IP Attorneys Examine Changes in Law and Tech at Annual Conference

By Jeffery Leon

October 1, 2019

Tomoya Kurokawa

Tomoya Kurokawa of the Japan Patent Attorneys Association discussed recent changes and best practices for counseling clients on design protection in Japan. 

Intellectual property attorneys gathered on September 22 to 24 in Alexandria, Virginia, for the Association of Intellectual Property Firms’ 2019 Annual Meeting to discuss the latest issues and trends in IP law. Under the theme “IP Firm’s Workspace 3.0: The Future Is Now,” the event covered a range of relevant practice management topics, including telework and social media. 

Here are a few highlights from this year’s conference, where the D.C. Bar Communities Office was a media partner. 

International Trademark Enforcement in the Digital Age
At this panel discussion, experts from multiple countries explored the need to create a global trademark enforcement strategy to combat cross-border copyright infringement. Speakers included Bibiana Agudelo, of counsel at Arochi & Lindner in Mexico; Brandy Baker, of counsel at Kangxin Partners in China; Chris Harrs, general counsel of Spin Master in the United States; and Yoann Rousseau, senior associate at Venner Shipley in the United Kingdom, each of whom offered insights into IP developments in their area of the world. 

Harrs highlighted Spin Master’s response to counterfeits based on the company’s products, including the popular Hatchimals toy line. While Spin Master has been proactive in shutting down social media accounts that share the fake products, Harrs said it is an ongoing process. “It feels like a game of Whack-A-Mole,” Harrs remarked. 

Agudelo shared that companies in Latin America experience similar infringement issues, calling for more collaboration and agreement among nations to better tackle IP challenges. Rousseau, on the other hand, spoke about the uncertainty around Brexit and its potential impact on IP law. 

Attracting & Retaining Millennial Attorneys 
This panel explored millennial attorneys’ impact on the legal profession and how firms can best engage them. Featuring Hani Gazal, an associate at Kelly IP; Andrew Taska, a partner at Sughrue Mion; and Christopher Weber, author of Hired for Life: How the Best Organizations Build Lifelong Relationships With Employees, the discussion encouraged attendees of different generations and backgrounds to share their experiences with younger attorneys. 

Gazal said young attorneys like himself strive for better work–life balance, while Weber shared that millennial attorneys are not all that different than Generation X or baby boomer lawyers — they want to do good work, and they’re willing to put in the effort to learn and excel. Firms must continue to be forward thinking, transparent, and open to change to engage millennials, Weber added. 

IP Law & Social Media
Lynn Jordan, a partner at Kelly IP, looked at the complex issue of intellectual property in social media posts, including photos, hashtags, and memes. According to Jordan, people are increasingly questioning how photos are used and how their original owners are being compensated or credited when such photos are linked and shared. 


Lynn JordanLynn Jordan of Kelly IP explored intellectual property issues in social media posts.

Jordan said memes can be serious business as well, touching on the “Fiji Water girl” from the 2019 Golden Globes, where Fiji Water got in on the meme and publicized it, prompting the woman to sue for not being compensated. The case is ongoing. 

“This is an area of the law that is really exploding,” Jordan said. “Laws haven’t always kept up with social media, and it is interesting to see how courts struggle to fit traditional copyright and publicity rights issues surrounding social media into the existing framework.”