What led you to a career in intellectual property and what advice would you offer anyone considering a similar route?
My IP law career was far from intended. Curiosity led me to intellectual property during my postgraduate studies in EU law and offered an alternative to my passion at the time, human rights law. In a twist of events, while pursuing human rights work, I got a job offer with one of the leading IP law firms in Greece and have been an IP enthusiast ever since. I have also had the pleasure to litigate, write and lecture on the intersection of intellectual property and freedom of expression, my human rights soft spot.
My advice to aspiring IP lawyers would be to accept that the road ahead will not be straightforward, and that is perfectly alright.
Claims by brands that they are environmentally sustainable are coming under increased scrutiny. What steps can they – and their advisors – take to stay clear of accusations of greenwashing?
Honesty is the best policy. If a brand has no tangible proof or record of environmental sustainability processes or results, they should simply avoid any statement that could be misleading. The damage to brand integrity can be irreparable for a company that does not walk the talk. Sustainability is increasingly important and is becoming part of the very fundamentals in business operations, but I see no competitive advantage in excessive sustainability declarations.
What are your top three tips for building long-lasting client relationships?
Responsiveness, which should not be mistaken for speed. In the firm, we want the client to rest assured that we are working on their assignment. If a matter is urgent, we will prioritise it.
See and be seen, which means physically meeting with the client, where possible. We do not just work with a company or law firm, but with the people. Personally, I hugely enjoy human interaction. Spending time with clients has helped me better understand their goals and concerns, and has also made them aware of how we work, what to expect and, at times, be vocal about differences they want to see.
Adjust to the client’s (sometimes evolving) risk tolerance level.
The mere change of a person in an organisation may signal more or less risk tolerance. As a rule of thumb, we are bold in our advice, but that does not work well with everyone. It is important to understand if and what sort of change has occurred, in terms of the legal risks a client is willing to take with a project. Often, this change does not come with a new face, but with a new product or offering; a client moving into new product territory may not be as risk tolerant as we have known them to be in the past.
NFTs are currently one of the most talked about - but least understood - assets. Which novel legal issues does the rise of NFTs create, and how can brand owners tackle them?
NFTs have provided a system that enables the sale of digital items by transforming them into collectables, which has created a new market. But they are not the only way to market digital assets. And while digital assets may (or may not) enjoy IP rights, it is not at all certain that the NFT will enjoy them. What sort of property rights should these valuable tokens confer?
The idea of a sui generis NFT right has its advocates, as has the idea of a “quasi artist resale right”, but we are still in the early stages of developing a legal understanding and then a regime for NFTs.
For now, to the extent that an NFT relates to a digital asset that enjoys IP protection, IP rights enforcement rules will apply, as will contractual terms relating to the sale of NFTs.
As with the brave new world of the metaverse, brand owners are encouraged to optimise their digital world(s) monitoring strategies and be ready to take swift action.
Which recent EU decisions do you expect to have the biggest long-term impact on your clients’ IP strategies?
The survival of the provisions of Articles 17(4)(b) and (c) of the DSM Directive in the CJEU’s C-401/19 ruling means a certain stability regarding the liability regime of online content-sharing service providers. I would still expect to see freedom of expression and information arguments being put forward before national courts in litigation cases, but the CJEU has set the course.
Nikos Prentoulis is a seasoned strategist and litigator, spearheading the IP and dispute resolution team at PRENTOULIS GERAKINI. His practice spans the whole spectrum of intellectual property and IT law, ranging from litigation and IP asset management to commercialisation and complex IT projects. Mr Prentoulis is described as a “star in the contentious sphere” and “very results driven and an expert in European IP law”. He was admitted to the bar in 2000.