Bonnie Jarrett fell in love with IP law while working at Scholastic. She started working at the publishing giant in New York shortly after finishing her undergrad in communications at Boston University. At a time when Scholastic was publishing a new Harry Potter book every few years, it’s no wonder that Jarrett took a liking to intellectual property.
She got early experience working on various contracts at Scholastic, but soon realized that the best way for her to advance in that world would be to get her law degree. She decided to take night classes at Fordham University with the specific intention of becoming an in-house lawyer. “I liked the idea of being a lawyer in-house because I liked helping a business achieve its goals through legal work,” says Jarrett. “I really wanted to go to law school because there was only so much I felt like I could do, and I wanted to do more.”
After law school, Jarrett realized that she could get even more of an edge if she spent some time at a law firm before going in-house. She took a position at O’Melveny & Myers in New York, where she honed her expertise in copyright and trademark law. During her time there, she also met a few long-term friends and mentors, Dale Cendali and Claudia Ray, who went on to play an important role in the direction of her career.
Though she did not originally imagine she would leave New York, Jarrett’s personal life wound up leading her to Montana, where she became an associate at Goetz, Gallik & Baldwin (now Goetz, Baldwin & Geddes). She got some experience in general practice and general litigation, but she still had a strong appetite for IP.
After four and a half years in Montana, Cendali and Ray reached out to Jarrett and offered her an opportunity to join them at Kirkland & Ellis back in New York. “I knew there would be more long-term opportunities for me to do IP work in New York,” Jarrett says. “Kirkland had a strong focus on trademarks and copyright for a lot of different high-profile clients and cases.”
“I liked the idea of being a lawyer in-house because I liked helping a business achieve its goals through legal work.”
Jarrett’s instincts proved to be right. She worked her way up to partner by 2015 and, in 2018, finally fulfilled her original intention of going in-house when Cendali recommended her to the National Football League (NFL) for a role as IP counsel. “It’s been great,” says Jarrett. “After my many years of doing IP litigation, I feel like it really suits me well to be working now with enforcement and brand protection.”
“Bonnie has it all,” says Cendali, who’s a partner at Kirkland & Ellis. “She is an expert litigator with a strategic vision that ‘sees the whole field,’ and she is a funny, kind person who is a delight to work with.”
Trademark is one of the main areas that Jarrett and her team focus on at the NFL. They work on a wide range of issues, including everything from trademark clearance and prosecution for the league and its thirty-two teams to collaborating with law enforcement to prevent counterfeiting.
“The work we do with law enforcement has been fascinating to me, as somebody who came from litigating cases that are usually one company against the other,” says Jarrett. “We’re very fortunate to have law enforcement support for our various anticounterfeiting efforts, especially for our marquee events, like the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl games, as well as the NFL Draft, which has become a large fan event over the years.”
Jarrett and her team are able to target counterfeiters and infringers both in-person at events and online to protect the brand and the fans. “Our goal is to efficiently disrupt these illegal businesses and get those products off the market,” says Jarrett. “It also really helps our fans, because it helps make sure that they’re not duped by these unscrupulous operators and they’re not spending their hard-earned money on low-quality, fake products.”
Another area of concern for Jarrett is the copyright infringement that occurs through illegal streams of the games and other events. “Providers of illegal streams may not just be showing a game without the NFL’s permission; they might also be putting malware on your computer.”
In order to accomplish such ambitious goals, Jarrett strategizes with her team to use a “divide and conquer” approach. She emphasizes the importance of playing to the strength of her team members, which also keeps them feeling motivated and valued.
“Figuring out what interests people and what they are good at will keep them excited about their job,” explains Jarrett. “I also think that understanding how we fit into the larger picture of the business is important. None of us play football, but we are part of the larger mission and when you know that you’re a part of that, achieving those goals and giving our fans the best experience that we can, it feels good. You feel like you’re making a difference for people.”