Andrew Love
Brand Protection/Investigations, Specialized Bicycles
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Matthew Winterroth
Senior Director, Intellectual Property, World Wrestling Entertainment

Worry is a force that drives many of us in brand protection. What are you worried about today?

The mobile app space is something that WWE is keeping an eye on very closely. Elimination of rogue, malware-infected, and infringing mobile apps is something that we are monitoring and enforcing on more and more. With the WWE Network, our direct-to-consumer video streaming service that consists of both a 24-hour linear streaming channel and on-demand programming available on set-top boxes and mobile devices, it’s imperative to keep this app space free of unauthorized apps to preserve the user experience.

We are watching the app space closely as well, but social media is currently the center of my worries. I just changed one of my search terms on Facebook, and whap!  A whole new pile of fakes.  How worried are you about social media?

Social media is definitely a growing concern, especially with the major platforms rolling out live streaming and User Generated Content video capabilities. WWE is a fully integrated media and entertainment company and programming that reaches more than 650 million homes worldwide. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter/Periscope/Vine are becoming huge players in the video space without robust fingerprinting and enforcement mechanisms to eliminate pirated content like YouTube’s more mature Content ID system. It’s something they are working on, but their fast rollouts have been a bit “cart before the horse” as their enforcement protocols seemingly have taken a backseat.

In your work at WWE you engage with both physical goods counterfeiting and video piracy; most of us in brand protection are one or the other. How do your balance your efforts?  Do you utilize vendors to assist you?

Yes, my boss and I are the entire in-house IP team managing 9,000 copyright registrations and 8,000 trademarks worldwide.  WWE video programming can be seen in more than 180 countries in 20 languages.  Needless to say we have a lot of content to protect and it is really important to align with vendors with strong technology to assist in enforcement. If your company is heavily invested in video content, then you need to choose a strong vendor with top technology in the fingerprinting and watermarking space, as well as a strong vendor in the post-event User Generated Content (UGC) and Peer-to-Peer enforcement space. One cannot ignore social media and mobile apps, and there are vendors in those spaces that specialize there too. On the marketplace front, one almost needs to work with a vendor to assist in the removal of listings online selling counterfeits – it’s a volume game. But even then, one needs to strategically pick certain battles. Let your data work for you. Concentrate on high-volume sellers importing counterfeit goods into high-value jurisdictions and those selling in bulk online. Run select investigations on these high-priority targets and work backwards to shut them down at the source of creation.

One more important tip: do not underestimate the importance of your copyright rights. In some first-to-file countries, you might have problems registering your trademarks, so copyright registrations and the ability to use them to enforce based on international treaties come in very handy where your IP portfolio may have holes.

I know that you solved a problem for me with an outside counsel recommendation with whom I now have a multi-year successful relationship.

Also, I can’t overstate establishing relationships  with other brands and customs/law enforcement to discuss problems and solutions – a fix for your particular problem might already be solved.

I see a direct link between the performances of the Specialized professional athletes and how hard the counterfeiters come after us. Peter Sagan just won his 2nd consecutive world road championships.  Whooo!!  Everything he rides in, his bike, his helmet, his jersey, his wheels, is target #1. You have many athletes in your company, how do you predict what the next target will be?

You hit the nail on the head – what’s currently popular is always targeted by infringers. Every WWE Superstar and Legend is a separate brand for us (and we have over 200), and we push those that get “hot” with audiences. The problem is that the infringers notice and do the same. So, the need to work closely with your other business units and leverage data via analytics is imperative. While you can never truly predict consumer behavior, different data sources are powerful tools in helping you to identify targets and spend your legal/enforcement budget wisely. On the flip-side, you can always “pirate” the counterfeiters! There might be product you notice being sold illegitimately using your branded IP that appears to be popular in the marketplace. This information, in turn, can be used to create new legitimate channels or product lines for your brand!

Can we finish this discussion with your personal mantra?

Andrew, as you know, I always like to say, just as The Rock laid the “smackdown” to his opponents, I like to do the same to brand infringers all over the globe!

I like that better than my “worrying”.  Good luck!