David Lossignol is the 2019 president of the International Trademark Association (INTA), and head of trademarks, domain names and copyrights at Novartis Pharma. He gives Leaders League a sneak peek what is yet to come during his one-year tenure.
LEADERS LEAGUE. How do you combine your role as president of INTA with your role as head of trademarks, domain names and copyrights at Novartis Pharma?
David Lossignol. I took up my position as president of INTA on January 1st 2019 at the same time as becoming head of trademarks, domain names and copyrights at Novartis, just to make things easier! As 2019 president of INTA, I oversee all the association’s activities and have an ambassadorial role. It takes good organization to manage my schedule, but I am very lucky to have the support of Novartis and to rely on very experienced teams.
What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve during your tenure?
My presidential taskforce aims at promoting “brands for a better society.” This will involve a fight against the "anti IP sentiment" that manifests itself through brand restriction. We have identified brand restriction issues in more than 23 countries, which illustrates that it is not an isolated problem and is not exclusive to the tobacco sector. Brand restriction can have a very negative effect on the economy by creating a presumption of equivalence between products. An entrepreneur for example will have no interest in creating a product that will differentiate itself by its quality or other attributes if he can not highlight those distinctive elements. Therefore, brand restriction kills innovation.
Another one of my priorities is fighting counterfeiting. In some countries it is a very common phenomenon and I sometimes find it shocking how small sanctions can be. At INTA, we want counterfeiting to become socially unacceptable. This involves fighting against people selling counterfeit products but also those who see it as a victimless crime. People buying counterfeit products must be aware of the implications that their actions can have on society. One of the most striking examples took place in France: terrorists involved in the Charlie Hebdo attack were selling counterfeit shoes in the months leading up to the atrocity. Counterfeiting in this case financed a terror attack. Our mission therefore consists of raising consumer awareness of this scourge through different type of initiatives: intervention in schools, training programs, law commentary work, etc. We also encourage local action and work closely with public stakeholders.
In what way are trademarks strategic for a company?
A brand identifies a company, or at the very least its services. Beyond the legal aspect of brand use, it is a business development asset, as well as a unifying element for employees. It is also strategic for the consumer as they associate the brand with a product, image, or feeling. Edelman’s 2018 Trust Barometer Special Report highlighted the fact that many consumers pay a specific attention to the brand’s policy and approach to social issues. This is a new and telling trend: social media have largely enabled this.
What are the most important values promoted by the association?
At INTA we want to collectively fight for the promotion and defense of brands. It is the guiding principle of our events, including our annual meeting being held in Boston this year. We are expecting more than 10,000 professionals, which would make it be the largest-ever INTA gathering. Within the association, we are also committed to the promotion of equality and geographical diversity, both within our own organization and in the wider legal world.
Interview by Camille Guével