You advise clients on a whole host of IP-related matters. Which aspect of your work do you enjoy most and why?
Our clients come from a variety of industries and backgrounds and contact us with an intriguing range of queries. Besides brand-related topics, these often touch on different aspects of these, such as information technology or new industries like medical cannabis. This requires a holistic approach and an open mindset. It is great to have to think outside the box. I am thrilled to be on the pulse of these cutting-edge and vibrant industries and to work together with colleagues from other teams and practice groups to provide comprehensive consulting for our patrons.
How have developments in advertising law shaped brand protection strategies in recent years?
The field of advertising law and hence also the brand protection strategies used are in a state of constant flux. Over the past few years we have seen a liberalisation of the legal framework on advertising. Advertising is omnipresent in all modern media, which has also led to completely new threats regarding the infringement of brands and related IP rights. The rise of social media and the development of influencer marketing requires the surveillance of social media and the Internet in general. Therefore, brand protection agencies not only have to keep an eye on trademark registers, but also on a vast number of other sources. It remains to be seen how the imminent Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act will affect the industry.
What are the key considerations for brand owners to bear in mind when working with influencers?
While influencer marketing and social media provide completely new marketing approaches, they also require leaving behind certain principles that have governed marketing for quite some time. While in the past the brand was in complete control of its marketing measures, the involvement of influencers requires a kind of balancing act. Influencers usually demand and require a certain degree of freedom regarding the content of their posts and definitely regarding their means of conveying the marketing message. For brands this means putting their marketing message and reputation in the hands of another, to some extent. To master this balancing act, the interests of the brand, achievement of the marketing message, control of the copyright/usage rights in the content and mitigation of risks to the reputation, must all be kept in mind while structuring the involvement of influencers.
How should brand owners work with customs authorities and other external parties to protect their rights overseas outside your jurisdiction?
One key element is good cooperation with a local brand protection agency or law firm as well as - depending on the country - private investigators. This allows for the effective involvement of local authorities, including prosecution authorities, and use of all legal means (eg, the seizure of counterfeits) directly at the border. Comprehensive knowledge of the market and a broad international network are crucial.
Can you tell us a little more about your work at the Branded Content Marketing Association?
My activities at the Branded Content Marketing Association (BCMA), where I am member of the board of the Germany, Austria, Switzerland region, perfectly complements my work as a lawyer. Our goal is to convey the necessity and benefits of branded content and to support developments and trends in this field. In the course of this we give all players who get in touch with branded content (eg, production companies, media houses and brands) a forum to keep up to date with new developments, network and exchange ideas, experiences and information. To do this we organise monthly meetings, host joint events – usually with partners from the industry – and issue publications on the topic of branded content. This work allows us to keep in touch with any new developments. For example, we recently issued a publication on the new audio-social network Clubhouse. I personally find the work at the BCMA very fruitful and enjoy connecting with like-minded players from around the world.
Margret Knitter is a partner at the German law firm SKW Schwarz. She advises her clients in all matters of IP and competition law. This includes not only strategic advice but also legal disputes. Ms Knitter’s practice focuses on the development and defence of trademark and design portfolios, border seizure proceedings and advice on developing marketing campaigns. She is co-chair of the European INTA Bulletins Committee and a member of the board of the Branded Content Marketing Association of the Germany, Austria and Switzerland region.