Elliot Papageorgiou

In your career to date, you have practised IP law in Australia, Europe and China. What particular challenges does the Chinese IP landscape pose to foreign brand holders – and how can they avoid missteps?

Arguably, the greatest challenge foreign brand holders now face in China is the lack of homogeneity in IP enforcement. This in turn necessitates tailoring brand protection on a provincial, regional, even local level. The strategy a brand owner may have to adopt in one province is going to be very different to that in another. The enforcement measures effective in the latter may not work in the former. The levels and nature of IP rights required need to compensate in order to secure acceptable protection level across China. Brand holders need to remember that their reputations may not (yet) be as strong in China as in other international markets, and the concept of intellectual property generally, and brand protection in particular, are still relatively recent in China.

How is diversity & inclusion promoted at Gowling WLG and why is it important?

We are committed to creating a better, more inclusive workplace for our people, and do this for a number of reasons:

  • Promoting diversity and inclusion is simply the right thing to do.
  • Diversity helps us better serve our clients. Diverse teams bring different perspectives, apply different approaches to problem solving and generate better, more creativesolutions.
  • Inclusion breeds innovation, collaboration, commitment and productivity.
  • Diversity helps us attract and retain top talent. We act for diverse clients around the world – including China, and it is important that our teams reflect this.

Gowling WLG has numerous active networks and initiatives across the international network to address diversity and inclusion. These act as internal support platforms and promote collaboration with relevant local partners to ensure they have a reach well beyond our firm.

As we start to emerge from the pandemic, what covid-prompted changes and restrictions are you looking forward to saying goodbye to, and which business developments of the last two years are here to stay?

Further relaxation of intranational travel restrictions is to be welcomed. Travel restrictions have had an impact on brand protection and especially enforcement. Evidence gathering to support enforcement has been hampered by such restrictions; administrative enforcement authorities have been more reluctant (and in some cases unable) to conduct inspections, raids and seizures; and courts have seen a reduced willingness of judges to order and conduct evidence preservations (not unlike search and seizure orders). The growth of online infringement has absolutely exploded. All this has affected the ability to enforce brand holders’ rights. On the positive side, Chinese courts have quickly adapted to virtual hearings, and many B2B and B2C portals have streamlined their take-down procedures to counteract growth in online infringements. This move to the virtual space is likely to continue in the future on both the infringer and enforcement side.

You have been involved with the European Chamber of Commerce in China’s (EUCCC) Intellectual Property Rights Working Group for over a decade, much of it as its Shanghai Chair, Chair and most recently as immediate past National Chair. Can you tell us more about your work in that area?

The EUCCC is referred to as “the voice of European business in China”, by serving as advocate of, and for, European business interests. Many brand holders are members, and working closely with the chamber enables my team to combine resources with other chamber members and their IP protection representatives to add greater gravity to our arguments. In my previous roles, I worked to highlight challenges faced in China by rights holders, issues relating to trademark piracy and bad faith trademarks, ease of (or challenges in) bringing and proving trademark infringement, and raising levels of compensation awarded against infringers.

What has been one of your biggest achievements over the past year?

My biggest and proudest achievement this past year, despite (or because of) covid-19 and travel restrictions in China, was spending more time with my family. From a professional perspective, it has been great to start being able to meet up with clients and friends in person. However, if I had to pick a highlight, it would have to be how well our incoming team has integrated with those already at Gowling WLG. We managed to double the number of teammates, increase the number of China offices by 50% (by adding our Shanghai office to Guangzhou and Beijing), and grow clients and work significantly in a period that has seen headwinds both globally and especially for China.

Elliot Papageorgiou

Head of IP Strategy – Greater China
[email protected]

Elliot Papageorgiou advises multinationals, from offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, on strategies for optimising IP portfolios across the Asia-Pacific region, especially China, as well as complex cross-border patent, trademark and copyright projects. His recent client briefs include developing IP strategies for: one of Europe’s largest venture capitalist funds, a global leader in cutting-edge semiconductor fabrication, a global leader in quantum computing, global engineering and manufacturing conglomerates, as well as some of Europe’s best-known FMCG brands.

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