Attorney Lucy Nichols is an authority on intellectual property rights, with more than two decades of experience in IP acquisition, protection and enforcement that spans the globe. In her most recent role with Nokia, Nichols focused on developing a global IP & Brand protection and enforcement strategy that relied heavily on cross-functional input and collaboration.
While her role with Nokia was global, the base of her operations moved from the Americas to Europe and eventually to China where the company’s evolving brand enforcement strategy had the greatest impact.
Nichols has held numerous leadership positions in an array of international IP industry associations and a recognized leader in innovative IP strategies. She joined the Center for Responsible Enterprise and Trade as IP Counsel in July, 2013.
Question: Tell us a little about your most recent role in China. What were the greatest challenges? Any surprises?
Answer: From 2008-2011, I moved to Nokia’s regional headquarters in Beijing, China where I was based and managed the company’s global anti-counterfeiting and design infringement activities. While there, I managed numerous successful IP litigations in Chinese courts involving trademark and design rights.
It was important for me to be ‘on the ground’ in China working directly with key business people because the majority of counterfeit and illegal copycat manufacturing in Nokia’s supply chain was taking place in mainland China and being distributed through Hong Kong.
The biggest challenge was clearly the scale of the problem and determining how best to tackle it from a practical perspective. The Chinese and Hong Kong enforcement authorities were extremely cooperative and supportive when we approached them with well-developed cases and plans of action.
I formed and led a cross-functional advisory group within the company which ensured that the appropriate IP processes, procedures and policies were in place, and also provided the team I led with specific business-backed priorities. Armed with a clear mission, we were able to focus our enforcement activities, measure the success of our efforts and make immediate adjustments with input from the business when necessary.
Q: You’ve been involved in litigation in China and elsewhere. What observations do you have about handling disputes in China’s court system compared to other places?
A: I have often said that I’d rather litigate in China and Hong Kong than any other jurisdictions. It has been my experience that the judges are knowledgeable, impartial and reasonable in handling cases and the associated time and costs are considerably less than many other countries.
It has been my experience that with thorough pre-litigation investigations and the thoughtful selection of key targets in the manufacturing and distribution chain of infringing/counterfeit goods, litigating in China and Hong Kong can successfully disrupt if not eliminate the further distribution of counterfeit products to major markets around the globe.
Q: You’ve joined CREATe, so clearly you subscribe to the belief that a proactive management systems approach can best prevent IP theft. How does that work, and how far do you think it will go to stem the problem?
A: I’ve always subscribed to the belief that IP rights are private rights and as such it is incumbent upon rights holders to take primary responsibility for protecting their IP. What impresses me the most about CREATe is its comprehensive approach to IP protection and the numerous resources available to companies participating in the CREATe Leading Practices program.
Q: What can global companies do to prevent IP theft in high-risk countries?
A: Many multinational companies are aware of the varying IP registration regimes around the globe and take the necessary steps to protect their IP prior to entering foreign markets. However, there are an equal if not greater number of companies that fail to proactively protect their IP and proprietary information in a timely manner. These companies are frequently surprised to learn that their IP has already been registered and/or the security of their manufacturing know-how has been compromised in foreign markets.
The most important step every global company can take to reduce the risk of IP theft is to assess and evaluate the adequacy of their internal IP policies and processes and make the necessary adjustments to protect their IP assets.
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For companies looking to improve IP protection, CREATe.org offers CREATe Leading Practices for IP Protection, a three-step program providing assessments, tools, training and resources for companies to guide improvements.
- Counterfeits Whitepaper: The Health and Safety Risks of Counterfeits in the Supply Chain.
- Trade Secret Whitepaper: Trade Secret Theft: Managing the Growing Threat in Supply Chains.
- Model IP Policies: sample policies for companies looking to implement policies to protect IP, available in English, Chinese and Brazilian Portuguese
- Free Benchmarking: See how your IP policies compare to best practices – request a free benchmarking of the ‘IP Policies’ portion of CREATe Leading Practices for IP Protection. Email info@CREATe.org to learn more.