What Exactly Is Internet Law?
When this generation's law firm leaders got their JDs, was there such a thing as "Internet law"? (If so, it probably involved tangled fishing net disputes.) We asked Mayer Brown Global Brand Management and Internet practice co-leader Brian Winterfeldt what exactly that entails.
Brian's practice combines advising clients on global trademark and branding strategies with Internet governance and domain name issues. Companies are dealing with the challenge of protecting and enforcing their brand rights in an increasingly digital world, he says. Brand management, ICANN and social media are issues at the forefront of general counsels' minds. Cybersecurity is a very hot issue, and was one main topic of conversation during a recent White House visit with IP Czar Danny Marti and a big client, along with the discussion of online infringement, phishing, fraud and other scams.
Brian—snapped here with USPTO Commissioner of Trademarks Mary Denison this summer—recently joined Mayer Brown from Katten, where he headed the Internet practice. He brought with him five attorneys and several other support staff members, and says they're making a few more hires. (His group at Mayer Brown is part of the IP practice, which has nearly doubled in the past three years.) The practice caters to Fortune 100 companies, which use its help to manage brands from a portfolio standpoint and on the Internet side, including applications for new gTLDs (aka the new .brands).
When he's not singing along with Madonna, Brian's working with clients on how to handle cyber-squatting and infringements--now that new gTLDs mean there are 700 generic spaces to police. The approach used to be going after every infringer. Now a "wait and see" approach (for not particularly concerning extensions) may be necessary as brands scale their enforcement. Brian's working with clients to set up the new .brands from legal and policy standpoints, get registries up and running, do internal training, and make sure brands have the right partners for marketing. We haven't seen the full impact of new gTLDs yet—and likely won't until they start to go live late this year and next year.
Most of us use Facebook (and this shot of Brian and his dad would make a great profile picture), but social media has a lot of enforcement challenges. When a global fashion company has multiple infringements across multiple platforms, for instance, if a take-down request isn't working, Brian's practice helps escalate things. (It helps that he has direct relationships with many of the platforms.) His work on Internet issues started through INTA (where he's now on the board and has co-chaired some of its conferences), through which he began developing expertise in ICANN. He saw the Internet space as complementary to his work in brands and trademarks, a combination that also appeals to global companies.