Retail Therapy


The IKEA franchising system helps the brand to tackle challenges and boost consumer trust, says Cecilia Emanuelson, IP Counsel at the global franchisor, in an interview with Aislinn Burton.

Just under one billion visits were made to IKEA stores around the world in 2017.

Cecilia Emanuelson, IP Counsel at Inter IKEA Systems BV (Netherlands), has worked for the worldwide IKEA franchisor for more than 20 years—and it’s her job to ensure all marks and branding associated with the IKEA business are legitimate and reflective of IKEA’s vision. Today, operating under a franchise model, Inter IKEA Systems BV has franchise agreements with 11 different groups of companies that own and operate 415 IKEA stores in 49 markets.

Ms. Emanuelson is involved in all aspects of trademark work for the home furnishings organization, including determining which marks to file in which jurisdictions and liaising with outside counsel on trademark prosecution matters. Dealing with oppositions takes up a considerable amount of time for IKEA’s attorneys, too, due to the volume of matters across so many countries.

“We deal with all enforcement matters worldwide,” Ms. Emanuelson adds. IKEA owns trademark registrations in approximately 80 jurisdictions, and the disputes that arise are varied. Common challenges for the IKEA team include trade dress infringements, unauthorized resellers using the IKEA marks, copycat stores, and online infringements across social media.

Ms. Emanuelson points out that the IP landscape has undergone “massive” changes over the course of her career, noting, “The Internet and social media have completely changed the way we work from the perspective of where the challenges appear and how we deal with these challenges.”

Addressing how global brands can secure adequate IP protection, Ms. Emanuelson says “there is no such thing as being sufficiently protected.” In any business there needs to be a balance between what the lawyers wish to protect and how much the organization is willing to spend, she explains—and having a trademark filing strategy is central to managing these perspectives.

“For every brand owner there is a price tag on everything done in the trademark department, but attempting to find better and smarter ways to do things is important,” she adds.

Shared Values

IKEA’s franchising model helps the brand carry out its mission.

"Living up to the IKEA vision of ‘creating a better everyday life for the many people’ cannot be achieved by working alone."

“Living up to the IKEA vision of ‘creating a better everyday life for the many people’ cannot be achieved by working alone, so we work with IKEA franchisees who are experts at operating IKEA stores,” Ms. Emanuelson explains.

She adds that a franchise organization expands in a less structured way than a fully owned business, which can be challenging, since the ownership and operation of the IKEA stores are not vested within one parent entity.

However, for IKEA, “this contributes to the organic way we grow and expand,” Ms. Emanuelson says. The people working under the IKEA trademark share certain values and “by doing so we are all contributing to the creation of a brand that consumers can trust.”

INTA, INTA18, Cecilia Emanuelson, IKEA, franchising, retail