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Wendy Pang Danone NLO
case 23 May 2016

Protecting and strengthening brands at Danone

When Isaac Carasso founded Danone, the company introduced Spanish doctors to the health benefits of yogurt. The yogurt was named after the founder's son Daniel, nicknamed 'Danon' in the Catalan language. The brand name has remained an invaluable asset ever since.

As the head of IP for three of Danone's product divisions, it is Wendy Pang's goal to protect and strengthen the Danone brands and thus ensure they will also contribute to the company's future success. "A lot of the work I do now at Danone is not driven by IP as such, it's about using IP as a tool to reach a solution that the business wants."

In order to contribute to Danone's business goals, what are the main items on your agenda and what are your goals for the next couple of years?

"The first is risk management and risk reduction, the second is building stronger brands and a strong reputation for Danone. Risk management is now on everybody's mind. We obviously know very well how to deal with the standard risk management aspects like clearances and making sure we don't infringe the rights of third parties. Trying to identify any hidden risks is another aspect though that can be challenging in a global organization like Danone's. We need to ensure that local businesses are aware of and comply with agreements negotiated globally or regionally and vice versa. The potential damage resulting from such risks in terms of litigation or product recalls can be huge, hence the prominent position on my agenda."

With respect to the second item on your agenda, how do you as an IP lawyer contribute to building stronger brands?

"Building stronger brands requires that our team works together with local and global business teams. One part of that is educating them on IP issues and on the work that our team does, so we're not just seen as people who they can tell what trademarks to register. Another part of us working together with the business involves picking our core brands and identifying with the people who develop these brands what brand elements they think are key. We work closely with the marketing teams to determine what we want to stop third parties doing, and with that in mind, we can together identify which elements of their brand are most important to them. Then we decide how we can protect and build those elements going forward.  Aside from appropriate IP protection, that means us stopping others from using those elements, but also from our side being strict on what variations on those key elements we allow local teams to use."

What would you say are the biggest challenges you face in managing a global IP portfolio?

"One main challenge certainly is the global aspect of the job. Often our primary internal clients are working at a global level, rolling out for example a global marketing campaign in different countries. Now the teams in these countries sometimes want to do their own thing and add certain local elements. That can cause some conflict between global and local teams. For us that can be challenging, because both are our clients."

Are you looking for a good fight?

"It's good to occasionally have a fight with a lot of publicity, but you have to pick the right fight to build the reputation you want to have. One major successful case would then make it much easier to deal with potential future conflicts, because when for example you send a cease and desist letter, the counterparty will be more likely to back off from a fight. But I should be clear: it is certainly not the goal of an in-house IP lawyer to have litigation at all times, which would be very expensive. We will continue to try to resolve issues through alternative means, such as settlements and discussions. But if we need to take a big fight to strengthen some of our brands, I'm ready to do that."

Article 'Protecting and strenghtening the brand at Danone'.
pdf - 367.33 KB