Novartis Pharma AG
The pharmaceuticals sector is a challenging one for trademark professionals, due to the regulatory environment. What do you consider the key to success for corporate practitioners in this field?
Anticipation is key. Considering the time that it takes to align legal, regulatory and marketing acceptance for a brand, we must start early. Competitive intelligence is also vital; practitioners should watch the trademarks that their competitors are filing together with their projected pipeline to assess whether a junior name could represent either a legal or a regulatory issue. As the sector now has a significant digital component, practitioners should have some digital knowledge and should understand the direction that the business is taking to provide better internal advice. We must be seen as business partners with legal knowledge, rather than traditional lawyers. Finally, we need to put the patient at the centre of everything we do.
How has being INTA president for 2019 changed your day-to-day approach to brands and trademarks?
My presidency and various INTA roles in the past years have helped me to see trademarks and brands through a much wider, collaborative lens. Wider because interacting with so many skilled professionals opens your eyes to elements or situations you would not necessarily see in your field or experience during your career. Your initial vision of brands and trademarks can be quite narrow, and in actuality, our role as trademark professionals can be to connect departments, thus adding greater value to a company. Collaborative because the discipline is so broad and so rich. We cannot be experts in all fields and jurisdictions, hence the necessity to collaborate with outside counsel and other teams to obtain the best results.
For those seeking to engage in similar activities benefitting the entire brand ecosystem, what are the key arguments to be made to management?
Almost all companies are putting development plans in place for their associates, but they rarely customise these plans. Professional development and networking opportunities are essential. INTA offers a customised development opportunity for each associate in a company. Associates can decide to volunteer for specific committees, including potential leadership opportunities, and can offer to speak at high-level events. This can affect the industry as a whole, as well as the associate’s networking circle. INTA provides multiple opportunities to build connections, share best practices and stay updated on industry trends. In addition, a company supporting associates’ active participation at INTA will be attractive from a recruitment perspective.
At the 2019 INTA Annual Meeting you challenged the community to get more involved in educational efforts around counterfeiting. Do you foresee a time when counterfeits are truly seen as socially unacceptable?
I believe it can be achieved – not overnight, but society is embracing change more quickly than ever before. Therefore, we need to highlight what brands bring to society and how counterfeits are directly or indirectly unsafe or dangerous for a person’s health and society generally. While it is important to educate all consumers, focusing on the younger generation is critical, as they will be the dominant consumers of the future. I believe that the INTA Unreal Campaign to educate young consumers about the dangers of counterfeit products is a fantastic initiative which can make a big difference. It should be institutionalised and part of academic programmes worldwide.
How different do you think corporate trademark practice will look in 10 years’ time, and how best to prepare for the changes now?
As brand restrictions are spreading, we must all react and show that brands are fundamental for the economy, consumers and society in general. I also think that we will benefit from a wide digital revolution and have quicker access to more reliable data. AI will enable us to work faster and more effectively. Therefore, embracing innovation is crucial. Finally, we may see a world in which private IP registration becomes as important as public IP registration, so we may need to diversify and collaborate more with brands which have IP registration systems in place. INTA has established the In-House IP Departments of the Future think tank and I am eager to see the outcome of its work. The best way to prepare is to remain up to date on trends, best practices and how IP offices are evolving around the world – either by independent learning or by participating at INTA and other industry events.