Interview with Patent Counsel for Estee Lauder: Idris McKelvey

This week, I had the chance to talk with Idris McKelvey, patent counsel for the Estee Lauder company and a dedicated attorney to the Aveda brand. Idris gave me some insight into what he does for the Estee Lauder company and some of his thoughts on the current state of patent law:


Q. How long have you been with the Estee Lauder company?
A. Just over 6 years
Q. What specific roles and functions do you have as an attorney for Estee Lauder?

A. I am responsible for the following:

  • Securing patent/IP protection for innovation – particularly for the Aveda Brand
  • Providing Freedom to Operate opinions which advise the business of patent risks associated with new product launches
  • Draft/Negotiate agreements involving joint product development, technology services, product/raw material supply, and other matters
  • Client training concerning compliance, intellectual property, confidentiality, etc.
  • I manage legal aspects of our Corporate Responsibility program relating to access and benefit sharing
  • And I handle general corporate matters for the Aveda Brand ie. advising on consumer testing protocols, facilities agreements, distribution contracts, and other matters.

Q. How do you view the current state of patent law and what changes do you think would improve patent law?

A. There’s a lot of inconsistency in the patent examination corps.  So it’s difficult to forecast likely outcomes of competitive patent applications in view of relevant prior art.  And with some frequency, low-quality patents are granted, which can become a problem for us.  Raising these standards and working towards more examination uniformity would be good.
Litigation is also prohibitively expensive, and the Post Grant Review/Inter Partes Review programs are not practical for independent inventors.  Improving the examination process would obviate the motivation for many 3rd party challenges, and would thereby make the space more equitable for both large and small entities.
Q. How would you address the issue concerning patent assertion entities or patent trolls?
A.  I think Alice has stunted a lot of the patent troll activity.  So I think judicial and legislative solutions are the best route for balancing the interests of legitimate patent holders and “trolls”.  In the meantime, we will aggressively defend against illegitimate infringement claims.


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Disclaimer: this article is not intended to be legal advice and is meant to be for educational or entertainment purposes only. For legal advice and questions, please contact Vincent LoTempio at