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Profile: Ted Joe, salesforce.com

Ted Joe is Patent Counsel for salesforce.com, a pioneering company in the burgeoning enterprise cloud computing market. The company has a global presence and is floated on the New York Stock Exchange. He explains the challenges he faces working in an Internet-only company. By Fionn O’Raghallaigh.

Ted Joe is Patent Counsel for salesforce.com, a pioneering company in the burgeoning enterprise cloud computing market. The company has a global presence and is floated on the New York Stock Exchange. He explains the challenges he faces working in an Internet-only company. By Fionn O’Raghallaigh.

What is the company’s official name?
The official name is salesforce.com, inc. It’s our main brand.

Are there any issues about having a .com in the name?
I don’t think there have been any issues, but we do have trademark registrations for salesforce®, as well as salesforce.com®.

What are salesforce.com’s key brands?
We are the enterprise cloud-computing company, that is what we are known for, and we have a number of different products and services that we call our clouds. These include Sales Cloud®, ServiceCloud®, Chatter®, which is our collaboration cloud, Jigsaw®, which is our data cloud, the Force.com® platform, as well as database.com™.

They are our main brands, and under them we have a number of brands that include the term force, including Dreamforce®, which is our cloud computing event, and Cloudforce®, which is used for smaller events in local areas.

What is the company’s trademark strategy?
The trademark strategy is to work closely with marketing. As far as obtaining trademark rights are concerned, we need to learn about upcoming campaigns, branding initiatives, domain names, URLs, taglines, logos. Once we can manifest a bona fide intent to use a potential brand name, we go ahead and file in the U.S., and if it makes sense internationally too using the Madrid Protocol.
As far as a trademark enforcement strategy, we try to resolve things amicably. The company is quite proud that it has been about for 12 years and has only been involved in one or two trademark lawsuits.

Describe your role in the company.
My official title is actually Patent Counsel. So I am responsible for, with the rest of my team, building, managing, strategizing on the entire salesforce.com IP portfolio, and I myself am also responsible for global brand management and protection.

What is your background?
Before I joined salesforce.com, I was an IP attorney at a small San Francisco IP boutique called Dergosits & Noah, dealing with patent, copyright, trademark, and domain name issues. Basically, I was outside IP counsel for a number of our clients.
I also did my law degree here in San Francisco, at the University of San Francisco School of Law. For my undergraduate degree I was at the University of Texas, Austin.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Houston, but I actually lived in Europe for eight years. I came back to the States for junior high school, high school and college.

Why did you move about so much?
My dad worked for Esso, so we travelled around a lot. He was last stationed in Hong Kong, but I stayed in Houston because I was finishing high school. So yes, I had the privilege of traveling around Europe and then when my dad was stationed in Hong Kong I got to go there and travel all over Asia, which is kinda cool.

It’s nice to have that background, I think, because when you are working at a global company, having exposure to global cultures when you are growing up helps you understand how to work with diverse groups of people. I think it has helped my legal and pre-legal career.

How big is your team here?
Including myself, we have three IP attorneys who are all actually registered patent attorneys, and one paralegal.

What particular problems does salesforce.com have with its brands?
I think any kind of Internet-based company will encounter issues with respect to brand awareness. Balancing brand awareness and trademark protection in the different countries in which salesforce.com operates, that’s a delicate balancing act.

We have to be aware of what products and services are being used in the subject country, what the brand awareness is, what trademarks we have and can develop in each country. How access to the Internet might impact brand awareness, things of that nature. And just being mindful of the different trademark jurisdictions and how things differ from country to country is extremely important.

Do you suffer from counterfeiting?
Not so much. We’ve been lucky and haven’t had instances of piracy or things of that nature either. I think more of our issues are around misconceptions about cloud computing in general and the difference between what is cloud computing and what is not. Our CEO Mark Benioff likes to say “Beware of the false cloud”. What he means is that if you are trying to engage a cloud computing provider, but they end up selling you a piece of hardware, we don’t believe that to be cloud computing. Cloud computing should be open, mobile, accessible from anywhere and that is what we are proud to offer with our different cloud services.

Do you have to deal with cybersquatters?
Yes we do deal with cybersquatting and typosquatting. When we learn of them we try to reach out and resolve it amicably and we have so far. We haven’t had to resort to court or panel decisions too much.

Do you have a social media strategy?
We have a Director of Social Media, and we have Chatter, which is our enterprise of social network that we provide to our customers, and which is also accessible for free on chatter.com. We are also active on regular, consumer social networks.

How much of a role do you play in the strategy?
I don’t. That’s more on the marketing side. I try to make sure there are not any issues with anything we post. Everybody here is very mindful of how messages are perceived and so we want to make sure that anything that gets publicly generated aligns with our values.

Any other issues that arise?
I would say that the job moves very fast. It’s exciting to be part of this industry, but there are lots of issues that come to the fore very quickly.

You deal with them as they come, and so far we have done a pretty good job of anticipating issues, and taking care of the ones that come with cloud computing.

salesforce.com is only 12 years old, how did you cope with the company’s growth?
As far as growth is concerned, I think we have our own belief on how revolutionary cloud computing can be and how it can help a company. I’ve been surprised how successful it has been. It’s been very exciting, even though it’s only been six months since I joined, I’ve known about them for a while.

What would you recommend doing in San Francisco?
There is lots of great food here. You’d certainly not want to miss that. Our proximity to the wine country and farms gives a real variety and diversity of foods and cultures, which just can’t be missed. We have great museums. The ferry building, which is near to where the INTA Annual Meeting is being held, should definitely checked out, especially the farmers market. It’s just good food, friendly people, and relatively good weather.

How many INTA Annual Meetings have you attended?
This is my first one, so it should be pretty cool. I think I would have gone anyway if it wasn’t too far. The fact that it is in San Francisco is great. It gives me the chance to network, see how changes in international law could affect salesforce.com, and meet outside counsel face to face. Working in the cloud, everything is email or sometimes telephone, so it’ll be good to get some human connections.

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