JANETTE LOH, GENERAL COUNSEL, CANON SINGAPORE
General counsel of Canon Singapore, Janette Loh, describes the various functions under her care, including the establishment of a dedicated intellectual property team.
GC: Could you tell me about your role as general counsel of Canon Singapore?
Janette Loh: As the general counsel of Canon Singapore, I have three departments under my care: the legal team, which takes care of day-to-day legal and corporate secretarial matters; the product regulatory team, which focuses on product specific regulatory matters; and the newest addition, the intellectual property team, which was formed with a primary focus on protecting our intellectual property interests in the region.
GC: How far does your mandate for Canon Singapore span?
JL: I sit at the regional headquarters in Singapore, which oversees 23 markets in the region. The talking point has always been the diversity of the various jurisdictions in terms of language, culture, laws and practices.
GC: How do you deal with that from a pragmatic point of view?
JL: It has been, and still is, a challenge. I don’t have a perfect way to manage it – but often it is about handling each situation in a practical manner. Having a local legal team in the main territories we operate in does help. They are able to see things from the in-house perspective and help us strike a better balance between what we need to do to make things work at a local level, without sacrificing compliance standards. We do need to be sensitive to local practice and culture, understanding how things work there in order to make things work for us.
GC: Why was setting up a dedicated IP team so important?
JL: The IP team was established recently with a focus on managing anti-counterfeiting and other IP protection activities in our region.
As a sales and marketing company, the need for dedicated IP expertise is typically not as critical as compared to R&D and manufacturing outfits. But there is always room to go off the beaten track.
The rationale ties back to the company’s premise of delivering excellence in product quality, and safety for both the customer and the environment. Hence, IP’s role is pertinent in bringing together concerted efforts through enforcement and compliance to assure our partners and customers that genuine Canon products are being delivered through the proper distribution channels.
With the increasing need to diversify to meet changing demands, the business is constantly open to innovation – working with new concepts, ideas and technologies. Having IP expertise within the team was certainly deemed to be very useful as we grow in this area.
GC: Could you tell us about some of the challenges faced in the IP protection activities?
JL: Such activities cost money and, as with all investments, ultimately some form of return must be visible. For example, when a raid on potential counterfeiters is successful, does that translate into positive media coverage and help Canon reduce future counterfeiting? Alternatively it may be a case where we’ve sunk significant resources into monitoring, raiding and shutting down a counterfeiting operation, only for a new one to pop up the next day.
Add to that, the complexities presented by e-commerce on this front and it’s a difficult situation to come out on the right side of. So it really becomes a case of keeping up with the trends and trying to stay ahead – which is something I always encourage my team to strive for.