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GC Spotlight: Victor Foo, Intellectual Property Counsel at Joseph Joseph.

We're back with our GC spotlight series where we cast light on General Counsels, Head of Legals, CLOs, etc. globally. This month we have the awesome Victor Foo, Intellectual Property Counsel at Joseph Joseph Ltd, an innovative and contemporary kitchenware and homeware company (if you haven't already checked out their cool homewares, go check it out!). As well as heading IP management & brand protection, he is also the sole counsel for legal and commercial affairs. Let's hear from the amicable Victor on how the business tackled the impacts of Covid!

1. What have been your biggest challenges over the last few months?

To keep things ticking amidst COVID changes which most naively thought will only last until summer 2020 but now is permanent for the foreseeable future.

One major problem is that IP work especially those involving foreign government departments, still need hard copy documents. Moreover, they usually have tight deadlines and require completion with witnessed and verified signatures. Under social distancing rules, this is not easy to comply with.

Also, Brexit presents new administrative and bureaucratic challenges. What we used to do just once, now must be done twice to cover UK too.

2. What are your key priorities for the next year?

Setting up legal processes under the new normal and ensuring our partners worldwide are aware of these. Follow up to the minute information on country laws and procedural changes that affect IP maintenance and enforcement such as border controls due to both COVID and Brexit

3. Has your role in your organisation changed / is it changing? If yes, in what way?

Largely same although I am getting requests to troubleshoot issues across the board and not just legal or IP.

4. What are your thoughts on, or experiences with, legal technology and how do you envisage it changing the way your legal team operates?

We have not invested in this and hope to do so once the workload reaches a threshold that makes it cost effective. For now, we are using suppliers in brand protection who uses cutting edge image recognition technology to identify and remove infringements online.

As commercial activities especially for FMCG were totally yanked off high streets on to virtual stores, such technology is now very important.

We are also looking at companies that offer data collection and manipulation software working with border control and customs agencies to find infringers and monitor their activities. These help identify illegal transactions and tracking shipments of fakes globally.

5. What do you think about the use of data relating to your legal department’s activities (e.g. data relating to contracts, risk, tracking work flows, performance metrics, costs)?

I believe expanded use of data will further improve productivity, enhance visibility of workflow and ensure transparency of spending. The latter is of great importance to management who are keen to see returns on investment.

6. Are there any specific changes, developments or trends that you expect (or hope) to see in the legal services industry?

Security and confidentiality of e-communications will be key and I expect much development in this area. One example is virtual meetings which used to be fairly limited in use but has now exploded to include all manner of confidential discussions. Unfortunately, this growth is in tandem with that of cybercrimes. Criminals have a lot of low hanging fruits to pick off at the moment as companies’ investments in security are only slowly catching up.

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