With reference to a special work anniversary, we took the opportunity to have a chat with Knud Wallberg, Partner and Attorney-at-law at Zacco in Copenhagen. Throughout his extensive career, he has been an examiner at the Danish Patent and Trademark Office, a university lecturer and even co-founded his own IP firm. He is considered a valued member of The Danish Complaints Board for Domain Names and of the Board of Appeal for Patents and Trademarks and, in addition, has acted as UDRP Panelist with WIPO from the very beginning of the UDRP system. How would he summarise 30 years in the IP business?
Congrats, Knud! You started your career within IP in 1990, which means you can look back at thirty years of work experience with trademarks and domain names! If you compare the content of your work now and then, what has changed?
Knud Wallberg: -Back in 1990, working with IP was very different. As a Danish trademark lawyer, you had to know the national legislation, but consulted local agents for filings in any other country. I was working as an examiner at the DKPTO back then but by 1996, when I had advanced to being head of the trademarks and designs department, the big change came with the introduction of Community Trademarks (now: European Union Trade Mark) and the Madrid System. We suddenly got a larger, international ‘playground’ that required knowledge of both EU and international legislation as well. I have accompanied the whole field of domain name protection and anti-counterfeiting from its early days. For traditional companies, the internet has added a new layer to their IP work. For others the digital sphere forms the heart of their business, their raison d’être and all of the assets they need to secure are digital ones.
You have been working at Zacco for about a year now. What were your reasons for joining?
K.W.: -At that point of my career, I was teaching at the Faculty of Law at University of Copenhagen with a postdoc grant. My research project was entitled „Removing illicit products from online marketplaces: Private enforcement tools as alternatives to court actions“ and frankly, I had a perception of IP law firms as being rather conservative and slow. So, who convinced me to start in private practice again? I would say it was a combination of contact with appreciated attorneys, many of whom are now my colleagues, as well as Zacco’s distinctive business strategy that attracted me. I felt we shared a similar view on the world and the impact that digitalisation has on our work.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
K.W.: -There are many aspects I like about work within Intellectual Property, but let me just mention two of them. Primarily, it would be the variety of clients that I meet in my practice. There are so many companies I have the chance to learn more about and to discuss their business with, so no chance for boredom. The second part would be the cases where we really push the boundaries of intellectual property. A client who wants to explore new legal territory and needs my advice for it, that is a perfect motivator for me.
When meeting a new client, what do you need to know to ensure you give the best advice?
K.W.: -As an advisor, my work can only be as good as the input I get from the client. What do they do, what markets are they active in, what do they need to secure, what are their core assets? These questions and their answers are vital for the quality of the outcome, and often the dialogue helps the client to understand and, in some cases, even redefine their business, for example, when a music company realised it was working with healthcare. When clients are willing to collaborate instead of shuffling the tasks over to me, and to invest some effort into our attorney-client relationship, the benefits for the result are remarkable.
How much does a brand owner need to know about intellectual property in order to make good decisions?
K.W.: -Understandably, there is a broad spectrum of how much clients know about IP beforehand but the more you know, the better the decisions you make. It takes time to identify the issues and to evaluate what actions are necessary to protect a business from harm or from infringing on others’ IP rights. I would say that my experience as a university lecturer has prepared me nicely for this challenge, I know that you have to make a topic relevant in order to be heard, and I know how to. In other words, my educational career adds value to the advice I am able to give today, with a foundation of 30 years of experience within IP to stand on.
Thank you for the conversation Knud, and once again, congratulations on your 30th work anniversary within the IP industry!