Five minutes with … Dana Northcott, INTA President 2024
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Five minutes with … Dana Northcott, INTA President 2024

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Dana Northcott, INTA’s 2024 president and associate general counsel for Amazon's IP team, talks about her work for the association

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 Dana Northcott, INTA’s president for 2024 and vice president and associate general counsel for Amazon's IP team.

Someone asks you at a party what you do for a living. What do you say?

While I may wear many hats, I'm first and foremost a brand attorney. I help colleagues within our Amazon businesses name products and services that enrich our customers’ lives and eventually become iconic brands, such as Alexa and Kindle. It’s incredibly rewarding work!

Talk us through a typical working day.

There is no typical day when you get to work with as many facets of the business as I’m lucky enough to. Everything starts with Amazon’s mission of being Earth’s most customer-centric company and my team and I work to help further that mission.

What are you working on at the moment?

Throughout the year, we look to iterate and evolve on new technologies, products, and services. Right now, I spend a lot of my time sitting at the table with different Amazon businesses and talking to them about what it is they're trying to do. My goal is to help transform that idea into a tool that delivers great solutions for our customers.

I am thrilled to also serve as the 2024 INTA president. One of the big goals for 2024 is to work on the next four-year strategic plan [for 2026-2029]. It may seem early, but these strategic plans are incredibly important as they guide all INTA activities during those four years. I’m also excited by my presidential task force, which will look at how brands communicate around sustainability.

Does one big piece of work usually take priority or are you juggling multiple things?

I am always juggling multiple things—which is even more true now! My day includes all of what I do with Amazon and then I’ll shift and put on my INTA president hat. I enjoy moving between my responsibilities on both fronts throughout the day.

What is the most exciting aspect of your role and what is the most stressful?

The most exciting aspects of my job are also the most stressful. I get to work with every single aspect of the Amazon business so I can start my day in China talking about the Amazon Web Services brand and then jump over for lunch in Latin America to talk about brand restrictions, and then end the day in a strategic meeting in Seattle talking about what digital projects and services are coming.

The variety is both challenging and rewarding.

Tell us the key characteristics that make a successful IP lawyer.

Whether you're an IP practitioner or not, always lead with humility and curiosity.

I think the second most important thing is to remember you are not just a lawyer, you are a part of the business, and you are also a customer. In my view, successful IP lawyers (whether in-house or at a firm) first ask how they can move things forward from that perspective and only then move on to the legal issue.

What is the most common misconception about IP?

This is a generalisation, but when most people think of IP, they tend to think only of patents. But IP is about protecting property of the mind and there are so many different ways to bring ideas to life beyond just inventions. IP is thinking about ideas holistically, with different forms of the law protecting different kinds of ideas.

The broader misconception I’d love to correct is that lawyers are always fighting!

So much of what we do is about protecting what customers are going to find the most meaningful.

What or who inspires you?

People who are on top of their game, whether they are creative legends like Taylor Swift, phenomenal athletes like Roger Federer and Mikaela Shiffrin, or journalists like Walter Isaacson. Folks who are pursuing their passion are the people we can learn from.

If you weren’t an IP lawyer, what would you be doing?

I love to read and want to share how you can travel the world in the pages of a book, so I would love to be a librarian in an elementary school to help children get passionate about reading. I read several books a week. It’s not just a joy, it also satisfies my curiosity to learn a bit about everything, which is why I read a wide range of books.

My other passion is skiing, so perhaps I would be part of a ski patrol. We could combine my passions. Ski at sunrise and introduce kids to the joy of reading for the rest of the day! That would be magical.

Any advice you would give your younger self?

Don’t be in such a hurry. Learning along the way is really important. I raced through school. Taking a longer break at each educational step would have given me a lot more information and resources as I developed my career.

I would tell myself to take a gap year and then at least five years before starting law school.

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