Ed Barker is head of intellectual property and legal governance at Manchester United Football Club.
How is digitalisation affecting IP enforcement?
The majority of our IP enforcement efforts are now online. It feels like we are in something of an arms race, with counterfeiters adopting more sophisticated methods to avoid detection and us in turn looking to our providers to innovate to help us tackle this.
Who has been the biggest inspiration of your career?
I would single out the late Paul Rawlinson, who was my mentor at Baker McKenzie. Paul was an extremely gifted individual who held a number of very senior roles at the firm, including global managing partner, but always made time for people and was a genuinely warm, funny and sociable guy. He is dearly missed.
How has the pandemic affected the nature of the legal problems you are solving?
It has been mainly practical challenges, for example delays at local trademark offices, together with a further shift to online infringements.
Is deepfake technology a problem in the consumer market – and do you expect it to be in the future?
We haven’t seen any evidence at this time that this is a problem. Social media seems to be pretty good at calling out deepfakes. However, as the tech improves it’s something we’re mindful of.
Name three way in which law firms can improve the advice they provide.
- Responsiveness. I need to know that my instruction has been received, its status and the timeframes for a response. I’d say this is the single biggest differentiator. If I have to chase an external provider then they’ve failed the test.
- Getting to the point and giving a clear recommendation.
- Ensuring that fee estimates are kept under regular review, including forward projection.
What is unique to IP protection as a profession? How has it changed since the start of your career?
I think IP has become a much more ‘mainstream’ legal topic which all in-house lawyers need to have a good understanding of to effectively advise their businesses. When I started out over 20 years ago it was still seen in many quarters as something of an obscure specialism.