Louise Butler

Louise is Global Head of Brand Protection at Diageo, driving Diageo’s strategy to fight counterfeit spirits and help consumers celebrate safely every time. Louise previously led Diageo’s Europe Brand Protection program. Prior to joining Diageo, Louise worked as an IP lawyer in the UK and Ireland.

AWLS: How is digitalization affecting IP enforcement?

LB: For anti-counterfeiting work, digitalization has had both a positive and negative impact. The rise of e-commerce has seen an increase of counterfeit products for sale online. This is particularly concerning in our industry as we are seeing many consumers buying spirits online for the first time so they are more likely to be duped into buying fakes. On the positive side, developments like the Enforcement Database in Europe allow the rapid sharing of intelligence between brand owners and law enforcement across borders and this can only be a good thing.

AWLS: How did you overcome the strongest IP challenge you have faced in recent years?

LB: The biggest challenge our anti-counterfeiting team has faced in recent years is probably the increased involvement of serious organised crime groups in spirits counterfeiting. To overcome this, we have had to pivot our strategies away from focusing only on domestic counterfeit product towards a more cross-border, global view of the issue.

AWLS: How has the pandemic affected the nature of the legal problems you are solving?

LB: The pandemic has caused a shift in both the level of counterfeiting we are seeing and our response to it. Counterfeiters in our industry have used the pandemic as an opportunity and we have seen increased levels of counterfeiting in many markets. Our response has had to change due to remote working. Our engagement with law enforcement is largely virtual although we are hoping that this will change in the coming months as lockdown conditions begin to lift. Thankfully, law enforcement continued to focus on counterfeit spirits during the pandemic and we have had some successful actions. We are also seeing an increase in counterfeits of our brands being offered for sale online so we have had to change our strategies to address this.

AWLS: Name three way in which law firms can improve the advice they provide.


  1. This is an old one but bears repeating! When giving advice, always remember the commercial realities in which your clients are operating. They need to make decisions quickly and have a firm grasp on the preferred course of action, the chances of success, how much it will cost and when it will conclude.
  2. Get to know your client’s business. What might be good advice for one type of consumer goods company may not necessarily work for another.
  3. Be upfront about fees. Most brand protection teams operate within tight budgets which are set at the beginning of the year with little room for manoeuvre so unexpected surprises when it comes to billing are never welcome!

AWLS:What is your favourite book, blog or podcast on IP?

LB: My favourite book on IP is “The Billionaire’s Vinegar” which was given to me by my former boss. It is about counterfeiting in the wine industry and is a truly epic tale!