Gulf DTH FZ LLC (OSN)
You have worked at top-tier IP law firms as well as in the corporate environment. Drawing on your experience, how should those making the move in-house prepare for the transition?
Before moving to an in-house position, gaining knowledge of the industry and the operating business model is a must.
While in private practice, I was fortunate enough to work with various IP-rich clients, including Google, Shell, GlaxoSmithKline, Nokia and Intel. I quickly learnt the common traits that these global in-house teams share. They are highly skilled, efficient managers, loyal to internal clients, commercially savvy and – most importantly – business enablers. These teams have developed or followed unique working styles, which are reflected in their format for formal correspondence and instructions. It works well; I recall sending a draft for infringement claims and receiving extremely relevant comments and corrections within 10 minutes from a senior counsel at Google Inc, who was based in the United States.
The ability to prioritise tasks (on a risk-based approach) is also useful. The key to maintaining a balance is to buddy up with team members. Internal clients can be very demanding (especially when working on a tight deadline), whether it is for putting in new contracts, launching marketing campaigns or acquiring rights. Therefore, it is important to identify and convey risks in clear terms and recommend (and, where suitable, propose) the best options for the business to pursue its goals.
What do you think leadership looks like in the IP world and how can it be developed and nurtured at an individual level?
Leadership in the IP world requires genuine enablers, who encourage learning (through practical applications) and developing thought processes. IP and related laws are fast paced, as they are constantly evolving alongside technology. In this environment, leaders are also constantly developing their skills, knowledge and experiences. No doubt, leaders have a professional obligation to continue to discuss and share their knowledge and experiences. Modern leadership often requires multi-jurisdictional skills as a result of working with diverse nationalities. I would encourage younger professionals to:
- attend conferences and seminars;
- spend time researching;
- read files and correspondence when they do not have access to client meetings; and
- spend quality time with experienced law clerks and paralegals to master the basics of legal practice.
What are the key qualities that you look for in outside counsel when building and maintaining a global law firm network?
Mutual respect, trust, competency, flexibility and a practical approach are key to building a lasting relationship. Working with external counsel across multiple jurisdictions is a challenging affair. It is vital to ensure that they receive timely instructions and have clarity on their role in the matter, with the freedom to suggest an alternative approach, if required.
When fighting content piracy and online infringement, what lessons have you learnt about utilising different IP rights?
Infringers use and misuse technology, making it a challenge to combat infringement – especially within short timeframes. Where our takedowns for copyright infringement have not being entertained by e-commerce platforms, user-generated content platforms, Apple App Store, Google Play Store or internet service providers, I have relied on a mix of rights (eg, trademarks, copyrights and key words) and inadvertently contributed to industry best practices. Notorious infringers often exploit the loopholes, exceptions or freedoms available under the law. In such cases, I have relied on basic legal principles covering intellectual property, torts and contracts to preserve and enforce rights.
Finally, if you could make one change to the IP environment in the United Arab Emirates, what would it be and why?
The United Arab Emirates is home to more than 200 nationalities. It is a melting pot for legal professionals from both common and civil law jurisdictions. This reflects in the recent amendments to legislation and the ratification of treaties. We are contributing to this by following and implementing best practices from around the globe.
One practical change would be to further empower the relevant administrative bodies and regulators. This would reduce the burden on the courts, strengthen the private-public partnership and encourage investment. Establishing an administrative process for blocking websites (including cyberlockers) and disclosing the administrative details of parties engaged in selling counterfeit goods and infringing IP rights is one example of how to do this.