How to keep our clients happy and involved in the protection of their trade marks during a pandemic

Written earlier on in the pandemic, Eleni shares her thoughts on staying close to clients’ concerns during and after the pandemic

In all countries now, more than forty days have passed since the beginning of Covid-19 lockdown periods. Some of them have already started gradually loosening the measures against the pandemic, but often with a sense of uncertainty about the results. The initial forty days were a period of growing anxiety for businesses and IP practitioners, especially in countries affected most by the Covid-19 pandemic.

I can’t help seeing a parallel between this period of forty days and the biblical expression “forty days and forty nights” which means a really long time. Being a significant number with great symbolic meaning for many religions, the number forty used in terms of time represents a period of trial and probation. 

I have the sense that the same applied during the first days of the confinement period. How have we been tried and what did we all learn during this period of time? That we may take effective precautionary measures to protect our personnel and safeguard our teams. That we are capable of adapting well to the challenges of mass remote working. That we may hold meetings via virtual platforms and -surprise, surprise! – it works well! That we may still keep our teams busy and motivated during the Covid-19 crisis period.

But what about staying close with our clients? Especially those who need to cope with challenges such as keeping their businesses safe from being shut down due to the pandemic crisis? From discussions that I have had with clients and colleagues these last days, the last thing that most affected businesses care about is taking active action to keep their brands alive and protected from counterfeiting.

Having all this in mind, what do you do to keep your clients still involved in the idea of caring about their brands and protecting them during the crisis? How do you help them to see some light at the end of the tunnel and actively keep your own IP business alive through the crisis?  

Here are a few ideas:

  • Let them know that you are here to help out. Don’t let them struggle with uncertainty as regards issues that you can take care of as an IP professional, such as deadlines, changes in procedures and bureaucracy. Most industry clients that I know, do not have the time to go through different information sources such as IP Offices’ websites and website links to get informed on the extension or suspension of deadlines. What really helps them is the provision of up-to-date and tailormade information on jurisdictions that they are interested in only, usually in the form of tables, accompanied by specific and targeted advice on further steps and actions.
  • Send your client specific information that concerns only their brand portfolio: they probably do not have the time to read about everything that happens in the world at this specific time. Send this information along with tailormade advice on how to maintain their trade mark rights and preserve priority rights, when possible.
  • Protect them from errors that may be easily made during this period of time, such as filing untrue Statements of Use declarations if their businesses have been closed due to the Covid-19 measures. Provide them with alternatives for the maintenance of their trade mark rights, when possible.
  • Do not forget about other obstacles that may prevent clients from completing actions related to the prosecution and maintenance of their trade marks. As trade mark practitioners, we tend to only think about IP Office deadlines and procedures. What about other administrative authorities, whose closure may affect, for example, the legalisation of documents? Be prepared to seek alternatives and be flexible, when possible. Being flexible, is the number one thing that we all learned during this pandemic – let’s keep this knowledge as an “arrow in our quiver” for the future.
  • Encourage your clients to protect their trade marks from counterfeiters during this period: do remind them that infringers are still there during the lockdown and they act mainly online. A recent report published by Europol revealed that a significant number of new websites have been established during the Covid-19 crisis, with the aim to profit from the pandemic. Inform your clients of this change and help them to monitor the illicit marketing of counterfeits that infringe their rights.
  • Help your clients to find reliable investigators who may help them investigate and monitor the online market, especially those clients who do not have “boots on the ground” in all jurisdictions. 

Providing valuable support to our clients will help them deal successfully with uncertainty over the protection of their brands and will keep our IP business alive in these strange times. 

And by letting our clients know that they are important for us even when their businesses are shuttered, we build and retain customer royalty and trust in the long run. 

And, of course, it is a good opportunity to review and evaluate our own processes and improve our operations. In the end, this is what a probation period of forty-days is all about, isn’t it?

Next steps 

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FICPI has a dual focus on legal and professional excellence, ensuring that FICPI members have the qualifications and experience to build growth in the companies they serve and to help organisations build and protect value in their IP assets. 

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