Wednesday, April 9, 2014

FASHION LAW INSTITUTE: The Spectrum of Style-4th Annual Symposium Part 2

Fordham Law School, NYC

Part 2

Usually our conference summaries get posted PDQ-but the next panel-got brain cells so fired up/on …we ended up spending meaningful moments-texting pals with USA trademarked businesses- about---


Another YEESH moment.

Ignited within all of about 30 seconds clocked- by a panel-skillfully moderated by Prof. Scafidi- on name/trademark registration in China-a first to file jurisdiction.

Welcome to a well-trenched, and IMO rather savvy entrepreneurial population who register trademarks/cybersquat - names of the famous, semi-famous, infamous and well just about every label name that might ever be sold within its borders.

Ha-no wonder one needs a legal team-here and over there. AND-having lived all over the world-values vary..and acceptable business practices all vary too. Nothing personal. And hello-welcome to how the planet operates…maybe not fair by most accepted standards…but 'fair' by other not agreed upon standards. (WTO membership, not withstanding).

The first speaker was Susan Anthony (noted and remarked: "a great name"), an attorney in the Global Intellectual Property Academy Office of Policy and International Affairs with the USA Patent and Trademark office-who opened the discussion on the importance of trademark registration here and in China…for small and medium sized businesses.

More comments highlighted the new (maybe re-worked/amended more appropriate) Chinese trademark/registration law-set to be implemented on May 1st, 2014- to address the"principle of honesty and good faith…"-including the more egregious and infuriating realities of SOP-with international companies putting on the pressure for change (we asked).

In summary-the new rule "looks to balance the rights of established brands with those of Chinese entrepreneurs." As explained by the panelists-this touches on all of the legally deemed classes and sub- classes of items (think umbrella, umbrella covers…)--- that require separate trademark applications/registrations.

A cautionary tale was recounted by Gemma Redux jewelry designer, Rachel Dooley- a Fordham Law School graduate-who did not apply for -what we learned- was an inexpensive trademark registration of her company's name in the jewelry class- in China- and her strategies on how to work around that---with the label's jewelry and accessory lines (got those)-  about to be sold there.

Counterfeiting issues and realities, cleverly worded examples of ransom (subtle-ish black mail-imo) letters from abroad to evict trademark squatters, and the need for multiple domain registrations in different languages including Chinese characters -were also- discussed---as were the risks of having Mainland-made goods held up at the border by those owning the trademark registration, the three year  usage requirements, the seemingly (to us) useless appeals process (set to disappear with the new rule)-and other nuances of moda operandi-were all helpfully explained by panelists-including Kathryne Badura an External Relations Coordinator-Enforcement for the International Trademark Association.

Attorneys Michelle Mancino Marsh, Monica Richman and Rachel Kronman helpfully relayed their experiences and shared their insightful takes on international trademark and copyright laws-and brand protection…as it impacted and currently involves their (often) big name, high-profile clients -including global businesses in computer hard/software, fashion, consumer goods, film, television--- and celebrities. Geez.

We noted some panelists' eyes-rolling about - when the new trademark/registration law's intentions were discussed. Also interesting- at the other end of the skeptical spectrum-a positive thinking Chinese audience member who opined that educating judges and citizens in that country ---would (will) certainly go a long way in reasonably enforcing the new trademark regulations.

In summary-there was some cautious optimism for "good faith" meaningful changes---as expressed by Ms. Anthony, at any rate. We doubt any of the remarkable legal talent on this panel worries about their jobs being outsourced…like-their clients' overseas manufacturing.

To generate revenues-the industry of licensing "IN" and "OUT"and brand collaborations-on the Silver Screens of film,  television-and we assume advertisements…the subject of the last  conference seminar -was fascinating.

The knowledgeable panelists included employees from production studios- Sandra K. Smokler -SVP and Deputy Counsel for Warner Bros. Pictures, and Musette Buckley-SVP of Warner Bros. Production Resources (via Skype-where no earthquake rattling disturbed the real-time transmission), and HBO's Stacey Abiraj-Licensing Attorney-Global Licensing Division-who luckily attends all of those amazing launch parties, we assume, Ewa Abrams-Associate General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer at the purveyor of adored iconic blue gift boxes-Tiffany & Co. (where applause, applause-  privacy and information management merits a high ranking position),  Condé Nast's Senior Director of Business Affairs and International Licensing in the Editorial Assets and Rights Group--moderator Angela Byun (and a savvy corporation -smartly- 'extending' its' media brands -into other mediums of the 21st century persuasion), a no doubt-immensely busy IP lawyer at a powerhouse firm that we even heard of-Claudine Meredith-Goujon, fashion (CABIRIA) and costume designer/stylist Eden Miller, and Kenya N. Wiley-an attorney, political strategist and Director of Academic Outreach for the Motion Picture Association of America-based in Washington DC.

We copied those lengthy titles from the handout.

The session began with an example of a successful collaboration between the fashion world and movies-  the recent The Great Gatsby (TGG) - Warner Bros. film with big name stars and featuring the opus of the off the charts talented, Oscar winning costume designer, Catherine Martin.

Brands tell a story-just like the movies (original scripts, based on previously appeared- printed words or television shows etc.-)…and luxury labels Prada, Brooks Brothers, Fogal Legwear and Tiffany's meaningful involvement in exclusive licensing partnerships with Warner Bros. for TGG---were all creative marketing scenarios.

Naturally-there is a lot of read the fine lines negotiations/contracts going on when it involves Intellectual Property rights and licensing agreements between established brands…beginning with the 'Licensing In' by Warner Bros. for TGG-that needed to be-and was, imo "authentic" to the feel of the film. Another well placed example that helped to define a film character…a Chanel jacket on the chic Oscar winning shoulders of Cate Blanchett's character in the movie, Blue Jasmine.

How successful-cash flow positive vendor provided product placement ends up being for the vendor-where what ends up on the screen is usually, out of their control (after all -we are talking about creative visions by movie directors-not sku advertisements)=  (calculated) risks. Who has control and how a product is used---well, that's what lawyers are for.

Tiffany's glamorous and exclusively designed jewelry for The Great Gatsby movie-with selections available for purchase in their retail stores worldwide… was very worth it, we learned. No surprise as the film's actors were actively featured in the advertisements for both the vendor- and the movie. And the Tiffany pieces-some straight from the archives- were jaw droopingly stunning.Win Win.

Examples discussed of 'Licensing Out' included brilliantly brought to market apparel and jewelry by HBO---with the company's Bon Temps Football L/S top -worn by a character on the hit series, True Blood-a best seller…and the Games of Thrones jewelry collection by cult fav Pyrrha. Attorney Abiraj noted how important it is not to annoy the dedicated fans…let alone adhere to any licensing agreements, trademark/copyright registrations that pre- exist- including those signed up by a book author ---from which a series might be based.

Partnerships with existing labels and HBO were also mentioned-including a licensed partnership between Adriano Goldschmied denim and the series Entourage -with active cast member support, and between lingerie label Cosabella & Sex In the City franchise with delineated product offerings in homage of the female quartet: Samantha, Miranda, Charlotte, and Carrie.

Attorney Meredith-Goujon addressed her extensive legal expertise with licensing matters-including well-known fashion label clients-a reality that has exploded in terms of deals and dollars-beginning with the licensing proliferation of fashion designer, Pierre Cardin-back in the day…and conjuring up ginormous $ by the likes of Disney.

Long versus short term gains, marketing plans, who controls what-has the final say-of the all important brand image-including "licensing of trademarks, brands, copyrights and software, as well as sponsorship agreements, trademark clearance, prosecution and registration and enforcement and maintenance of intellectual property assets…" and that includes what is on and off the internet…all concerns that require vast gobs of attention by any sized brand. A lot.

We have reviewed plenty of footwear/accessory/perfume collections by companies with exclusive licensing agreements with designer names- for a few years. And the joint efforts are noticeably different-with more designer hands-on input/control nowadays…versus in the past when a 'name' would more blindly trust that merchandise bearing his/her moniker - sharing the brand's values/vision/quality.

Interesting too-not all hit shows/ movies have product placement-according to Eden Miller who has worked on many movie and television series that, in fact- don't. However-internationally-and notably Korea-was cited by Angela Byun as a country where product placements and  'buy the look' availability are very very visible in a film's credits.

The conference finished with a lovely reception- anchored by a keynote address from the spiritual and very entrepreneurial Sigrid Olsen. She spoke about reclaiming her "name,"  setbacks and accomplishments of her 24 year tenure in the fashion business. her (very)artistic background  -and the vibrant relaunching of a fashion/lifestyle/travel company that uniquely reflects her purpose or "intent"-retaining that all important personal touch with her customer clients.

Yes, one thing about growing older-the need for acceptance and approval by people who-at the end of the day- don't really matter- plummets :)

However we did feel for the students, toiling away at the Law School Library that shared a glass wall of windows with the light-filled inner courtyard where the reception was held.  Here's hoping they benefited from any tasty leftover treats.

Part 1