Collaborative Branding: Trademark Lawyers and Marketers

25-05-2018

Collaborative Branding: Trademark Lawyers and Marketers

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Although a company’s marketing and legal departments often have contrasting approaches to brands, it’s necessary for the teams to build trust and cultivate a positive working relationship, as Aislinn Burton finds out.

For those in marketing it’s important to include the legal team in branding discussions “early on,” said Deborah Davis, Senior Advertising Counsel at Electronic Arts Inc. (USA).

Ms. Davis discussed the advantages of marketing and legal departments working closely together in CW22: What Can Trademark Practitioners Learn from Advertising and Marketing Professionals? on Wednesday, May 23.

However, Ms. Davis noted that it isn’t just the responsibility of the marketing team to invite legal colleagues in. “Legal has to be really proactive and be a part of meetings where there is talk about product mapping and branding,” she said.

Ms. Davis went on to say that relationships between the two teams should not be “transactional.” She said it’s better to “cultivate” relationships built on “trust”; once the marketing team trusts the legal team, the meeting invitations will follow.

Jeffrey Vicq, Partner at Clark Wilson LLP (Canada), noted that “timelines can be tight” and heading towards a deadline, lawyers “need information fast”.

Addressing this point, Ms. Davis said that, if a real relationship has developed, “when you do get to time crunch situations they’ll trust you as you’ll have earned credibility.”

Explaining the conflict sometimes experienced between marketers and legal professionals Bruce Isaacson, President at MMR Strategy Group (USA), said lawyers “live in a world of language” with detailed analysis, information, and evaluation.

“The level of detail you’re comfortable with is often different to that of marketing and advertising professionals,” he said, who rather “live in the world of the personality of brands.”

Robyn Yoder, Head of Brand Strategy at Amazon.com, Inc. (USA), added that, unlike lawyers, marketers “don’t operate with a lot of firm, hard rules.” Instead, there is a “strong appetite for innovation” and an “elastic and meaningful approach for brands,” she explained.

For the marketing team at Amazon.com, Ms. Yoder said “the trademark lawyers are considered a core part of the team.” They are briefed on product, position, and target audience, all the way from “the brand architecture process to naming.”

Ms. Yoder said the key question the team ask themselves when naming new products is, “is it a name that we love, on behalf of our customers? But sometimes it takes a while to fall in love.” 

Mr. Isaacson agreed that “from a marketer’s perspective you would like to have as much time as possible [to develop a brand], even if that means the legal team has the least amount of time possible, and just hope they can keep up.”

But, overall, a balance must be struck: “Legal is a gatekeeper,” Mr. Isaacson acknowledged.

Collaborative Branding; INTA 2018; trademark; Electronic Arts; marketing; Amazon.com

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