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Profile: INTA President Gregg Marrazzo

INTA President Gregg Marrazzo is charged with protecting some of the biggest names in makeup, fashion and fragrance. He spoke with Eileen McDermott about curbing counterfeits post-SOPA, combating “anti-IP sentiment,” and the origins of his trademark romance.

Gregg Marrazzo's introduction to trademark law evokes the plot of a classic romance novel. Running out of money as a budding young law student, Marrazzo started working full time in the legal department of Gulf & Western, where he finally met the career of his dreams. "One of the things I was doing there was trademark work, and I just fell in love with it," recollects this year's INTA President.

That love is rooted primarily in the marriage of law and business. "There's such a connection between the business side and the legal side," says Marrazzo. "There's something so wonderful about working on a product, seeing it on counter and knowing that you had something to do with getting it there."

Perhaps it is partly this romantic view of trademark work that brought Marrazzo to where he is today. As Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at The Estée Lauder Companies, Marrazzo and his brands know a thing or two about romance. The company's portfolio of 21,000 trademarks and more than 25 brands includes names such as Estée Lauder, Clinque, MAC and Bobby Brown. "It's run as almost 25 separate businesses because each of our brands appeals to a different segment of the population," says Marrazzo.

And Marrazzo's responsibilities at Estée Lauder do not end with trademarks. He is also responsible for global patent and copyright protection and enforcement, since the company integrated those departments into one IP group in July last year. "It is a trend within the broader IP community to try to get more collaboration between patents, copyrights and trademarks so that you can provide your clients with a bundle of rights," says Marrazzo. While he admits there's been "a bit of a learning curve on the technical side", this approach helps him to "look at things more holistically," he says.

Curbing counterfeits

This holistic approach is applied in other ways as well. From flea markets to rogue websites, luxury goods are being copied at a faster rate than ever, requiring ever more innovative enforcement strategies. While policing such activity and taking direct action is important, Marrazzo says The Estée Lauder Companies try to focus on the big picture. "We try to take a more broad-based approach and develop relationships with the police, the State Administration for Industry & Commerce (AIC) in China and the trademark offices in China and other countries," says Marrazzo. "I've been using the word holistic a lot, but that seems to be the best approach. I think that by and large it's better to be positive and ask for assistance instead of pointing out the shortcomings of a particular administration's efforts."

Marrazzo is planning to extend that philosophy beyond The Estée Lauder Companies to his tenure as INTA President, in order to counter what he refers to as widespread "anti-IP sentiment". With the breakdown earlier this year of legislative efforts to curb rogue sites via bills such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), the term intellectual property is in very real danger of taking on a permanently negative connotation. "That's not going to change anytime soon, and INTA is really uniquely situated to address some of those concerns," says Marrazzo.

Since the demise of SOPA and PIPA was at least partially rooted in "a lack of understanding" on both sides, INTA has the opportunity to educate, says Marrazzo. "Underneath all of this, I really do believe that the vast majority of people would say that copying someone's intellectual property is wrong. I don't think there is much dispute. So the question is, how do we provide people with the facts? And I think that is what we need to address."

INTA's role

To help answer that question and more, one of Marrazzo's presidential goals will be to provide forums for members to discuss the options available for protecting trademarks after SOPA and PIPA via webinars and seminars, as well as to help inform government. Says Marrazzo: "I think it's important for us to try to educate the public and help them understand that we're not trying to overreach. A lot of it is educational, and sorting through what happened."

That applies outside of the US as well, as the Association tries to assist on international efforts to curb counterfeits, such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). As the European Union considers signing the agreement, INTA has urged the EU Court of Justice to make a "considered and quick assessment of ACTA" in order to help counter the "heightened sense of mistrust and misinformation that has proliferated in online conversations".

Whatever the outcome on ACTA, Marrazzo is keen to further the internationalization of the Association during his presidency by continuing to meet with trademark offices from around the world, as well as through international programming and publications. This includes expanding recent efforts to file amicus briefs outside of the United States. "Developing countries may not have the expertise in IP or trademark law, so we can really help there by filing briefs and working with various judiciaries to help them understand and model laws," says Marrazzo.

But doing so is not always a straightforward process. "One of the impediments we have is that there are a lot of courts for which an amicus process just isn't in place, so you have to either get one of the parties to include your filing with one of their papers or maybe write a letter to the court," he explains.

Despite these difficulties, in 2011 INTA submitted briefs to courts in Australia, Canada, the EU, Indonesia, Paraguay and Moscow.

Ready to reign

In Marrazzo's role as this year's INTA President, he remains inspired by the early "connection" he felt to trademark work and among people in the trademark bar, and looks forward to the Annual Meeting as a chance to foster friendships, as well as business opportunities. "I made friends early on at INTA that remain friends to this day. We can disagree vehemently about a position, yet we can still enjoy one another's company. I think that type of camaraderie goes a long way in helping to solve problems."

It is Marrazzo's intention to share that camaraderie and love of trademarks with the outside world and to demonstrate that strong trademark laws are in the public's best interest. "To me that's really important," says Marrazzo. "My wife is a small business owner, and big or small, your brand is the way you communicate. You should be able to protect it, as long as you do it properly."

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