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Article 24 Jun 2021

Intellectual property faces the challenge of the digital world

Inventions, artworks, symbols, trademarks, logos… These are all creations usually associated with the field of intellectual property and, consequently, are legally protected by patents, copyrights, and trademarks

However, new technologies and digitalization have brought new challenges to the field of intellectual property. Now, it must not only protect new types of non-traditional trademarks, such as holograms, but also purely digital creations, such as mobile applications and other software. There are also questions regarding how to enforce these rights in online environments and digital marketplaces. 

Protecting intangible assets can represent enormous value for a company, and it becomes even more necessary and complex in an increasingly digital and globalized world. Beyond the ongoing development of legal regulations in this area, intellectual property disputes of any kind can pose significant reputational risks for companies. 

Intellectual property disputes and risks have become much broader in the age of hyperconnectivity. A good example of this concerns Amazon’s popular marketplace, which allows third-party sellers to offers their products on its website. 

One seller was offering products from the well-known brand Davidoff on this platform. Coty (a company licensed to Davidoff products) argued in court that both the vendor and Amazon were making use of this trademark, therefore making them both directly liable for the violation of marketing its products without the owner’s authorization.

Financial media picked the topic up in April 2020, when the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) established that Amazon, as an intermediary, did not commit any infringement by stocking products that violate trademark rights on its ecommerce platform.

Another major dispute between tech giants in recent years has been over intellectual property, specifically software patents. Oracle, the owner of the Java programming language, accused Google of having used lines of Java SE code in Android, thereby violating copyright laws. It claimed $9 billion in compensation from Google. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ended this 10-year-long dispute, ruling that Google can legally make use of Java code snippets. This established a significant precedent in the technology sector in terms of how copyright is deemed to affect software.

One of the risks most frequently facing businesses is another entity copying or misusing a distinctive element of its brand. This can happen both within and beyond its sector of activity and takes advantage of the business’ good name, potentially leading to consumer confusion. 

In the digital environment, where we cannot physically check the qualities of the products we purchase, it becomes a risk brands must be especially aware of in order to be able to identify possible trademark disputes. 

Luis González
Senior Director of Legal Issues area
With over 20 years of professional experience, Gonzalez is an expert in crisis communications, restructurings, insolvencies and media relations; with specializations in the infrastructure, real estate, food, health and industrial sectors. Previously, he was a director for LLYC's operations in Chile (2014-2016) and Portugal (2012). Before joining the company, he was an editor at Diario Médico, editor-in-chief of local TV channels Teletoledo and TV Guadalajara, and press officer and director of expansion for Tactics Europe, an advertising agency. He is a journalist with a degree in information sciences from the Complutense University of Madrid and is a visiting professor for various strategic communications master’s degree courses.
Alba García
Director of Legal Issues area
She holds a degree in advertising and public relations and a master’s degree in corporate and advertising communication from Universidad Complutense de Madrid. She has coordinated the UCM master’s degrees in “Communication of Public and Political Institutions” and “Corporate and Advertising Communication”. She has worked at LLYC in recent years on a host of communication projects during court proceedings and re-structuring processes. In this field, the campaign developed for the reputational crisis of Vitaldent during litigation received a Stevie Award in 2017. She has also played various roles in corporate communication projects for such customers as Coca-Cola, Burger King, Mercadona, Atento and Faurecia.

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