed co-chair of the trademark practice at Brooks Kushman. What does effective law firm leadership look like to you?
Law firm and department leaders can guide and offer support but should essentially get out of the way, so that talented people can effectively lead and manage their domain. I place a premium on creating a collaborative environment for our trademark team of attorneys and paralegals. I am not a fan of hierarchies and appreciate the unique skills and perspectives that each team member brings to the table. When individuals feel recognised for their contributions, it has a tremendous impact on work product and client relationships, and ultimately results in new business. The length of time that many of our attorneys and staff have been at Brooks Kushman shows that collaboration works. Our clients are the beneficiaries of long-standing experience and continuity in handling valuable trademark portfolios.
You previously worked at a technology law firm in Israel and continue to create partnerships between US and Israeli innovators today. How do you build strong overseas relationships and what are the benefits of these?
I have the benefit of a strong network of IP colleagues in Israel. Although it remains important to have face time with existing and potential clients, once a relationship is established, use of Zoom and other videoconference technologies helps to fill the gaps. I do my best to visit Israel each year and am supported by my firm to attend conferences and hold our own IP programming in the country, which is known as the Start-Up Nation. Cutting-edge innovation coming out of Israel is fertile ground for companies looking to protect their brands and inventions in the United States.
With clients ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, what are the key skills that brand owners look for in a top-level IP firm?
I think all brand owners, whether big or small, want to know that their counsel is committed to providing timely and effective advice and services. They want to know that their business and goals are understood and will be the driving force of any strategic decision concerning their IP portfolio. Clients want practical and succinct advice that can be passed on to the relevant business people and readily implemented – and rightfully so. The highlights in counselling clients are those moments when an ‘out of the box’ idea turns into an effective tool to protect or even recover elusive IP rights. And, of course, all clients are looking for cost-effective billing arrangements.
Almost every industry around the world has faced significant disruption in recent months. In what ways has your practice had to adapt this and other unexpected changes?
We work with clients in an array of industries; some have remained uninterrupted and some are thriving, while others have come to a near standstill. For those that have been able to pivot, it raises the question of whether they need to address new intellectual property if they continue with new functions. This question is generally being deferred. For companies where disruptions have stalled business operations, we are doing everything possible to support efforts to immediately and drastically cut spend in all non-essential matters, while maintaining the integrity of their IP portfolios. The hope is that the financial impact for these companies will be temporary and if we can help our clients get through this difficult time, we will all be stronger when we come out the other end.
Finally, what trends do you expect to see shaping brand protection efforts – both in the United States and globally – in the next few years?
The current buzz around AI and blockchain to manage various aspects of trademark portfolios is proving possible and to some extent is already in use in relation to brand protection. A potential combination of AI and blockchain with a user-friendly interface should be possible for brand protection and would be welcome provided that it is accessible and affordable to brand owners. The goal would be to achieve wide-ranging brand protection outcomes without breaking the bank. Regardless of how new technology evolves, it will not replace the need for IP counsel. In fact, along with new technologies, having trusted and well-informed counsel will remain critically important to brand owners.
Robyn Lederman has over 25 years of experience as trademark counsel. She manages global trademark portfolios for multinational brands and works with companies to develop strategies to build value and strength in their trademark portfolios. Ms Lederman spent nearly a decade practising law overseas and is highly effective in protecting and enforcing her clients’ trademark rights worldwide. She is active in her community and spends time guiding entrepreneurs and start-ups on the practical impact of trademark law.
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