The Washington Post

From Pixar animation to the iMac, Washington lawyer is making his mark

Tony Lupo, a partner at District-based Arent Fox, specializes in intellectual property. His entertainment, fashion and technology clients include Warner Bros., Discovery Communications, Hugo Boss and Apple. (Astrid Riecken/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

If you’ve seen a Pixar movie in the past decade, chances are you’ve seen Tony Lupo’s work.

Lupo, a partner at Arent Fox in Washington, led a team of intellectual property lawyers that pored over thousands of images of trash from “Wall-E,” scoured the logos of cars from “Cars,” and figured out how “Ratatouille” could show the Eiffel Tower without infringing on the rights of soft drink manufacturers, automakers or the quasi-government French entity that owns the rights to images of the Eiffel Tower at night.

Pixar is one of many leading entertainment companies that Lupo, co-chair of Arent Fox’s intellectual property group, counts as a client. He also advises Warner Bros., the Oprah Winfrey Network, Turner Broadcasting and Discovery Communications and all its channels, including the Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet.

It is rare for a Washington attorney to maintain a bustling entertainment practice that could rival that of a California firm. But Lupo, who’s been at Arent Fox since 1995, has made a career out of breaking the mold of a typical D.C. regulatory lawyer. His specialty, intellectual property, has allowed him to make inroads into the fashion, entertainment and technology industries.

Lupo, 48, began his career at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, representing foreign governments, including Vietnam and Egypt, in amending their intellectual property laws. He has since branched out, and now serves as U.S. in-house counsel for Italian fashion brands Diesel and Benetton Group, best known for its clothing line, United Colors of Benetton. He also represents Hugo Boss, Escada and LaCoste — for which he recently secured a win in California court defending the French apparel company’s right to collect personal information about customers after they buy LaCoste products.

A ‘business consigliere’

Lupo said he thinks of fashion and entertainment as art, and views his own role as less of a traditional lawyer and more of a link between the artist and the business. To that effect, he said he works with companies on how to enter new markets and develop their brands.

“I’m more of a business consigliere,” he said. “I’m an in-house person. I have a quasi-business role.”

Earlier this month, he took advantage of New York Fashion Week to meet with executives of the European fashion brands he represents.

“You get the owners of companies coming to the U.S., and you can sit down with CEOs without having to go to Paris,” he said.

Lupo is in and out of New York every week, and flies to Los Angeles or San Francisco at least once a month to touch base with entertainment and technology clients that include Apple Inc.

His relationship with Pixar, incidentally, stems from a phone call he got from an Apple lawyer in the 1990s, when Apple was trying to acquire the trademark for iMac from another company. Lupo managed to pull it off, and earned an invitation to meet Steve Jobs — co-founder and then-chief executive of Pixar — at Apple’s annual Macworld expo that year, when the company unveiled its first iMac model. He now represents the computer and media giant on technology issues.

“I got it in a week, and I got it for the right price,” Lupo said. “I got invited to meet him, became his Internet [legal adviser] ... he brought me to Pixar.”

Lupo’s role as an in-house lawyer has moved him into real estate and employment law, but intellectual property remains his bread and butter, making up about a third of his work. His next career move, he said, would be to become an executive rather than jump to another law firm.

But for now, Lupo is having fun in what he calls his dream job, though there remains one client he would love to sign: Armani.

Catherine Ho covers lobbying at The Washington Post. She previously worked at the LA Daily Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Detroit Free Press, the Wichita Eagle and the San Mateo County Times.
Show Comments
Most Read
NASDAQ 1.66%
Last Update: 4:40 PM 02/12/2016(DJIA&NASDAQ)



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.