Which aspect of your work do you enjoy most and why?
I enjoy the diversity and dynamics of brand protection work at our company. For our daily work, we need to have a good understanding of products, and working in the semiconductor industry, we have a constant innovation cycle for technology. For our brand enforcement work, we must track and understand rapidly changing regulations in the IP space in order to protect against infringement as effectively as possible. As such, I am always learning new things and this makes the work exciting.
What use, if any, is Western Digital making of emerging tech (eg, blockchain) to protect its brands – and what role do you see such developments playing in the future?
Sadly, we have seen a trend of increasing counterfeiting activity, as well as new technologies used to create more convincing fakes. It is critical for brand owners to maximise protection of their products and supply chains with numerous technical solutions and other brand protection tools. Emerging technologies, such as RFID, NFC, machine readable codes and digital watermarking can play an important role in this regard.
Levels of online counterfeiting are reaching record highs and there is now talk of combatting this by increasing platforms’ liability for sales of fakes on their sites. Do you think such action is likely – and if so, what might the impact be?
Increasing the liability of platforms will have a big impact on those that are currently taking little action against counterfeiters on their sites. In our practice, we see that many platforms are in fact willing to tackle this, and are proactive in working with brand owners to combat fakes. These platforms understand their responsibility for the sale of fakes on their sites, and increasing platform liability will have less impact on them . However, based on discussions with these platforms, their ability to support enforcement actions can be limited by other regulations. There is a need to change the balance of platform liability with data and privacy protection, so that platforms can disclose the details of sellers who are hurting consumers and brand owners by offering fake products.
What does effective IP leadership look like to you, and how should those at the top help to build the next generation of brand professionals?
Effective IP leadership should involve advocating both academic and practical IP knowledge to clients, the public, policy makers and fellow practitioners. For younger generations, those at the top level of IP leadership should: share lived experience; provide constant, thorough and timely feedback; and provide encouragement and the chance to access knowledge, opportunities and new technologies.
How do you envisage brand portfolio management practices changing in the next five years, especially in the digital domain?
In the digital era, there is so much information and fast changing content. It is therefore even more important for companies to prioritise building their brand’s image. Brand portfolio management will need to increasingly utilise data analytics, leverage alternative service providers, enhance domain name registration and embrace metaverse IP issues so as to make the brand portfolio strong and distinctive.
Associate General Counsel
Karen Wang leads the trademark and brand protection team at Western Digital in the APAC region. For Ms Wang, a major focus is protecting against counterfeits and trademark infringements. Before Western Digital, she worked at another US company for seven years, also covering trademark and brand enforcement matters. Ms Wang also has experience in private sectors for trademark and commercial legal matters.