Michael G Kelber
What has been one of your biggest achievements over the past year?
Successfully navigating the unprecedented business conditions created by the pandemic jumps to the top of my list of achievements over the past year. All businesses were forced to readjust their budgets and hone their strategic investments. We were thrilled that most of our clients exited 2020 stronger than they were before the onset of the pandemic. Fortunately, as a firm, we found that our experience mirrored that of our clients. We retained our strong talent roster – there were no professional, staff or salary reductions at our firm – and even added an accomplished litigator to our life sciences team. We grew our practice and retained our effectiveness despite the new challenges of remote working. All in all, our clients and our firm have come to this point stronger for the experience and learning.
What does effective leadership look like to you and how has your management style changed over the course of your career?
Our firm is blessed with a creative, talented and intelligent core group of professionals, and it is an honour to have them as colleagues. Effective leadership rests on strengthening our team by helping people to identify opportunities and achieve their own successes. To do so, you have to shine the spotlight on them – not necessarily taking a backseat to them, but certainly ensuring that all individuals are well positioned for success. And you celebrate them when they thrive. As a leader, I try to share my experiences with colleagues and act as a sounding board and collaborator to work through challenges, whether they are hammering out a legal strategy, identifying the right skill set for a project or keeping a team rowing in the same direction. My goal is to be an effective ally and a mentor, and I am thrilled to support my team in their endeavours. I am incredibly proud and fortunate to be considered one of the leaders of the group and the firm.
How can brand owners work with external parties such as e-commerce platforms and regulatory authorities to better protect their rights online?
The past couple of years have seen a proliferation of service providers that offer market monitoring tools. In addition, regulatory authorities have enhanced mechanisms that allow brand owners to challenge improper trademark filings. Brand owners should institute watch notices and marketplace monitoring with the goal of understanding how trademarks are being used and misused in order to address any potential infringements as soon as possible. Our practice group continually monitors the latest technological advances and service offerings to find those that are the best fit for our clients.
What effect will the Trademark Modernisation Act 2020 have on trademark owners looking to protect their rights in the United States?
The most significant impact of the act is that it restores the presumption of irreparable harm against trademark infringers, making it easier for trademark owners to obtain injunctions against them. On the other hand, the act also creates mechanisms to make it easier to challenge or remove overly broad trademark filings. While it will not dramatically change our clients’ overall policing strategies, the act should enhance the ability of brand owners to fight back against the questionable practices of some, particularly international, trademark filers.
How do you envisage the US litigation landscape evolving in the coming years?
In the United States, courts that previously required in-person proceedings have responded to the pandemic with a new receptivity to remote hearings. Will this trend remain prevalent? Perhaps. But even if in-person hearings resume and become the norm again, the reliance on remote depositions is unlikely to diminish. Practitioners and clients have seen the time and cost savings available through remote depositions and have become more comfortable embracing technology.
Michael G Kelber
Michael G Kelber, co-chair of Neal Gerber Eisenberg’s IP group and a member of the firm’s executive committee, helps enterprises and entrepreneurs to strategically develop and protect extensive global IP portfolios. He has prepared and prosecuted thousands of successful US and foreign trademark and patent applications and has served as lead counsel in trials before state and federal courts throughout the country. He represents clients in all phases of complex trademark, copyright and patent disputes.