Maud Robert (Galderma): “Blockchain could be vital in fighting counterfeiting”

Leaders League. Can you tell us a little about your role at Galderma? How has your previous experience helped you in your current role?
Maud Robert. I am head of trademark, copyright and counterfeit at Galderma, the world’s largest independent global dermatology company. In this role, I handle the company anti-piracy programs as well as litigation, advisory and transactional work related to the company’s trademarks, copyrights, designs, neighboring rights, image rights and trade dress globally. I am also the lead soft IP lawyer supporting the business and development team in M&A or divestiture deals.

I started my career around 20 years ago as a lawyer in an international law firm. From this experience, I have developed methodologies and legal writing skills. A few years later, I joined luxury company Hermès as IP rights enforcement manager and lead in-house counsel for La Montre Hermès. There, I was able to fully appreciate the value, meaning and importance of ‘business orientation’ and ‘customer satisfaction’. The leadership style of Annick de Chaunac (Hermès’ GC at that time), who was empowering her lawyers and bringing the legal activity to the fore, and her legal department organization were also a source of inspiration for me when I set up my own team at Galderma. 

What are the biggest challenges that you face in your role?
Managing uncertainty, ambiguity and/or contradictions is probably one of the biggest challenges. This is what I have been doing for the past two years while Galderma went through a period of strategic change followed by a reorganization that resulted in the sale of the company to a private equity consortium. During this time, when human and financial resources were cut and the strategy of the company was unclear, I was required to be even more organizationally and operationally flexible in order to successfully continue to respond to our internal customers. The situational adaptability and resilience we have developed during this period should, I hope, help us cope with the post-Covid-19 situation.

A second challenge in my role is to keep my team members motivated and engaged. This requires ensuring that lawyers are empowered and are seen not only as experts and support staff, but as real business partners involved from the start of projects. It also requires that lawyers continue to update their legal knowledge, as well as having the opportunity to develop new skills – including business skills – over time.  
This brings us to a future challenge that I see – the likely transformation of the activity and scope of legal services with the rise of legal tech. Although I do not think that software will completely replace the work of lawyers, especially when it comes to advising clients and/or drafting agreements (or in relation to “predictive justice”), these technologies, once operational, might reduce the involvement of lawyers and eventually impair the way the latter are perceived within organizations. 

What innovations have you have been working on recently?
As part of my anti-counterfeiting activity and the work I did for my Executive MBA, I have been particularly interested in analysing and assessing the opportunities that visual recognition, blockchain and other track & trace technologies, and connected packaging, could offer companies with regard to growing their business. Some of these combined innovations could be used to fight the spread of fake products in a really efficient way, while at the same time improving the customer experience. 

‘‘In the dermo-cosmetics industry, consumers have deprioritized such goods during the coronavirus pandemic and this trend might remain with the ensuing economic insecurity’’ 

What is the strategic value of trademarks for companies?
What I am going to say is common sense, but nevertheless, sometimes it needs to be reiterated – trademarks are strategic because they are the prime marketing tool used to communicate about products and services. This is their prime function.  That is why companies should not launch a product or service without first having fully cleared and protected their brands. Trademark registration also helps to secure competitive advantage for the business and protect companies from counterfeit and knock-off products.

Meanwhile, trademarks are a very valuable tool for assessing a company’s strategy. The analysis of the trademark prosecution and litigation activity of a targeted company during M&A negotiations gives a very good insight into the history and past strategy of the company in question. Finally, from an accounting perspective, trademarks – which are an intangible asset that sometimes appears on financial statements – may represent a substantial part of the value of a company. This is the case at Galderma.

What trends do you see impacting your industry over the next 12 months?
The Covid-19 crisis has brought about a change in consumer habits, which has an impact on all industries. With regards to the dermo-cosmetics industry, consumers have deprioritized such goods during the pandemic and this trend might remain with the ensuing economic insecurity.  It is thus likely that the industry will go through a cycle of consolidation in the coming months. Trends like digital and automation that were evident before the crisis will likely further accelerate. Beauty and cosmetics companies will probably invest further in e-commerce to grow. 

At the same time, the increasing awareness among consumers of the need for sustainable development is also going to have an impact on companies in that they will have to reassess their manufacturing and packaging processes, and their products portfolio, to truly embrace and demonstrate social and environmental responsibility. 
On an organizational level, because of travel limitations and in-person meeting restrictions, companies will need to change their culture and reexamine their policies to allow remote work and maintain employee engagement. They will also need to reassess their IT ecosystem. 
For legal teams this means adopting lean and agile ‘legaltech’ solutions to improve productivity and collaboration within teams.

While the Covid-19 crisis represents a challenge for the dermo-cosmetics industry, it also presents some unique opportunities for companies to learn and innovate – particularly in relation to social and environmental responsibility – as well as transform their organization in order to foster truly sustainable growth.