Sometimes someone says something in conversation that ripples out to more discussions. Catherine Douglas did that this fall, at a forum with around 80 trademark professionals.
She reflected on her work for Rogers Communications and, before that, for Kelloggs, which has allowed her to see the factors that have changed IP law practice, as well as the Web 2.0 issues on its horizon. You can hear the whole thing if you like.
Hear her presentation here. What struck me most was her observation that, 15 years ago, law schools gave trademark law only passing reference. Since then, its become a speciality. Why? Because during those years, companies have come to differentiate themselves based on their brands.
Fifteen years ago, lawyers had to tell their executives to protect their intellectual property. Now those same executives look to license their patents and trademarks for profit. IP professionals are more in demand than ever, yet they have less control over that demand.
In fact, with the advent of user-generated content, domain kiting, virtual worlds, corporate blogging, and digital rights management, corporate lawyers now have to stay on top of a constantly expanding set of IP issues. The risks and rewards are new, and the prudent course is not always avoidence.
Today, IP professionals work more closely with executives in IT, corporate strategy, and marketing to make sure their brands are both promoted and protected online. They need to manage marketing, in order that they budget time for trademark research and registration, and vet their plans for establishing their brands with new media.
Companies increasingly make their bones based on the strength of their brands. Unlike 15 years ago, IP professionals are in the thick of business and cultural issues. And that makes them vital–both to their brands and to web-based society.