Five minutes with … Niall Trainor, Hasbro
Each week Managing IP speaks to a different IP lawyer about their life and career
Welcome to the latest instalment of Managing IP’s ‘Five minutes with’ series, where we learn more about IP lawyers on a personal as well as a professional level. This time we have Niall Trainor, managing attorney for IP at games company Hasbro in London.
Someone asks you at a party what you do for a living. What do you say?
Pretty straightforward – I’m a lawyer working for the Peppa Pig brand and my job is to get rid of IP infringement. It usually gets a laugh. I used to tell people I worked for Entertainment One [a division of Hasbro] but unless you’re in the media industry then not everyone would be familiar with them. Practically everyone though has heard of Peppa Pig!
Talk us through a typical working day.
I start emails pretty early (generally before 8 am) to deal with China matters while it is still within office hours there. Once China is dealt with, the days are incredibly varied – I cover all aspects of online and offline piracy, IP litigation, and portfolio management globally so I am spinning any number of plates at any given time. Some matters are more urgent – customs seizures for example often need to be dealt with within a day or two. Many other matters are part of longer-term enforcement projects and litigation.
Aside from that, we get all sorts of ad hoc requests from within the business and from our partners notifying us of potential infringements for our review. As you can imagine this often means I can be very squeezed for time, so I generally tend to keep calls and meetings to a minimum unless they are really necessary.
What are you working on at the moment?
As mentioned, a whole range of enforcement, litigation, and portfolio matters globally. However, the main piece, which has (and is) being covered by Managing IP is our international dispute with a Vietnamese company who have produced a copycat cartoon show of Peppa Pig called ‘Wolfoo’ on YouTube. The litigation and trademark proceedings have taken place in three continents so far, and to my knowledge in terms of scale and potential value, it is very likely the largest copyright and passing off claim in the world at the moment, and certainly so for content infringement.
Does one big piece of work usually take priority or are you juggling multiple things?
The Wolfoo litigation takes priority due to its size and significance, but I still have to juggle things. If things get really busy then we can look to outsource certain aspects of work to make it more manageable for us.
What is the most exciting aspect of your role and what is the most stressful?
The variety of work and the opportunity to work with people across all business units. When your company makes all of its revenue from the creation and exploitation of IP, then the ability to effectively protect that IP is critical to the success of the business. The businesses that really get this are the ones that are the most successful in dealing with IP infringement and protecting their revenues.
The most stressful aspect? To be honest, I tend not to get stressed now that I generally know what I’m doing (at least I hope I do at this stage!), so it’s more about having to manage expectations and the stress of others who can occasionally panic a bit too much over infringement!
Tell us the key characteristics that make a successful IP lawyer.
It’s similar to most lawyers I guess – attention to detail, the ability to quickly and critically analyse issues and make decisions, technical knowledge, and being up to date on case law and industry developments.
What I would say – and this is where IP/brand protection does differ somewhat from more general commercial legal roles – a collaboration with other brands and stakeholders such as the criminal authorities, governmental organisations, online platforms, and industry bodies is crucial. Often the key to solving an issue is to know the right person who can help you in any given situation.
What is the most common misconception about IP?
There are quite a few. Given it’s a technical area, and the law is not harmonised globally, people across the business can make various assumptions that aren’t correct. We try and educate the business for that reason so they at least have an understanding of the basics which generally makes life easier for us all.
What or who inspires you?
No one particularly in law (no offence to anyone!), but as a massive sports fan there is a lot to take inspiration from in the world of sport. As a Manchester United fan, I am rather biased, but I would say Sir Alex Ferguson’s achievements over several decades are pretty inspiring and he’ll likely go down as the greatest sports coach in history.
In terms of active sportspeople today, Ben Stokes’ heroic efforts for the England cricket team recently are pretty inspiring!
If you weren't an IP lawyer, what would you be doing?
Very likely I would have become a cellist. I studied cello performance at college alongside law and have been performing classical music for three decades now, and still perform when time permits. Many of my friends are active professional musicians, and my younger brother Michael is an incredibly talented professional violinist based in London (Google him!).
Any advice you would give your younger self?
Don’t worry about what other people think – you can’t control it so it’s not worth getting worked up about. And also, just enjoy life – none of us know how long we will have good health on our side, so make the most of it while you can.