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This was One IP Conference

Nestle IP Conference

Our CEO Nigel Swycher presented at a Nestlé IP Conference last week. The event was a case study in what it takes to integrate intellectual property issues into the heart of business strategy.

These are just some of the highlights. The keynotes were delivered by Ricardo Cortés-Monroy, Chief Legal Officer and Philippe Lucet, General Counsel R&D and IP, Nestlé. Be under no illusion, being the world number 1 is not easy, and the group has ambitious plans to meet new challenges.

This led to a panel on innovation and disruption. There are a range of both new technologies (Blockchain, IoT, 3D printing) and new business models (e.g. Dollar Shave Club). There are pitfalls in moving too early or too late. Nigel was asked to outline the improvements that AI will bring to the IP profession. “AI and machine learning will not put anyone out of a job – it will definitely streamline tasks that humans don’t enjoy, leaving more time to add value,” seemed to be a message that was warmly received. Roger Staub (Walder Wyss) and Alex Niethammer (Eversheds Sutherland) should be commended for covering such a broad range of topics.

Next was a session that summed up the day. How to enhance protection by combining IP rights. Tom Scourfield (CMS) presented his “Brandwich”, the idea that an IP meal might have brand and patents on the outside, but the filling was rich in additional value e.g. copyright, designs, trade secrets. This was reinforced by Anthony Albutt’s (D Young) presentation on Brompton (it turns out that 1 patent is not enough to protect a new product category) and Brian Cronin on Biosafe (now sold to GE). This was an epic tale of 20 years of constant innovation (and Brian was there from start to finish!).

In response to Nigel’s challenge that the best litigation is no litigation, there followed an expert panel of managing better IP litigation. Both John Mancini (Mayer Brown) and Virginia Carron (Finnegan) were impressive. They understand two things. Winning and Communication. Expectation management is key to client care, and understanding what the client regards to be a win!

The next theme was value creation. This began with a review of how Nestlé has used licensing and joint ventures to boost its market share in Dairy. Thomas Ludsteck treated the audience to a master-class. Thomas, if you read this review, please consider turning your presentation into an MBA Case Study. Adrian Toutoungi (Eversheds) offered practical guidance on how to navigate IP ownership provisions (did you know that “sideground IP” has entered the legal lexicon?).

One of the biggest challenges is handling the lack of harmony in IP law and practice around the world. Using designs as the focus, the panel reviewed developments in the EU (Antony Craggs, D Young), US (John Mancini, Mayer Brown) and China (Huang Hui, Wan Hui Da). This is a tough area. Registered designs are definitely a weapon in the armoury, but only useful if you integrate this layer of protection right from the start. Both Dyson and Apple have had difficulties, and that speaks volumes.

The final session was a more general update on legal developments. Doug Rettew (Finnegan) reviewed the Trader Joe and Flanax decisions. Read a summary of these cases. Huge. Steven Cattoor (Benoit Strowell) was hoping to provide an update on the Unitary Patent Court, but that initiative has stalled. So he reviewed pan-European injunctions instead. Complex for sure but powerful in the right situations. Finally, Lei Yongjian (Wan Hui Da) explained the protection afforded to well-known marks in China.

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