When you work in trademark law, how do you know when to pursue an infringement case and when to let it go? That was one of the questions posed at Modern Counsel’s first event of the year, Purpose: A Modern Counsel Roundtable.
The discussion took place on Thursday, February 25, and featured Q1 issue cover star and 7-Eleven Senior Trademark Counsel Allison McDade. McDade spoke with trademark law professionals about how work and life have changed over the past year, the importance of resilience and determination, and other topics.
Here are three key takeaways from the discussion:
1. Redefining Your Purpose
Modern Counsel’s first issue of 2021 was all about purpose and how individuals and teams find purpose and engagement inside and outside of their work. McDade noted that engagement and purpose constantly change, and finding both can be challenging when employees feel disconnected from each other in the age of remote work. Also, employees are working even more, she said.
“I think everyone working from home is working so much more,” she said, adding that the pandemic has added many layers of stress. “I imagine every person on this call has had a totally different set of issues face them in the last year than they had in the last five years. So I think when you are so overloaded with work and so stressed, it is hard to come up from underwater to revisit your purpose.”
As a leader, McDade is very concerned about the stress her employees have been facing and how she can make it better for them.
“I have calls with them much more frequently,” she said. “We used to do a lot of emailing and we have video calls and just random touch bases. Luckily, we’re all happy to do that.”
2. Resilience and Determination
Resilience and determination are important qualities both in law and outside the field, and according to McDade, they can serve a purpose in small ways within a big company. She noted that resilience and determination were important factors in dealing with some very serious questions that were brought about by the pandemic. Questions ranged from how to acquire toilet paper to whether to require masks to how to keep employees and franchisees feeling protected.
“There were just so many questions that went into that,” McDade said. “And I think we, and many other companies, came out stronger for it, for having to answer those questions and be right. I mean, it’s all brand new. There were no answers, so you had to figure it out as you went along. And I think that’s what builds that resilience the most.”
3. When and When Not to Pursue
McDade noted that 7-Eleven currently has more than five hundred active trademark infringement matters, and the decision to pursue a trademark infringement depends on several factors. The biggest question is always how impactful that infringement is to the brand, she said. There are many sub-questions after that, such as how much it will cost to pursue and whether it makes financial sense for the organization. Also important is whether the infringement is taking place in a country the company is already in.
“And then finally, this is going to be my favorite: If the CEO brings it to our attention or the CFO or anyone with a C in the front of their name, there it’ll probably get looked at pretty closely,” she said. “So we can report back that we took it down.”