By Simon Webster ‑ June 9, 2017
One week after returning from the International Trademark Association (INTA) meeting in Barcelona, I have been thinking about the event and how the conversations between trademark professionals epitomise the new challenges and opportunities in our industry.
I was recently asked to write an article on this very subject for IP Watchdog. As I walked around the conference hall during INTA, I was struck by an overriding thought – the impact of digital has fundamentally changed the industry and will continue to do so in the future.
I spent an enjoyable hour at the show with Joff Wild from IAM and World Trademark Review. We discussed the impact of China’s businesses globalising and how it will affect IP professionals. Xiaomi, for example, is now the world’s fourth most valuable technology start-up with a market value of more than $46 billion and 8,000 employees. Yet it was only founded in April 2010. The third largest smartphone manufacturer in the world is just celebrating its 7th birthday!
The Xiaomi’s, Huawei’s and ZTE’s represent the next generation of global technology brands. Having cut their teeth on the huge Chinese market, they are now looking to grow globally. For every company of this size, there will be others outside of the technology industry that have no less ambition. Not all will succeed of course, but even if a small proportion do, the opportunities for managing the globalisation of brands will be significant.
Digital is also changing the scope of the role for IP experts. Trademark professionals are being asked to police false use of a brand or trademark across social channels and manage reputational damage in an era where one mistake can become viral – seen by millions in a matter of hours. Trademark experts now need to address these – and other - new challenges: the vast growth in top level domain names available to register; protecting a brand and identity across multiple social media platforms; and which social media platforms to engage on and which not to.
This represents only a small part of the digital disruption that will shape the future of our industry. Who knows what new challenges will be presented in 10, 20 or even 50 years’ time?
For now, the focus of trademark specialists is swiftly shifting from legal enforcers to brand protectors and directors - at the heart of brand decision making, collaborating with marketing, product teams and customer service professionals. The opportunity here is for IP professionals to extend their reach beyond the IP department and more fully shape company strategy.
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