Adraea M Brown
What led you to a career in brand management, and what advice would you offer anyone considering a similar path?
Two things: Johnnie Cochran and music. Johnnie Cochran inspired me to be a lawyer when I was around nine years old, when he represented OJ Simpson during the ‘trial of the century’. I later realised that I did not want to practise criminal law and developed an interest in entertainment law, due to a love of music. Eventually, that interest led me to discover trademark law and brand management.
My advice is, if you are interested, do it, but also do not turn down opportunities to get experience in other areas. Brands face a myriad of issues, and those diverse experiences can really come in handy and help to make you an all-around better practitioner.
What metrics do you use to measure the success of a global trademark strategy?
Generally, I think: ‘can we do what we want to do, where we want to do it and when we want to do it?’ If so, I think that is success. Of course, there are numbers at play which can be measured, such as: How many enforcement matters are we opening? What type of matters? How many trademarks are we filing - administrative (oppositions, cancellations, etc), counterfeiting, domain actions, and so on? Where? What is our success rate? Loss rate? Are new matters going down year over year, and if not, is there a reason? How much are we spending? How many counterfeit products are we seizing or keeping out of commerce? How many customs officers are we training regularly? These are all issues that we are examining regularly, and making adjustments to our strategy as needed.
How is diversity and inclusion promoted at Harley-Davidson and why is it so crucial to the organisation?
Diversity and inclusion feature in our global Hardwire Strategic Plan. As part of inclusive stakeholder management, Harley-Davidson seeks to create a highly desirable, safe and inspiring workplace, and it views diversity and inclusion as deeply embedded into the past and future success of the Harley-Davidson brand and company. Specifically, within the legal department we focus heavily on promoting diversity and inclusion through active membership in the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, ensuring that we interview a diverse range of candidates, speaking openly as a team about issues that affect ourselves and our community, and encouraging a variety of opinions and perspectives, among other things. We really try to think of equitable solutions for opportunities and advancement, and this has helped us to be a very high performing team.
What are some of the biggest enforcement challenges that Harley-Davidson faces in overseas markets, and how do you overcome these?
While Harley-Davidson’s core product is motorcycles, most of our enforcement challenges are related to our apparel and licensing items. Like many brand owners, we face enforcement challenges in China as a large majority of manufacturing takes place there. We also encounter additional challenges in Turkey and Pakistan, where a lot of counterfeit leather goods such as boots and jackets are made. I don’t think I can accurately say that we have overcome them, so if anyone has some tips, please let us know, but we focus on being diligent and aggressive in our enforcement actions. It is important for us to continue to make counterfeiters know that we will enforce our trademark rights.
Claims by brands that they are environmentally sustainable are coming under increased scrutiny. What steps can they take to stay clear of accusations of greenwashing?
Greenwashing is generally understood to be when a company spends a lot of time portraying itself as sustainable and environmentally friendly, without doing the work to actually minimise its environmental impact. The simplest step a brand can take is to focus more on the substance than the messaging. Caring for the environment is important work that should not be a simple marketing ploy. In short, brands should make sure they are doing this work in all facets where this can come into play. This is applicable to both greenwashing as well as diversity and inclusion.
Adraea Brown is assistant general counsel - trademarks at Harley-Davidson, where she leads the company’s in-house trademark team and serves as vice president of H-D USA, the owner of all Harley-Davidson trademarks. Ms Brown oversees the global trademark portfolio, enforcement and litigation matters, as well as supporting the company’s multimillion- dollar apparel and licensing business. She is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law (JD) and Spelman College (BA).