“Focus on being the copy expert”: Interview with brand strategy attorney Kimberly Bennett

Ahead of her “Trade Secrets” workshop on 10 May, Kimberly Bennett talks to Sabine Harnau about intellectual property, and how to keep yourself up-to-date and protected.

Kimberly is an avid traveller, lover of technology, legal industry disruptor and speaker. She runs K Bennett Law LLC – a boutique virtual brand strategy law practice. K Bennett Law offers subscription legal services to bold and activist brands that transform the world.

She’s also the co-founder of Fidu, co-founder of Atlanta Legal Tech, past board member of ABA TECHSHOW, and has been recognised as a Women of Legal Tech and Fastcase50 honoree.

You can find Kim hosting her podcast Watch Us Lead, teaching service professionals how to add subscription services to their business, and facilitating workshops and presentations on anti-racism, wellbeing, and innovation in the legal industry.

Connect with Kim on all social platforms using @kbennettlaw.

Kimberly is an avid traveller, lover of technology, legal industry disruptor and speaker. She runs K Bennett Law LLC – a boutique virtual brand strategy law practice. K Bennett Law offers subscription legal services to bold and activist brands that transform the world.

She’s also the co-founder of Fidu Legal, co-founder of Atlanta Legal Tech, past board member of ABA TECHSHOW, and has been recognized as a Women of Legal Tech and Fastcase50 honoree.

You can find Kim hosting her podcast Watch Us Lead, teaching service professionals how to add subscription services to their business, and facilitating workshops and presentations on wellbeing, innovation, and combating racism in the legal industry.

Connect with Kim on all social platforms using @kbennettlaw.

She’ll be sharing her “trade secrets” in a special 26 Trade Secrets workshop on 10 May 2023.

Ahead of the workshop, Sabine Harnau interviewed Kim to find out how we can avoid common mistakes that copywriters make when it comes to protecting intellectual property (IP).

Join us for the workshop: Get your ticket on Eventbrite

Let’s meet Kim…

Hi Kim, a lot of copywriters are concerned about intellectual property (IP). But sometimes that’s based on feelings rather than facts. Can you provide some examples of high-profile brand disputes and how they were ultimately resolved?

Some IP disputes arise about design features, others about names and copywriting, and sometimes it’s a combination. Let me share two examples.

Example 1: Tiffany & Co. v. Costco (settled in 2021)

In the U.S., Tiffany & Co sued Costco for trademark infringement and counterfeiting. Tiffany claimed that Costco used the word “Tiffany” to help market and sell rings in their Costco warehouses leveraging the Tiffany brand. In contrast, Costco claimed that their use of “Tiffany” in their marketing collateral was purely descriptive and did not cause any brand confusion among consumers.

Eventually, Tiffany and Costco settled the dispute privately in 2021.

Example 2: Adidas v. Thom Browne (decided in 2023)

Adidas sued Thom Browne claiming Thom Browne was “selling athletic-style apparel and footwear featuring two, three or four parallel stripes in a manner that is confusingly similar to Adidas’ three-stripe mark” without authorisation. Adidas asked for over 7 million USD in damages for this unauthorised use in its designs and marketing materials. 

Both Adidas and Thom Browne sell clothing, including activewear – although typically, Thom Browne focuses on high-end/luxury fashion. Additionally, Thom Brown’s design included two and four stripes across their items, not the 3 stripes that are found in Adidas’ trademark.

Adidas lost this case. The jury found that Thom Browne’s use of two and four stripes on suits and other items did not infringe or dilute Adidas’ trademarks. Furthermore, the jury found that consumers would not confuse designs created by Thom Brown with Adidas’ 3 stripe design. 

With this ruling, Thom Browne is able to continue marketing and selling their items utilising the designs subject to this dispute. 

Of course, Adidas may challenge this ruling. But, for now, this is a clear victory for Thom Browne.

How can we stay up-to-date on the latest developments and best practices in the field of IP and brand law?

Focus on being the copy expert, not the IP expert.

My favourite tips for navigating intellectual property are:

1 – Leverage the expertise of others.

Find 3-4 IP lawyers in your country (or your clients’ countries) that also serve a similar client base. Join their email lists, get their latest updates on IP law and attend their IP training workshops. 

Use these resources to sharpen your ability to spot potential issues or opportunities that may arise while working on your client’s copy and marketing. 

Once you see a potential issue or opportunity, recommend your client to talk with a lawyer and avoid providing legal advice. Focus on being the copy expert, not the IP expert. 

Bonus: If you want to aggregate updates across many sources, leverage a tech tool like Feedly or Readwise Reader.

2 – Use solid agreements.

Use agreements (service agreements, non-disclosure agreements, etc.) with every client so you are clear on what you are responsible for during and after the conclusion of a project. 

Make sure you understand all of the terms, including the IP terms that govern ownership, use of IP, and more. If you don’t, get help from an IP lawyer or use the resources you’ve collected.

3 – Engage IP lawyers early.

Whether you’re just starting out or you’re running a seasoned business: there are IP lawyers to support you. It’s never too early to engage an IP lawyer to support your business with ongoing advice, updates and resources. They can help you stay compliant, serve your clients better and protect your own intellectual property.

What you’ll learn in 26 Trade Secrets: Accessible Writing

Kimberly Bennett’s Ask-the-Expert session will provide a practical introduction to intellectual property. We’ll learn about:

  • Why IP matters in creative and advertising work.
  • Common mistakes and how to avoid them.
    What are intellectual property rights, and how can I avoid accidentally infringing on the rights of others?
  • Image rights – the ‘where’s and ‘when’s of image use.
    “Is it OK if I use this image in my client presentation?” – You’ll know more after this workshop.
  • Protected words and where to find them.
    “I use a lot of wordplay in my copywriting but I’m worried about copyright claims.” – This workshop will help you draw the line without restricting your creativity.
  • Your question goes here.
    Bring your doubts, questions and concerns – ideally email them to Sabine at sabine@from-scratch.net. We’ll help you get the answers you’re looking for.

– Interview by Sabine Harnau

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