Your book The Great Catapult broke new ground in communicating the importance of intellectual property to the C-suite. What are your top tips for trademark professionals struggling to win more resources for their function?
I would say it all starts with good IP reporting. It is crucial to show management how intellectual property contributes to business success and what you do to make that work. As a specialist domain, intellectual property is not always well understood, so presenting it succinctly and without technical speak is the goal.
The return of in-person networking at INTA’s 2022 general meeting was warmly welcomed by the industry. What changes to business and network development have we gained from the pandemic – and which ones are you looking forward to moving away from?
Clearly, the global adoption of virtual meeting technology can be considered the biggest gain from the pandemic. It will likely remain an option in many circumstances and avoid unnecessary travel. That said, there is also a clear conviction that in-person contact remains a must.
As the effects of the climate crisis become more apparent, sustainability claims are coming under increased scrutiny. What steps should brands take to address any accusations of greenwashing?
As IP professionals, we should stimulate brands to make better use of certification marks. There is renewed attention being given to this special category of trademarks, which set clear and publicly available standards for the use of a particular mark and the commitments it embodies. As such, certification marks are ideal tools in the environmental, social and governance/corporate social responsibility sphere and perhaps need to be promoted more.
What are some of the biggest challenges that you face regarding the MF Brands’ global IP portfolio, and how do you overcome these?
MF Brands holds several fashion and lifestyle brands. Fashion is a particularly fast-paced industry, so keeping up with the rhythm of launches and collections is always a challenge. It requires good coordination with design and marketing teams to keep clearance and prosecution in sync with business. The goal is a two-way relationship, in which design and marketing subsequently inform the IP team about potential infringements.
Levels of online counterfeiting continue to break records 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?
In view of the very large number of online platforms that exist globally, it is clear that brand owners cannot actively police them everywhere. This means that if we want the Internet to be a safe, reliable and trustworthy commercial environment, platforms also have to contribute actively. Many already do so, so it makes sense that those who do not are held accountable in some way. Governments and legislators are realising that what is at stake here is not just a commercial issue between market players, but the health and future of the market economy as a system.
Intellectual Property Director
Zeeger Vink is IP director at MF Brands, the Swiss fashion group that owns Lacoste, among others. Mr Vink started his career as attorney in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom and was subsequently in-house IP counsel at L’Oréal. He holds a law degree from the University of Amsterdam, with specialisations in IP law and marketing, has taught intellectual property at Sciences Po University in Paris and currently serves as president of INTA.