In your view, what makes a strong trademark team and how do you go about building one?
A strong trademark team understands the business intuitively, operates proactively, collaborates expertly, prioritises well and consistently delivers its goals. It is a diverse and inclusive group of business partners who want to make a difference as individuals and as a team. A combination of experience and curiosity and a drive for high-quality and efficient teamwork sets them up for success. To build a team like this, leaders must create space for talent to thrive and team members to do what they do best. Adding common objectives and team principles into the mix gives you a solid foundation to do great things.
What are some of the biggest enforcement challenges that Mars’ brands face around the world, and how is the company addressing these?
Counterfeit and lookalike products regularly present challenges to our brands and business. In recent years, we have started to see infringing use of our brands in the vaping, drug and cannabis sectors. We have had considerable success worldwide against all types of infringements, including notable wins in cases involving these new product categories. Mars places extreme value on its brand assets and does not hesitate to put strong resources behind trademark enforcement and litigation. We also recognise the constant need to evolve as an IP function, including keeping track of the changing infringement landscape and growing sophistication of malicious actors online and offline. We have an obligation to protect our valuable brands to enable continued growth and competitive advantage.
What are the key attributes you look for in outside counsel?
External partners are key contributors to our success. They must have an in-depth understanding of our business and how we operate. Outside counsel need to take ownership of everything they do on our behalf as if their own reputation or success was on the line. It is paramount that they advise us in a proactive and practical manner. We expect them to think outside the box and present creative solutions to complex problems. We embrace diversity and innovation, as these ensure our law firms stay relevant and competitive over time. We are blessed to have highly competent and reliable external counsel who understand our needs and are there to support our team every day.
Based on your experience working in both Hungary and the United Kingdom, how do you adapt your litigation approach to take account of jurisdictional differences?
Throughout my time in private practice in Hungary and in-house in the United Kingdom, I have had the privilege of working on interesting cases in practically every country around the world. While there are many similarities in IP legislation, you get to learn and understand the differences over time. Our goal is often the same with litigation wherever we are: to use it as a last resort to stop infringing activity. However, our strategy would differ considerably based on the jurisdiction. This requires an agile and flexible approach and an understanding that our expectations may also need adjustment along the way. I always find it interesting how some legal grounds are much stronger in certain countries than in others. In the fight against lookalikes, for example, you may rely on unfair competition in one country and unfair advantage or detriment in another. As in-house counsel, we have the benefit of constantly comparing similar cases in different countries, applying our learnings along the way.
You have won acclaim for creating and executing stellar enforcement strategies. What are your three top tips for creating a strong enforcement strategy, and how have these evolved over time?
First, prioritise. You have to set priorities and focus areas. You must know what your high-impact infringements are, where they happen and how you will tackle them. Over time, it will become clear that you cannot apply the same approach and strategy across the board. Second, optimise. Ensure that you have an IP portfolio that is fit for purpose in all countries where the business operates. If taking enforcement action is in line with your strategic priorities, you do not want a weak portfolio stopping you from doing the right thing. Third, prepare and follow through. If a decision is made to move forward, prepare with evidence collection and a strategic plan. Once you act, make sure you follow through and engage your business stakeholders throughout the enforcement process. Track progress and share the results. Re-evaluate, learn and improve. Do it better every time.
Senior IP Counsel
Bence Bozóki is senior IP counsel at Mars, supporting the company’s confectionery business globally. He specialises in creating enforcement strategies, leading trademark litigation and building a strong global IP portfolio. He is known for his successes in combatting lookalike products. Before joining Mars, Mr Bozóki was a senior associate at SBGK, a leading IP law firm in Hungary. He is a regular speaker at industry events and a member of the MARQUES Unfair Competition team.