Devialet: Navigating ‘the Wild West of online sales’
Kimiya Shams, legal counsel at audio tech company Devialet, discusses her growth as an IP lawyer and looks at how brand protection programmes serve to safeguard consumers and brand owners
Having worked as a legal counsel at Devialet since 2016, Kimiya Shams knows how a bespoke brand protection programme can help against the growing set of challenges that audio technology companies face in the digital era.
From her experiences in the US, France and Sweden, Kimiya emphasises the importance of spreading knowledge and promoting cross-department collaboration to tackle the growth of fraudulent enterprises. She suggests that a team effort can provide the most comprehensive returns during initial investigations.
“The information that you find, the arguments that you make and the legal framework that you rely on must be bulletproof,” Kimiya tells Managing IP. “The pre-litigation stage of any claim is the most important.”
Igniting the spark
Kimiya says the time spent in her Swedish high school’s law and media class prompted her to pursue a career in IP law.
“I spent six months learning about copyright, advertising and entertainment law. I was thrilled and this ignited a spark.”
Kimiya studied for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Stockholm University, specialising in intellectual property and corporate law. Post-graduation, she initially worked as an associate lawyer in a law firm in Stockholm. She then joined Oriflame Cosmetics as a legal counsel, before moving to spend two years in the legal team of nature-based, ingredient solutions company CP Kelco in Paris.
In 2015, Kimiya enrolled in the LLM programme at Stanford Law School, concentrating on Law, Science and Technology. During her stint in the west coast, she was a member editor of the Stanford Technology Law Review, and served as a board member of the Stanford Intellectual Property Association and the law school’s Fashion, Art and Design Society. Lessons learned from this period played a significant part in shaping her next career adventure.
An evolving industry
Kimiya celebrates five years at Devialet this year. Founded in 2007 and headquartered in Paris, the acoustic engineering technology company aims to bring high-fidelity sound to its clients. It is renowned in the industry for its popular line of speakers, amplifiers and earbuds.
“Since we are a small company – with 400 employees worldwide and a small legal team – this has really meant that I have had a lot of independence and space for creative work,” Kimiya says.
The evolving nature of the audio technology industry means that projects regularly tackle new ground and lawyers often have to innovate to provide appropriate solutions. As a result, Kimiya works closely with the wider sales, marketing and product teams at Devialet on a daily basis.
“I find that the results of any project are much better when everyone understands,” says Kimiya. “My goal is always to include people and to involve them, to teach them and also to show them that law does not necessarily need to be difficult”.
“You have to be hands-on, unafraid and ready to dive deep on any given day. You need to be alert and fast but also diligent – and above all, you need a can-do attitude,” she adds.
The firm has joined forces with brand protection company Incopro to refine its selective distribution strategy and to provide monitoring for network compliance. Incopro has developed a tool that searches the internet by using machine learning to constantly refine its ability to discover, prioritise and act on infringing content and products. With the tool, Incopro can scrape websites, marketplaces and social networks far deeper than can be done manually. Their work with Devialet consists of ‘cleaning’ the internet and ensuring that dangerous counterfeits, scams and unauthorised sales are deleted and made inaccessible.
“We dedicate considerable financial resources to fight against counterfeits and their manufacturers worldwide,” says Kimiya.
Devialet’s brand protection programme aims to protect clients from falling prey to dangerous electrical products. This includes restricting the supply and access of counterfeit consumer goods and electronics that evade the testing and certification process of governmental authorities. The programme also serves to safeguard Devialet’s own efforts on and investment in designing and manufacturing novel technologies and designs.
“We engage in legal action against counterfeiters and collaborate with local governmental forces to pursue them,” says Kimiya. “We also spend time investigating and monitoring online marketplaces, social media platforms and websites in order to ensure that counterfeits are taken off the internet. In return, this minimises the risk of consumers falling prey to dangerous counterfeits.”
Kimiya suggests that the nature of threats continues to transform, as technology becomes more widespread and the e-commerce space becomes more difficult to regulate.
“The key threats are digitalisation and platforms without an intellectual property interest or policy – where anyone can sell any kind of counterfeit product without having to bear any responsibility towards consumers and brand owners,” she says.
“The Wild West of online sales with drop-shipping and sketchy companies with dubious credentials are truly a horror for any lawyer, especially an IP lawyer.”
Kimiya notes that Devialet actively looks to inform potential buyers of the harms related to purchasing bogus products.
“Social media platforms and marketplaces play a crucial role in protecting consumers from falling prey to counterfeits and dangerous products.
“Our approach is to be proactive and to inform our clients on our anti-counterfeiting strategy – such as through statements on our platforms like our own website,” says Kimiya. “With this, we want to help our clients detect counterfeit products and make informed decisions.”
Kimiya appeals for greater effort from platforms themselves to safeguard the IP rights of brand owners. She requests them to use better tools and processes to enforce actions, and calls for more effective collaboration with brand owners to tackle infringement and dilution.
“I doubt that any platform would like to be known as a place where consumers can buy counterfeits and illegal goods,” Kimiya says. “It is therefore in everyone’s interest that platforms and brands work together.”
Kimiya acknowledges the larger impact that working at Devialet has had on her growth as a lawyer.
“I have some amazingly creative colleagues, who have out-of-the-box ideas and projects that no one has ever seen in any industry. Their ideas push me to break my boundaries and to be creative in my own work.
“There have been moments where I have had to find solutions, create projects and draft documents entirely from scratch with no template, clear legal framework or precedent to lean on,” she says. “I truly believe that my growth has been in exploring more of my own creativity and become more business-minded.”
In addition to her work at Devialet, Kimiya is a board member of Girls in Tech, a non-profit that aims to increase the engagement, education and empowerment of women working in STEM. In the past, she has keenly supported start-ups and has completed pro bono assignments for non-profits.
“An early case that I worked on in Sweden was for a large streaming service which was just starting out. It especially makes me proud to see how this little start-up grew to become what it is today.”
Kimiya continues to engage with the Stanford Alumni Association, where she contributes as a volunteer for admission interviews, and organises events with the Stanford Club of France and other European chapters.
Outside the office, Kimiya steers well clear of the Wild West. She enjoys long-distance cycling and often practises yoga. She is also a keen reader of non-fiction books, recommending Quiet by Susan Cain and Freakonomics by Stephen J Dubner and Steven Levitt.