fSpace Talks – Marie Wong

Marie Wong was the latest to share what she does at a recent fSpace Talks event. Marie is a lawyer and trade mark attorney who specializes in intellectual property (IP) and works from fSpace one day a week. Marie is a Principal of Wrays, a specialist IP practice that provides advice and assistance in all areas of IP protection and branding strategy, with offices across Australia.

While Marie focuses on brand protection (incorporating trade marks, copyright, domain names, branding & e-commerce), she works closely with her other IP colleagues at Wrays who specialize in the filing and enforcement of registered designs and patents across scientific fields such as engineering, computing, chemistry and life sciences. The focus of Wrays and Marie’s practice as an IP lawyer is supporting creativity and innovation.

Marie described IP as the intangible property of the mind which gives rise to a tangible and valuable product or outcome for society.

Marie provided an overview of the different types of IP that all businesses – large or small – deal with every day. Marie provided an example of today’s smartphones, which are protected by: over 1000 patents, including for their semiconductors, batteries and screens; copyright protecting the artwork and software code; design rights to protect aesthetics; and, of course, trade marks – the brand names, logos and other distinctive signs (including shape marks) by which products such as the “iPhone” are differentiated.

Whilst copyright (protecting the expression of words, software code and artistic form) is an unregistered right, which is automatically granted, and has a ‘long life’ protection (typically 70 years after the death of the author), other rights – such as registered design and patent rights – need to be applied for (usually before any commercial use or disclosure) and last only 10 to 20 years from the date the design/patent was registered.

Trade marks, the area in which Marie works most, can be registered or unregistered and have a potentially unlimited lifespan. Marie works with a variety of clients from a range of different industries to identify and protect their core brands, and regularly assists clients with trade mark audits, searching and clearance (for proposed brand names, logos and taglines), and trade mark filing and enforcement, both locally and overseas. She also helps her clients prevent cybersquatting by watching and protecting new domain names and extensions, and filing complaints when necessary.

One client is another member from fSpace who is a graphic designer. Marie has worked with the designer and her client to ensure that a proposed new brand identity was available for registration as a domain name and trade mark, and to secure registered trade mark protection for the new brand name. Marie regularly works with creative agencies to identify legal issues in the use and roll-out of creative and marketing collateral, including websites and digital marketing.

Marie also noted her own experience with seeking registration of a trade mark for “Roaming Kitchen”, a side-project that Marie and fellow fSpace member, Kim-Vu Salamonsen, have been working on to promote a “unique pop-up kitchen, roaming
through different rooms, flavours and musical delights in sunny Perth,
Western Australia”, based in Fremantle. The trade mark encountered difficulties to registration because the name of the restaurant, Roaming Kitchen, was deemed to be a common term or descriptor and therefore ineligible for trademark protection. Marie described the process of preparing submissions and gathering evidence of use, in the role of the “client”, to try and get this trade mark across the line.

Thanks to Marie for giving us a glimpse into the world of IP and the protections that go with it. Anyone wanting advice on IP is welcome to contact Marie at marie.wong@wrays.com.au.

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