Last week I was fortunate to attend the Managing the Trademark Asset Lifecycle Conference, hosted by World Trademark Review. The topics discussed throughout the day touched on everything from assessing portfolio strength and valuation to leveraging the financial value of a brand. Although it is impossible to touch on all the points covered during this full-day conference, there were several high-level takeaways worth sharing.
- The Three F’s of Intellectual Property Audits: Foresight, Fluidity And Flexibility. As with many facets of corporate life, too many companies wait to audit their Intellectual Property (“IP”) until the need arises. This approach often leads to unnecessary scrambling, stress and lost opportunities. Rather than taking a defensive or reactive approach to auditing, companies should think proactively, instituting budget-appropriate processes whereby data is routinely collected and maintained in accessible form.
- Getting Rid Of The “IP Department” Mentality. One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is to limit the involvement of in-house IP counsel or the portfolio management team in the day-to-day management of the company. IP affects all aspects of the company, from marketing and sales to international tax and finance, and IP counsel should be involved in all meetings where such issues are being discussed.
- In-House Counsel As Brand Ambassadors and Educators. IP counsel and portfolio managers should be acting as brand ambassadors, not enforcement agents. Although there may be instances where reactive steps must be taken, every effort should be made to continuously and positively educate company personnel regarding the use and importance of IP which, at the same time, should create additional enthusiasm regarding the brand.
- The New IP Portfolio: Not Your Grandparents’ IP. Although obvious to some, companies need to recognize that IP is no longer simply about trademark and copyright registrations. IP touches all aspects of a company’s public persona, from its customer lists and goodwill to its website, internet domains/extensions, and social media handles. These valuable assets can no longer be ignored.
- Attorneys As Revenue Generators: Help Me Help You. Attorneys are often brought in when an issue arises (the reactive/defensive approach). However, IP attorneys are uniquely equipped with the insight and experience to add value and identify potential opportunities that may be overlooked by corporate decision-makers. IP attorneys cannot identify opportunities if they remain in the dark as to the day-to-day operations and goals of the company. Taking time to brainstorm with counsel is an investment worth making.
- Adjusting To The Times: The Evolution of a Brand. Companies that refuse to recognize change or are resistant to evolving their brands will be left behind. One great example came from Colm Dobby, Associate General Counsel for Mastercard Inc., who discussed the evolution of the “Master” brand in light of the fact that “Cards” are no longer the only or preferred mechanism to purchase goods and services with credit.
- Beware Of Domain-Driven Branding. The Internet has revolutionized the way companies market and sell their goods and services. As a result, many companies now consider an Internet domain more important than the overall brand itself. In some cases, companies will look to the availability of a particular domain when considering a new brand. Others have initiated a process of buying up all potentially similar domains (and domain extensions) to discourage others from building a brand based solely on the availability of a particular domain. Although domains are undeniably important, companies should not be blind to other considerations when analyzing the strength of a brand.