Fish & Richardson Teams Up with Sabre to Combat Human Trafficking

This article originally appeared inTexas Lawbook.

By Brooks Igo

Slavery may be an ancient system, but it remains alarmingly prevalent.

Human trafficking, an industry that reportedly earns about $32 billion a year, has produced more slaves today than ever before in history. But without legislative change and education on this crisis, the number of slaves will not dwindle anytime soon. Southlake, Texas-based Sabre, Inc. decided to do something about it. Almost two years ago, the travel and tourism industries' leading global technology provider launched "Passport to Freedom" to unite the industry to fight child sex trafficking and human slavery.

The technology company, which operates in approximately 60 countries around the world, recently took another step in its efforts against these crimes with the assistance of Texas lawyers from Fish & Richardson. The firm is partnering with Sabre by providing IP protection in the U.S. and internationally for its signature corporate responsibility program on a pro bono basis.

"We at Fish & Richardson were generally aware of the program, and learned more when Sabre approached us about assisting it with attempts to register trademarks related to the program around the world," said J. Kevin Gray, the assistant managing principal of the Dallas office and the head of the firm's licensing group. "Given the importance of this program and the longstanding relationship between our companies, we readily agreed to partner with Sabre."

The need to trademark "Passport to Freedom" arose as it quickly grew and its name began to appear across the world in countries such as Poland, Argentina, Uruguay and India.

"Since the nature of the program is extremely collaborative, there was growing confusion among our partners around how to use the name," said Jennifer Barkley, Sabre's corporate responsibility manager. "We felt that it was time to trademark the name and formalize our partnerships."

Jennifer Barkley

Jennifer Barkley

The goals of the program include increasing awareness and educating the travel industry on human trafficking issues and advocating for legislative change. Sabre originally developed an online training course for its 10,000 employees on how they can personally make a difference in the effort to eradicate human trafficking, but it has since made the training available to the public online.

Sabre, through opening a donor involved scholarship fund with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, has also funded the first ever scholarship program for human trafficking survivors, which Barkley says will help them "reclaim their freedom and their lives by giving them critical life skills and career training." The first scholarships will be awarded at the end of the year.

The "Passport to Freedom" has not been without its challenges. Barkley said "it felt as if we were drinking from a fire hose" at the beginning.

"We were learning so much from the experts in the human trafficking space," she said. "There was so much support for the program and so many places we could help, but we had a limited staff and financial resources, so refining our objectives and focus areas became very important."

Barkley says the program's next objective is to convene other tech companies on how technology can be used in the fight against human trafficking.