Structuring trademark operations – an introduction

Behind every brand portfolio is a trademark team tasked with creating, protecting and monetising these crucial assets. However, as analysis of WTR’s latest Global Trademark Benchmarking Survey reveals, stretched budgets have hit teams hard, while the covid-19 pandemic has reshaped corporate brand strategies for most IP professionals.

To make matters worse, the survey has uncovered how trademark and brand strategy discussions are retreating from the boardroom – with more than half of respondents stating that senior management is no longer engaging on these topics to the same extent as in previous years. This is despite growing recognition of the value of brands and has a number of consequences for those working with trademarks.

First is the need to ensure that they are evidencing return on investment in all activities, whether that comes from the ability to point to immediate dollars on the balance sheet or to justify current enforcement spend as helping to save money in the long run. Verizon’s Patrick Flaherty argues persuasively: “Letting infringements pile up only makes the situation more burdensome to instruct and manage – and more expensive in the long term. By addressing infringement in its infancy the costs are usually lower.”

Second is the heightened need to cultivate productive and meaningful relationships with non-legal internal stakeholders. To that end, Natasza Shilling, lead counsel for IP rights in the group legal team at Vodafone, provides crucial insights into how to position the trademark side as a trusted partner and build bridges with other departments. As well as helping with day-to-day duties, this can be a useful way to demonstrate the value that IP counsel bring to the business.

Finally, at a time of increasing resource pressure, adopting a flexible approach to brand building has never been more important. When successful, this adaptability leads to portfolios that require skilful management – especially when they span multiple brands, rights and continents. Novartis’ Svetlana Korzhin and David Lossignol share their tried and tested methods, as well as top tips for brand owners to consider.

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