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Q&A: Attorney Devon Zastrow Newman on the legal side of the industry

Find out the the top legal issues affecting the outdoor industry today, plus why some law firms are building outdoor-dedicated legal teams.

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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 20 – 24. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

We tend to look at the outdoor industry from the perspective of brands, retailers, reps, marketers and athletes. But there are many other professional experts walking the show floor at Outdoor Retailer.

Take Devon Zastrow Newman. As an attorney at Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, her eyes are tuned to the abundance of innovation and intellectual property at Winter Market and ways to helps brands protect it.

OK, OK, we’re all friends here — no need to bring in the legal team — but in this ever-expanding market, brands are increasingly dealing with foreign knockoffs, false advertising and a global legal landscape that calls for more expertise. Legal firms have taken notice, and like Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, are beginning to form outdoor-specific divisions of their businesses to cater to the industry’s unique needs.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I am an intellectual property attorney in Portland, Ore. I lead our litigation group where my practice focuses on helping businesses protect their innovations and market position through enforcement of their IP rights against infringers or, when needed, defend businesses against similar claims. I also litigate false advertising, unfair competition and other general litigation matters. I came to this work from a career in bench science and find those years of exploration and strategic thinking invaluable in working with inventors and creative people.

Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt recently formalized an outdoor group to focus on some of the issues the industry is facing. What was the impetus for that decision?
The rugged and rainy Pacific Northwest is a hotbed of innovation for the outdoor and athletic industry. Although we have served clients in this industry for a number of years, we feel a formalized team approach best showcases our skills in helping a business protect its innovations at every step — from idea to product creation, distribution, and monitoring the competitive market. Our dedicated team of attorneys has a passion for our region and we pride ourselves on keeping our “finger on the pulse” of issues facing this vital industry. Our clients appreciate that we recognize the importance of the work they do for our region.

In the early going, what are some of the top legal issues and needs you’re hearing from people in the outdoor industry?
One of the top issues facing this industry is the rise in foreign counterfeiting and knockoffs of products that companies worked years to develop. We are also hearing from a number of our clients of their growing concerns regarding data privacy and security, “made in USA” marketing claims, and issues surrounding compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. These issues require a proactive legal approach and a strong knowledge of the industry.

This industry is well-known for being a close-knit group. Look around at the show — not everyone is talking about contracts, intellectual property and succession planning. How do you approach legal topics with a group that might not have it at the top of their mind?
We realize not all industry members share our passion for these topics because they’d rather focus on what they do best — inventing great outdoor and athletic products. Our goal is to protect the businesses of these industry members so that they can best benefit from what they have worked so hard to develop. We understand that relationships are built on trust, and we focus on building long-term relationships with industry members so that they trust us to look around the corner for them and advise them about upcoming legal issues that are in their best interests to consider, and how to respond to issues they did not see coming. One of the best aspects of our formalized team approach is the ability to serve our clients in a multitude of areas, including intellectual property, product liability, corporate transactions, business disputes and employment law. By taking the time to get to know our industry clients and their goals, we can better serve them in the areas that may not be top of mind today, but can make a huge difference down the road.

On a personal level, how are you getting outdoors these days?
My husband and two sons (6- and 8-years-old) and I are avid downhill skiers. Last year, we skied in Oregon and Whitefish, Mont. The boys both play year-round outdoor soccer and we coach and support the team. This summer we participated in the Great Race in Auburn, N.Y. — I biked and my husband kayaked two parts of the three-part race relay. We also enjoy getting our canoe out and participated in the Willamette RiverKeepers River Clean-Up with our family by canoe in September.

What do you look to accomplish when you’re at Outdoor Retailer?
Outdoor Retailer is a great way to touch base with industry members and see what they’ve developed over the year. It also helps to hear members talk about their innovations on their terms and hear what’s important to them. As a client service professional, I need to hear what’s keeping them up at night so I know how best to help.

–David Clucas