Merli is an IP Knowledge Manager based in our Hong Kong office. She is a member of the Trade Marks team with a wide range of responsibilities, both local and global.
Merli grew up in Kanepi, a very small town in south-eastern Estonia that, a few years ago, attracted international attention by adopting a symbol of the cannabis leaf on its flag following an internet survey. It wasn’t an entirely random decision (the word ‘kanep’ means ‘cannabis’ in Estonian and traditionally hemp was grown in the region to be made into cloth, oil and rope,) but it was a controversial one. When Merli was there it had no such renown. Now she is living happily in Hong Kong, a world away, and says she has a job that is just about perfect for her. It’s no accident: she’s one of those people lucky enough to know what is right for her - and to be able to find it.
In Kanepi, she stayed at the same school from grade 1 to the end of High School and then undertook a secretarial and human relations course at a nearby college. At that stage, she really had no idea what she wanted to do, so when one of her sisters told her that an Estonian woman in Germany was looking for an au pair she thought she might as well give it a go. It turned out to be an important move leading, indirectly, to her current life in Hong Kong.
The woman who was looking for an au pair lived in the small German city of Trier near Luxembourg with her German/Australian husband and, at the time, their one child – they now have three and Merli is still friends with the family. She travelled with them to Australia, stopping off at Singapore on the way – her first experience of Asia – and when in Germany would often go to Luxembourg on her days off. There was a big Estonian community there, many of them working for EU institutions and agencies. At one of the parties she attended there she met her future husband who was working in Luxembourg as Marketing/Licensing Manager for Ferrero, the Italian multinational chocolate manufacturer. Eventually, she decided to move to Luxembourg and there she obtained a secretarial position with a Patent Attorney at the global IP firm, Marks & Clerk. That was her first introduction to IP. She liked it, learned a lot, and began to develop an interest in trade marks despite the fact that her boss tried to discourage her, saying she would find trade marks much less interesting and challenging than patents.
After three years in Luxembourg, her husband was given the opportunity to transfer to Hong Kong – both agreed it was an opportunity too good to miss. In the meantime, however, Merli had decided to do The Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorney’s Paralegal Course is London – a six month’s intensive course. So she remained in Luxembourg to finish that and then joined him.
Initially, she could not find a trade mark job of any sort in Hong Kong, so she left her CV with an agency and took a position as an Executive Assistant in a boutique IPO firm. She knew she eventually wanted to work in the trade mark area, but, even though she had just qualified as a paralegal, she was quite clear that she didn’t want to work as a paralegal. So when, after about a year, the possibility of a position as an IP Knowledge Manager at Rouse came up, she couldn’t believe her luck – even if she didn’t really know what it would involve. Now she sees it as just about the perfect role for her. She is a good organiser, good at detail, always on top of things and she enjoys having enormously diverse responsibilities, from consolidating knowledge and developing online platforms that can be accessed by all offices to training and supervising. She now also has direct client involvement, providing cost estimates and assistance with filing strategies.
Both she and her husband adapted quickly to life in Hong Kong. At his suggestion, or perhaps more accurately at his insistence because initially she wasn’t so keen, six months after arriving, they adopted a dog from an animal shelter: a medium sized crossbreed, who now goes by the name Jazzy. Although Merli and her husband both have demanding jobs, they spend as much time as they can with Jazzy.
Apart from anything else, it’s been a perfect way to meet people – in fact, when you are out walking a dog it’s impossible not to meet people. And in Hong Kong you meet people of just about every nationality. It’s one of the joys of being there. Above all, though, Merli and her husband are just enjoying being in Asia – things seem to be happening there; they like the energy and the pace.
Although she’s a long way from Kanepi, Merli remains close to her family and is in almost daily contact and tries to travel to Europe once or twice a year, dividing her time between Estonia and Italy. You never know, but it’s probably unlikely she will ever return to Estonia to live – there’s certainly not a lot of opportunity for trade mark work there. Anyway, for the moment neither she nor her husband has any thought of returning to Europe to live. For both of them, Asia is definitely the place to be.