Protecting Brands in a Global Legal Minefield

Douglas J. Wood

Globally, brand protection is a balancing act of many conflicting policies — unfair competition, respect for intellectual property, and consumer protection. In a global market, this balance is viewed inconsistently from country to country and can become a brand manager's nightmare. In the United States, the model favors open dissemination of truthful information and the belief that well informed consumer will make wiser purchasing decisions. Thus, the legal regime to protect brands is well developed. In other countries, the mere idea of an open market throws legislators into a frenzy, fearful of what they see as avaricious global marketers. In such countries, social control is more important than consumer choice or brand protection. Still other countries remain fearful of foreign competition and its impact on local manufacturers. These countries enact regulation on the principle of protecting local industry first, consumers and foreign competitors second. And a sizeable number of countries just don't care, preoccupied with issues far more important to the legislators than protecting brands or consumers, despite the fact that these emerging markets often present great opportunity for brand growth.