Deena R. Merlen is a Partner at the firm. She serves clients at both our New York and Stamford offices and heads the Connecticut practice. Her practice areas include intellectual property, employment and labor law, media and entertainment, general business law, commercial transactions and dispute resolution.
In her employment practice, Ms. Merlen is a trusted “go to” problem solver and counsel to individuals, established name brand companies and startups alike. She has extensive experience representing clients in matters including general counseling, discrimination actions, mediations and dispute resolution, investigations by federal or state agencies, as well as wage and hour claims and other labor law matters. She also advises on and regularly negotiates employment and separation agreements, independent contractor arrangements and other services-related arrangements. Ms. Merlen also counsels clients on employment and business matters in response to a crisis or other unexpected business impact, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting business closures, including continuity plans, employee furloughs, reductions in force and other critical measures.
In her intellectual property practice, Ms. Merlen helps her clients with the development, acquisition and protection of their valuable brands and other vital intellectual property assets. She manages and grows trademark portfolios in the U.S. and internationally; negotiates licensing, assignment, distribution and branding agreements; prosecutes trademark and copyright registrations; enforces intellectual property rights; and provides strategic counsel to safeguard brand platforms and expand the value of her clients’ intellectual property assets.
Ms. Merlen’s media practice encompasses the development and protection of creative works in the fields of music, film, television, theatre, publishing, literary arts, performing arts, design and technology. She ran her own business in the entertainment industry for over a decade and brings that business experience and acumen to her legal practice.
In addition, Ms. Merlen provides general business counsel and represents clients in company and transactional matters such as partnerships, joint ventures, licensing arrangements, the purchase or sale of businesses, and a wide range of other corporate matters, including company formation, capitalization and governance, compliance and contracts. Representative clients include technology companies, schools and other academic institutions, personal care and beauty companies, fashion and design companies, media, arts and entertainment companies, wholesalers, retailers and more.
Prior to her work with RPJ, Ms. Merlen served as Law Clerk to The Honorable Roger J. Miner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, after which she joined Debevoise & Plimpton, where she practiced for over five years in the areas of corporate law and intellectual property.
Ms. Merlen is admitted to practice in Connecticut and New York.
Ms. Merlen received a B.A. from Oberlin College (1984) and a J.D. from New York Law School (summa cum laude, 1996), where she ranked first in her class, was an editor of the Law Review and received the Outstanding Editor Award, several American Jurisprudence Awards, the Trustees’ Prize and a merit scholarship.
Services & Honors
Ms. Merlen serves on Friendship Ambassadors Foundation Inc.’s Board of Directors, which she chaired until 2014 and on which she has served since 2011. Friendship Ambassadors Foundation is a 501(c)(3) NGO formally associated with the UN Department of Public Information and in Consultative Status with ECOSOC and UNESCO.
Ms. Merlen also chairs the Connecticut chapter of the Licensing Executives Society (USA & Canada), an independent, professional organization that facilitates global IP commerce through education, networking, standards development, and certification. Founded over 50 years ago, LES is a member society of the Licensing Executives Society International, Inc., which has a worldwide membership of licensing and intellectual property professionals across 32 national societies located in more than 90 countries.
Ms. Merlen also is a member of the Fairfield County Bar Association’s Entertainment, Media and Intellectual Property Law Committee, which she co-chaired from 2011-2019, and a member of the Employment Law Committee, which she co-chaired from 2015-2018.
Selected Engagements & Publications
Ms. Merlen is a frequent guest speaker and moderator for employment law, intellectual property and entertainment industry panels on a variety of topics.
Selected Articles & Publications
- “RPJ Partner Deena Merlen’s Reflections on Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott” RPJ – December 05, 2023
- “RPJ Partner Deena Merlen to Moderate Seminar on ‘Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging in the Legal Profession” RPJ – October 20, 2023
- “RPJ Partner Deena Merlen Discuss Legal Developments Concerning Caste-Based Discrimination” RPJ- September 8, 2023
- “Diversity Law: A Half Century of Changing Attitudes on LGBTQI Rights in Connecticut” RPJ – August 8,2023
- “LGBTQ+ Rights Advances in June: A March Through Pride” RPJ – June 22, 2023
- “RPJ Partner Deena Merlen on Disability Discrimination and Reasonable Accommodations” RPJ – May 9, 2023
- “RPJ Partner Deena Merlen Discusses Proposed Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy” RPJ – February 7, 2023
- “RPJ Program Launch Commemorating #MeToo @ Five Years – How Far the Laws Have Come and May Yet Go,” RPJ – October 5, 2022
- “Happy Anniversary to the Americans with Disabilities Act!” RPJ – July 26, 2022
- “The Race to Equality: Reflections on Equal Pay Day by RPJ Partner Deena R. Merlen,” RPJ – March 16, 2022
- “The Crown Act and Rooting Out Race-Based Hair Discrimination,” article featured in COMPASS: Direction for HR Leaders in Education, pp. 12-13 – February 2022 publication
- “Lust, Love and Liability,” RPJ – February 4, 2022
- “NY HERO Act August 5 Deadline – Employers must adopt Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plans,” RPJ, with RPJ Partner Jill Kahn Marshall and RPJ Associate Elizabeth Stork – August 4, 2021
- “Partner Deena R. Merlen Provides Important Updates Regarding Workplace Policies on COVID-19 Vaccinations,” RPJ – May 28, 2021
- “Gradual Return to Workplace Eases Transition for Employees,” by Allen Smith, J.D., Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), featuring Ms. Merlen – May 18, 2021
- “Vaccine Mandates at Work Set for Uptick After Full FDA Approval,” by Robert Iafolla, Bloomberg Law, featuring Ms. Merlen – May 10, 2021
- “The Vaccinated Workplace: Recent Developments and Controversies” – European American Chamber of Commerce New York, co-authored by Ms. Merlen – April 14, 2021
- “Partner Deena R. Merlen Discusses the CROWN Act and Rooting Out Race-Based Hair Discrimination” RPJ – March 16, 2021
- “Important Reminder to New York and Connecticut Employers” RPJ, with RPJ Partner Jill Kahn Marshall – February 16, 2021
- “The Gig is Up: In a Rising Gig Economy, Employer & Employee Perspectives on Worker Classification” – European American Chamber of Commerce New York, co-authored by Ms. Merlen – October 26, 2020
- “How Are Companies Adjusting Salaries for Remote Workers?” The Economist, featuring Ms. Merlen – October 12, 2020
- “RPJ’s Guide on Returning to Work in the COVID-19 Environment,” RPJ, with RPJ Associate Elizabeth Stork – August 24, 2020
- “New Proposed Legislation for Second Round of PPP Loans Prioritizes Small Businesses,” RPJ – June 12, 2020
- “Senate Dems Want 2nd Round of PPP Loans for Small Biz,” by Andrew Kragie, Law360, featuring Ms. Merlen – June 10, 2020
- “Patent Rights and Wrongs in the COVID-19 Pandemic: EU and U.S. Approaches to Compulsory Licensing,” IPWatchdog.com, with RPJ Associate Nafsika Karavida and Counsel Dara Onofrio – May 19, 2020
- “Coronavirus stimulus checks: Advocates worry landlords are checking on renters’ payments,” by Dhara Singh, Yahoo Money, featuring Ms. Merlen – April 23, 2020
- “Considerations for Employers When Contemplating Employee Furloughs or Reductions in Force in the COVID-19 Environment,” RPJ, with RPJ Associate Elizabeth Stork – March 23, 2020
- “Will FedEx Express linking with Ground make union organizing easier for employees?” by Max Garland, The Commercial Appeal, featuring Ms. Merlen – February 17, 2020
- “Important New Requirements for NY Employers in the New Year,” RPJ – January 17, 2020
- “What is companies’ role in ensuring workers get vaccinated?” The Economist, featuring Ms. Merlen – December 2019
- “Only Two More Weeks to Meet Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Deadline in NYS,” RPJ – September 27, 2019
- “New Deadline for Sexual Harassment Prevention Training in California,” RPJ – September 24, 2019
- “Legal Alert: Important Deadlines Loom for Employers in New York and California,” RPJ – July 25, 2019
- “New Requirement for Foreign Trademark Applicants, Registrants and Parties to TTAB Proceedings,” RPJ – July 23, 2019
- “This International Women’s Day, Promote an Equal Work Environment,” RPJ – March 8, 2019
- “New Employment Laws Effective as of January 1, 2019 in New York and Connecticut,” RPJ – January 2, 2019
- “Important Highlights of 2018 and Our Assistance for a Better 2019: RPJ’s Workplace Training Programs,” RPJ – December 31, 2018
- “New York State Provides Guidance and Final Models for New State Sexual Harassment Prevention Policies and Training Requirements,” RPJ – October 9, 2018
- “#MeToo Enters Year Two: New Legal Obligations and How We Can Help,” RPJ, with RPJ Associate Jill Kahn Marshall – October 5, 2018
- “How the Supreme Court’s Arbitration Decision Will Affect You,” by Bourree Lam and Judith Ohikuare, Refinery29, featuring Ms. Merlen – May 22, 2018
- “#MeToo in Gotham City and Beyond: New Laws for a New Day,” RPJ – May 10, 2018
- “The Answer to: ‘Can I Get Fired for Talking About Politics at Work?” Interview by Stacey Lastoe, The Muse, featuring Ms. Merlen and RPJ Partner Helen D. “Heidi” Reavis – January 20, 2017
- “Will You Be Prepared in Time for the New Overtime Rules?” RPJ – June 22, 2016
Noted Speaking Engagements
- “Questions You Don’t Want to Ask Out Loud—Employment Law,” Panel on Employment and Labor Law Hosted by Equity in Lighting and Reavis Page Jump, with RPJ Partners Alice Jump, Ethan Krasnoo, and Helen D. Reavis – November 08, 2023
- “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging in the Legal Profession,” CLE Program Hosted by the Diversity Law Committee of the Fairfield Co. Bar Association – October 24, 2023
- “Diversity Law: A Half Century of Changing Attitudes on LGBTQI Rights in Connecticut,” CLE Program Hosted by the Diversity Law Committee of the Fairfield Co. Bar Association – September 07, 2023
- “Hot Topics in Employment Law Since #MeToo,” accredited CLE program developed and produced by RPJ Partner Deena R. Merlen for the National Academy of Continuing Legal Education (presented live, now available on-demand) featuring Ms. Merlen and RPJ Partners Helen D. Reavis, Nicole Page, Ethan Krasnoo, and Jill Kahn Marshall and special guest Dr. Jumo Ayandele – October 05, 2023
- “Real Risk and the Remote Possibility: Sexual Harassment and Other Discrimination in the Physical and Remote Workplace,” Prerecorded Presentation with Live Q&A for AASPA Annual Conference 2020, with RPJ Partner Jill Kahn Marshall and RPJ Associate Elizabeth Stork – October 16, 2020
- The Boss Lady Pitch, Event Speaker with RPJ Associate Niki Bhargava, hosted by Northeast Community Innovation Corp. and The Boss Lady Productions – March 20, 2019
- “The Ultimate Guide to the Employment Life Cycle,” Expert Insights Series, AltaClaro – January 5, 2019
- “Advertising and Marketing Pitfalls: Staying on the Right Side of the Law,” CLE Panel Moderator, Fairfield County Bar Association – October 2, 2018
- “The Employment Life Cycle, Part 4: Don’t Overlook Employment Agreements,” Expert Insights Series, AltaClaro – August 23, 2018
- “The Employment Life Cycle, Part 3: Interview Best Practices,” Expert Insights Series, AltaClaro – August 21, 2018
- 22nd Session of The Youth Assembly, Opening Ceremony Opening Remarks, Hunter College – August 10, 2018
- “The Employment Life Cycle, Part 2: Posting Jobs & Screening Applicants,” Expert Insights Series, AltaClaro – August 10, 2018
- “The Employment Life Cycle, Part 1: What Do You Need to Know?,” Expert Insights Series, AltaClaro – August 3, 2018
- International Trademark Association (INTA) North America Roundtable on Trademark Transactions and Due Diligence, Roundtable Host – April 13, 2018
- Invitation-Only Gala for the 21st Session of The Youth Assembly, Speaker, Japan Society – February 15, 2018
- Girls With Impact Luncheon and Press Conference Speaker – June 29, 2017
- “Hot Topics and Changes in the Employment Legal Landscape,” Program Moderator, Fairfield County Bar Association – June 7, 2017
- 19th Bi-Annual Youth Assembly at the United Nations®, Opening Session Speaker – February 3, 2017
- “Navigating the IR Waters So You Don’t Drown,” Co-Moderator with RPJ Counsel Dara L. Onofrio, International Trademark Association Roundtable – June 24, 2016
- “Native Advertising, UGC and the Law,” Roundtable Discussion Speaker and Co-Host, Internet Week NY – May 20, 2016
- SUNY Levin Institute FastTrac New Venture for the Female Entrepreneur, Guest Speaker – October 29, 2015
- “Your Client’s Being Knocked Off—Now What? Genuine Approaches to Counteracting Counterfeiters,” CLE Program Speaker, Fairfield County Bar Association – October 28, 2015
- “Trademark Litigation A-Z,” Roundtable Moderator, International Trademark Association – March 18, 2014