Julie Gruber, vice president and deputy general counsel for Gap Inc.
Julie Gruber, vice president and deputy general counsel for Gap Inc.

Intellectual property can be a valuable asset, but it can be a magnet for litigation. This was the topic discussed in the panel “Ways to Manage and Resolve IP Disputes and Litigation Costs Effectively,” which was part of the Women, Influence & Power in Law conference in Washington, DC.

The panel included Julie Gruber, vice president and deputy general counsel for Gap Inc.; Laura Beth Miller, shareholder at Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione; and Natalie Spears, attorney for Dentons US LLP.

Miller opened up the discussion with her thoughts on cease and desist letters. She stated that the number of these letters has skyrocketed, so now she uses a tiered approach. First she triages the letter, determining if it is an escalation, if it’s a core product, and if it involves a competitor or NPE. This helps determine if it needs immediate attention.

Gruber then spoke about how the Internet has changed the nature of cease and desist letters. They can often end up on the Web immediately, so you have to be able to stand behind your decision no matter what happens, especially when you are the one sending these letters.

She emphasized the need for communication along the chain on these matters. From the development team to the marketing team and all the way through the company, it’s important to show understanding and empathy, and talking to them in clear language.

The topic turned to “troll litigation,” as the panel cited statistics as to how great the increase in NPE suits has increased and the associated costs, not only in pure litigation, but also damage to a brand.

When choosing outside counsel in these matters, Gruber stated that it boils down to previous relationships and experience with a particular piece of intellectual property. A big factor, she said, is the number of defendants that are involved in the particular case.

Spears pointed out that these cases are now global. She cited the fact that Apple and Samsung are fighting in 19 countries across the world. This means that cases in the United States can have repercussions across the world.