Dan: Today I have the pleasure of introducing my friend Natalie Rizkalla-Kamel, IP lawyer and partner at Gowling WLG, welcome Natalie.
Natalie: Thank you Dan.
Dan: Many people may not know this but you're actually an engineer so why did you choose to become an IP lawyer?
Natalie: I had always wanted to be a lawyer since I was 12 years old but with my middle eastern background, it was almost a cultural expectation that you become a doctor or an engineer, so engineering is where I ended up because I had a love for math and physics and I was good at it. But when I started working as an engineer for a couple of years, I realized that it was not what I saw myself doing for the rest of my career. I think the turning point was the day I was hanging off a bridge on the 401 doing some rehabilitation work, I made a pretty quick decision that I wasn't going to continue being an engineer so I decided to change course and go back to the original plan of being a lawyer.
Dan: You're a trusted advisor to many of our clients can you share your insight on how best we can help our clients?
Natalie: I have found that spending time to get to know my clients, both on a professional and personal level, their business and their overall interests and really listening to them, many times off the clock, is really the only way you could be a trusted advisor. It's really like any good relationship and no two clients are the same. They can have the exact same legal issue and you can only advise them properly if you truly understand their overall business strategy.
Dan: You know, you're recognized as an expert in cannabis branding so how do you foresee the future of cannabis and branding?
Natalie: As many people know there are so many restrictions in Canada to what you can do by way of advertising and promotion of cannabis and cannabis accessories and cannabis related services. So for example, you can't market your cannabis in a manner that is believed to be appealing to young people, you can't use testimonials or endorsements. Those are just a few examples and because of these restrictions it's very difficult for cannabis companies to develop brand loyalty and recognition of their products in Canada. Unless the regulators relax restrictions and start to trust the industry more and more over time I predict that we will continue to see many Canadian companies focus more on international markets.
Dan: So Natalie how has your practice changed since you started practicing in the IP area it's changed a lot.
Natalie: I actually started in pharmaceutical patent litigation I think like you and then switched into general IP litigation where my practice focused on general patent trademark and copyright litigation after a few more years. I then became interested and started working on the branding side of IP and I developed a practice in trademark prosecution and eventually global trademark portfolio management. I did find that each step built into the next and understanding and practicing as a trademark litigator for many years really complements the advice I can provide for my trademark prosecution matters. I'm able to foresee what's coming and based on experience I can provide the right advice to my clients I'm also able to assist my trademark prosecution clients with a maintenance and enforcement strategy.
Dan: From day one do you have a pretty keen focus on innovation in your practice could you tell us a little bit more about this?
Natalie: During the pandemic I had the opportunity to onboard a large global trademark portfolio for a new ip client and one that strongly believes in increasing efficiencies through innovative solutions I worked with our innovation team at Gowling WLG to develop a cloud-based customized extranet platform for them which is quite unique in its capabilities of allowing this client to provide instructions get an up-to-date status of all their matters access all the relevant documents and create their own up-to-date reports all directly through the platform.
Dan: You're a mentor to many of our associates and students but what role did mentorship play in your career?
Natalie: It's played a big role I've been really fortunate at Gowling WLG to have great formal and informal mentors along the way I do take my role as a mentor at the firm very seriously. As a diverse woman in intellectual property, which is still very male dominated, I do take a particular interest in mentoring and providing opportunities where I can for female lawyers, both inside the firm and outside the firm, to ensure everyone has equitable opportunities to succeed.
Dan: Thank you and it was really great to see you today and thanks for sharing your insights.
Natalie: Thanks Dan