On 7th May 2020, the Inter-American Association of Intellectual Property (ASIPI) organised a webinar “A New Legal Industry? The View from Leading In-House Counsel”, reaching around 500 attendees according to the organisers.

The webinar was moderated by Gabriel Leonardos from the Brazilian IP firm Kasznar Leonardos, and had as speakers Lizbeth Pagola/PEPSICO (São Paulo, BR), Daniel Zohny/FIFA (Zurich, CH), and Gerardo Munoz de Cote/NETFLIX (Ciudad de México, MX).

I think it was a great achievement to assemble a panel of corporate speakers from such well-known corporations to share their views with IP attorneys during the Covid-19 crisis.

The webinar was very well moderated by Gabriel, who is also a FICPI member and has already spoken at FICPI events.

Gabriel divided the panel into three sections: a) the present; b) the future; and c) Q&A.

He posed several questions to the speakers, such as:

  • “What is happening in your organisation so far?”
  • “What should you expect from service providers after this crisis?”
  • “In terms of best practice, is there any particular solution/service that you would like to mention as a good example?”
  • “Do offices providing legal service still need a physical location?”
  • “What changes do you expect will come when the crisis is over?”
  • While I recommend watching the complete webinar video, here are some of the speakers’ insights, in no particular order:
    • We are taking all precautions to keep our employees safe, not only physically but also providing emotional and psychological support
    • Give your employees the flexibility to stay home if they prefer, as the quality of the service will likely be better if the employee is happy
    • There are good things about staying home (like taking care of small children) but it is also challenging in some ways
    • No rush to go back to normal work, let people go back at their own pace
    • During the crisis, people who can be productive at home should stay at home 
    • When people go back to the office, social distancing will still need to be observed somehow
    • Our company has provided health support and donated meals to affected communities; donations were made to the WHO; be empathetic towards your employees and your community
    • Haven’t seen a downturn in the amount of work; it’s stable
    • Sometimes I feel that communications from our IP agents are old fashioned, if not late, and could be more effective
    • Don’t send paper invoices, go digital, embrace technology
    • Digital transformation has been considered as a desired target for a very long time, now it has become a ‘must’
    • Research in China showed that many companies plan to invest heavily on online services for the next years
    • I hardly ever visit a firm but often meet my IP attorneys in events
    • IP attorneys should seek to add value when providing services; don’t make things more complicated than necessary
    • Provide clear orientation based on your expertise of local legal framework
    • No plans to cut budget, but will better scrutinise invoices
    • Clients should also play their part by preventing unnecessary delays in paying their bills, in order to avoid creating cashflow problems for IP firms
    • I haven’t been asked in what ways we can communicate better 
    • Create a strong network to help overcoming the crisis 
    • Protect your business 
    • Prepare for long term changes
    • Haven’t seen any issues with respect to expectations, IP people have reacted very well to the crisis
    • Don’t think it is a problem if there are no physical premises, don’t worry if people are not wearing ties, only the quality of the work matters
    • Be prepared for unexpected changes, be pragmatic and less formal. 

FICPI’s view and involvement

FICPI webinars and committees (and in normal times, in-person conferences and meetings) offer unique opportunities to gather insights from the international IP community on issues that are practice-related as well topics of patent and trade mark law. As the only global NGO for independent IP attorneys, FICPI is driven by a strong shared interest among like-minded people who bring insights and counsel from a wider external perspective.

Next steps

  • View FICPI’s Covid-19 resource bank including a series of webinars, a spreadsheet of changes to IP office deadlines and processes, and a number of blogs.
  • FICPI Commissions (committees) offer the opportunity to further the work of the independent IP attorney and to get involved beyond the normal scope of firm work – find out more.