- Senior IP Counsel
- At Business Area Legal Corporate
- Works in Shanghai China
- At AkzoNobel since 2013
"We are doing everything we can every year to protect the business goodwill of AkzoNobel, the reputation of our brands and the quality of our products."
With a motto like “be true to myself, and be practical and efficient”, you can be sure that Christy can be counted on to get things done – no matter how difficult, or time consuming! That’s great news for AkzoNobel when it comes to protecting our intellectual property (IP), including our brands.
Based in Shanghai, China, Christy is our Senior Counsel responsible for intellectual property in the Asia-Pacific region. She takes great pride in her work because, as she puts it, “our innovations and longstanding powerful brands are what give AkzoNobel competitive edge.”
“We have many high-end brands around the world including Dulux, which has received the ‘Well-Known Mark’ official recognition in China,” Christy explains. “We’ve worked really hard to get that recognition. Our ‘Well-Known Mark’ status means we’re now able to better enforce the trademark rights against copycats or counterfeits products.”
Others want a piece of our success
“We have a saying in the world of intellectual property: you are copied because you have the value for being copied,” Christy notes. “Our good name has inspired others to try to duplicate what we have accomplished.”
Christy cites AkzoNobel’s “EasyPaint” as one such example. Although we were the first to promote it, the idea was immediately picked up by others in the consumer paints industry.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it means Christy and her colleagues always need to be one step ahead to protect what the company has worked hard to build. “We are doing everything we can every year to protect the business goodwill of AkzoNobel, the reputation of our brands and the quality of our products,” she says.
In it for the long haul
Protecting our brand, it turns out, means relentlessly laying claim to it over and over again.
One example is the Latin brand Dulux. It has been registered in China since 1966, and the Dulux Chinese sign since 1987 – and ever since, the two Dulux marks have been used together. Although both became recognizable in China’s decorative paint industry, that wasn’t enough to qualify for official Well-Known Mark status.
Christy says: “It’s a long process to gain the legal recognition of Well-Known Mark status. You must submit legal claims supported by evidence, financial data, records of marketing efforts and document all legal and administrative actions.”
Even gathering these records was quite a challenge because we have so many local operations. “I personally visited our business sectors and units and took pictures of all our awards, trophies and certificates to preserve them as evidence,” Christy remembers. “I was like a reporter searching for good news everywhere.”
It was all worth the effort. Through countless legal and administrative actions since 2008, Latin Dulux was finally granted the Well-Known Mark in 2013, and the Dulux Chinese sign was recognized in 2016 – that’s after nearly half a century!
Persistence pays off
Apart from providing better protection to the Dulux brand, the Well-Known Mark status also generates sustainable competitive advantage to the business in China. Christy says: “This is a successful example of implementing our intellectual property strategy: get close to the business, identify intellectual property opportunities and build up our value-adding portfolio.”
She continues: “I really believe having strong brands helps us lead the industry. I am proud to have taken ownership of this initiative to gain the Well-Known Mark status for Dulux. But I also had the trust and whole-hearted support from our senior leaders, stakeholders and other peers over the long process.”
Christy says that she’s able to grow in her position as her focus now shifts. “My responsibilities have been expanding from trademarks to other intellectual property matters, and also regionally from North Asia to South East South Asia. It’s interesting, and it gives me momentum for what I will do next.”