Business development / Events / Legal

How Under Armour lawyers protect this house

As Under Armour Associate Counsel Tess Casey made clear at Bright Ideas Baltimore, protecting a brand isn't as simple as filing a trademark.

Under Armour's Tess Casey at Bright Ideas Baltimore. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Protect This House is a clarion call at Under Armour. It even applies to the company’s in-house legal team.
Like many a big company, the Baltimore-based apparel giant isn’t shy about about making sure other companies (Skechers, for example) don’t infringe on their intellectual property.
But protecting a brand isn’t as simple as filing a trademark, Under Armour Associate Counsel Tess Casey said Wednesday.

Under Armour is supposed to be creative and innovative, and if we're perceived by the public as knocking other people off and copying, it's going to be killer to our brand.

“Once you have the registration, you have to enforce it,” she told a crowd gathered on the top floor of the University of Baltimore’s Law Center for the 2015 edition of Bright Ideas Baltimore. The event, organized by the Maryland State Bar Association’s Intellectual Property Section, sought to bring together folks from the legal, innovation and creative communities.
UA has the legal filings to back up Casey’s statement. Under Armour has filed suit against companies like Ass Armor and Skechers over accusations that they copied its name, ad campaign style and more.
Casey handles trademark as in-house counsel, but she didn’t speak directly about pending litigation. She did, however, give some insight into how trademarks can help build a brand.
One important way for Under Armour has been third-party trademarking. Casey offered an example of UA’s partnership with Marvel Comics. Through the licensing agreement, Under Armour sells super hero gear.
“They have been able to reach consumers they probably wouldn’t have reached before,” she said of Marvel, adding that the statement also applies to UA.
There’s also an aspect of trademark involved in Under Armour’s Future Show. The annual game show-style contest brings together innovators from outside the company to present their ideas to Under Armour execs.
Foreshadowing the company’s increasing move into the technology space, last year’s edition was focused on fitness technology.
At least one winner’s intellectual property has been scooped up by UA. Another past Future Show winner was responsible for the MagZip, a one-handed magnetic zipper that later became one of the company’s most heralded innovations.
The Future Show concept is grounded in the idea that, “we need to open our doors and allow third-party IP to come in,” Casey said.
It’s not all so glamorous.
Casey also touched on the myriad process of clearance searches the company goes through to verify whether new ideas and products are at risk of infringing on other patents. When describing this often arduous process to people on the business side, Casey said she often maintains that it will protect the company from lawsuits.
But aside from answering the call to protect this house, the clearance searches can also help Under Armour’s image, Casey said.
“Under Armour is supposed to be creative and innovative, and if we’re perceived by the public as knocking other people off and copying, it’s going to be killer to our brand,” she said.

Companies: Under Armour / University of Baltimore

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