There’s More Than One Way to Solve a Legal Rubik’s Cube

As technology evolves, so too does the complicated world of intellectual property law. Anna Brannan wouldn’t want it any other way.

Anna Brannan has found a way to marry her love of law and business by becoming an in-house counsel to the global leader in cybersecurity. Based in Mountain View, California, Symantec Corporation offers various security software products and solutions to large enterprise customers and individual consumers, has operations in more than thirty-five countries, and has about 11,000 employees worldwide.

Not only are these statistics more than impressive, but the company also operates one of the world’s largest cyber-intelligence networks, employing more than 500 security professionals who are constantly looking at data around the world for security threats.

“As an in-house counsel, I have the ability to sit down and really learn about my clients’ needs and business objectives without time constraints,” the senior corporate counsel says. “If I worked for a law firm, I would have to bill that time to my client.”

When Brannan joined Symantec, she was seeking a more focused role in trademarks and copyright law—something that has intrigued her since she began her law career. “I’m really fascinated with intellectual property law because it’s constantly changing, especially with the ever-evolving developments in technology,” Brannan says. “For example, the original copyright act contemplated infringement as the unauthorized copying of material the old fashioned way—photocopies, duplication of tapes, etc. The advent of digital copying changed that, and the issue became mainstream as a result of the Napster case more than a decade ago. As a result, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was enacted to address copying in the digital age. It’s no longer about photocopying something. People can steal digital material and send it all over the world through the Internet. That changed the initial concept of copyright law.”

To put it simply, Brannan’s areas of practice at Symantec are vast. Her duties include trademarks, copyrights, advertising law, domain name disputes, privacy, licensing, and contract negotiations.

After studying political science at the University of Connecticut and law at Santa Clara University, Brannan worked for several years before going to law school, trying out a variety of roles in the workplace. She says a combination of life experiences, education, and her ultimate career path led her to take on such a multitasking role.

“I was a legal secretary for a couple of years and worked in sales and marketing. Through these experiences, I did quite a bit of public speaking,” she recalls. “While in law school, I focused my internships on in-house positions, where I was exposed to the dynamics of working with cross-functional teams within a company.”

After law school, Brannan went to work at two small boutique law firms—one in San Francisco and the other in Danville, California. “One of my clients at the Danville firm asked me to work full-time for them to help with legal and regulatory issues as they launched their new business,” she says. “It was a totally different environment for me. I had to figure out what they needed from both a legal and regulatory perspective. It was like working for a start-up.”

Brannan moved to Verisign in 2008 as corporate counsel, until the company’s identity and authentication business unit was acquired by Symantec in 2010. The following year, she was promoted to senior corporate counsel to manage the company’s global trademark and copyright programs, as well as to provide legal support to the public relations and marketing teams for the Americas.

“I always had goals set for my career,” she says. “In my role at Verisign, I worked with an entire product team. I provided legal advice and counsel to the development team from the time a product was developed through the time the products are marketed and sold. This included direct sales as well as sales through our resellers and strategic alliances.”

At Symantec, Brannan has become the subject matter expert for trademark, copyright, and advertising law. “The latter involves making sure our advertisements and marketing campaigns are compliant with laws such as the Federal Trade Commission Act, CAN-SPAM Act, Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and the many laws that govern consumer protection, contests, and sweepstakes in each state,” she says.

In addition to managing Symantec’s global trademark and copyright program, Brannan provides legal support and counseling for all of the businesses’ marketing teams in the Americas.

“We have about a dozen marketing teams including campaigns, events, social media, and digital, as well as the several different product marketing teams in three business units—enterprise, consumer, and website security,” she says. “Our product teams have to come up with strategies to deliver products to the end user and the marketing teams create the messaging for the end customer. I also sit in on the regular staff meetings of the chief marketing officer to collaborate as a business partner and provide legal counsel as needed for any initiatives he may have for the company.”

When not in strategy meetings, Brannan spends much of her time counseling clients that contact her that day and reviewing public relations materials.

“New issues come up every day. For example, there could be a cybersecurity issue that needs an immediate response by our public relations team, which requires me to be on-call in case I need to review a media statement,” she explains. “Other times, I could be alerted to a website containing Symantec logos or domains that contain one of our trademarks. The owners of these sites often claim they are affiliated with our company when they’re not, and I need to react. These types of trademark enforcement issues happen frequently and are not restricted to just the United States. I have to stay on top of the enforcement of our brand on a worldwide basis.”

Brannan explains that Symantec hires outside counsel for lower risk issues, such as helping to prosecute new trademarks and maintain the portfolio. But the company also utilizes in-house counsel for higher risk matters, such as legal counseling and strategy.

“We need outside counsel because, although trademark and copyright laws are similar worldwide, we have to enforce them based on the laws and procedures of a particular country,” she says. “If Symantec owns a mark in another country, I necessarily engage foreign counsel to help enforce Symantec’s rights in that mark in that jurisdiction.”

When hiring outside counsel, Brannan looks for area expertise, good customer service, and reputation. “It is also very important for counsel to be willing to collaborate with me in order to give the best advice or work product to my internal clients,” she says.

In addition, Brannan supervises two paralegals and a summer intern, whose main roles are to help support Symantec’s trademark and copyright program. “They are my front line and handle a lot of the day-to-day questions that come in. They provide the initial responses, and if more detailed questions about the law come in, they bring those to me,” she says.

But Brannan also stays busy outside of Symantec. She is an active member of the International Trademark Association, having served a two-year term on the programs committee, and is currently serving a term on their in-house practitioner’s committee.

“Before my son was born, I chaired a citizens’ advisory committee for the City of San Leandro, where I used to live, which focused on the city’s downtown transit-oriented development project. I also served a term as a planning commissioner there before I moved,” she says.

“Today, a lot of my volunteer work focuses on my son’s school and sports,” she continues. “Outside of work, he is my focus.”

Editor’s note: At publication, Brannan has left Symantec. She is currently senior corporate counsel of ipsy.