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The Privacy Advisor | Where trademarks and privacy collide Related reading: Vodafone’s 'Location Insights' grabs honorable mention

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As new regulations set the standard for privacy, ensuring privacy and data protection have become undeniable factors in brand protection. The Privacy Advisor recently spoke with Etienne Sanz de Acedo, CEO of the International Trademark Association, to hear a bit about how privacy impacts an area that might not be top of mind for privacy professionals: Trademark law. As the largest brand global association of brand owners, INTA serves to promote laws that support trademarks and intellectual property rights in a way that both protects brand owners and fosters consumer trust, economic growth and innovation. Here, Sanz de Acedo reflects on how the EU General Data Protection Regulation has impacted trademark law and ongoing efforts to address member concerns. He emphasizes the importance of working with other professional organizations to better understand complex issues, such as privacy and data protection.

As an organization, Sanz de Acedo said one of INTA’s top priorities is to develop stronger harmonization globally, not only by supporting robust laws but by advocating for strong enforcement mechanisms. For brand owners, protecting consumer privacy is synonymous with protecting consistent, safe and quality products making brand protection paramount.  

Sanz de Acedo said a top concern for INTA members is the continuous threat of brand erosion, particularly around the risk of counterfeiting. In addition to this, he said, “One of the biggest concerns is the risk of a data breach, which can seriously erode brand value. To safeguard against that, INTA supports data protection and privacy. But at the same time, we believe there is a need to find a balance between protecting those rights and also protecting the rights of brand owners. If we remove the ability for brand owners to enforce their rights, we are not doing right by the brand owners, nor for the end consumer.”

GDPR has undoubtedly altered the enforcement mechanisms previously utilized by INTA members. “One trend that is extremely interesting is that companies now regard data as a competitive advantage," he said. "Parallel to that, there is increased public scrutiny that is taking place, an erosion in consumer trust and regulatory fragmentation. This is where GDPR comes into the equation.” By helping to create a global standard for data protection and privacy, the GDPR has also altered brand owners' abilities to enforce against counterfeiting operations online.

He said, “One of the major concerns for brand owners is counterfeiting and the internet. There used to be a mechanism that enabled brand owners to enforce their rights by being able to identify who was behind a certain website using a registration database called WHOIS. As a direct result of GDPR, the WHOIS system is not working the way it used to and that is a major concern for us.”

Sanz de Acedo added, “We think it’s important that organizations work together and cooperate to better understand complex issues such as privacy and data protection. When I look at INTA and the IAPP, I think we both share the importance of ensuring data protection and data privacy. I see overlap in the need to educate consumers and society at large on the opportunities and the challenges of a data rich world.”

While trademark lawyers and privacy professionals may not see much reason for collaboration, Sanz de Acedo said, “I think that more and more, privacy professionals and trademark professionals will have to work hand-in-hand.” For privacy professionals to better understand the trademark community, he said, “What is key to understand is that trademark law is about providing a consistent and safe customer experience.”

INTA will be at the IAPP Europe Data Protection Congress taking place in Brussels Nov. 28-29, where Lori Schulman, senior director of internet policy at INTA, will moderate a panel titled, “Brand Protection in Today’s Online Privacy Environment: Two Sides to the Coin.”

 “This is the kind of partnership that we should aim for and we should all work together to push for better laws that protect consumers and also protect brand owners.” Sanz de Acedo continued, “Like any other non-profit organization, we are here to serve our members. We are committed to providing education and resources for our members and help them keep up to date with what to expect next.”

photo credit: luckyandbird Tokyo Scene 6 via photopin (license)

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