Here's the IPKat's final report from Seattle, host to this year's (131st) Meeting of the International Trademark Association. Setting his alarm clock for 7am with the full intention of getting a few hours' sleep, the Kat bounced out of bed at 5.48am, startled into consciousness by the dreadful thought that it was already the afternoon back in Europe (i.e. his email in-tray would be enticingly full again). This apprehension was indeed fulfilled when he later logged on.
The IPKat's first serious task, after the statutory round of breakfasts, was to attend the Regional Update on Africa. There were only 75 minutes available and more than 50 countries to get through, which meant we'd have to travel at the rate of just about one jurisdiction every 60 seconds or so (allowing for moderators' comments, changes of speaker, people having to breathe etc). The team, ably led by Gerard du Plessis (Adams & Adams), responded admirably to this challenge. Gerard's colleague Simon Brown did most of the Country-a-minute stuff, giving a bird's eye view of recent national and regional developments that left us almost sensing the imperious twitch of the lion's tail. He was followed by immaculate presentations by David Maema (Isame, Kamau & Maema, Kenya) and August Mrema (Mkono, Tanzania) which touched on all sorts of tasty questions such as (i) why does Tanzania have two separate trade mark registration systems, (ii) how Rwanda is changing from a civil law Francophone country to a common law Anglophone one, (iii) how ambitious -- and how advanced -- are the plans of the East Africa Community to form a common market and (iv) how Africa is home both to laws which are enacted but are not in force and laws which are in force but have not been enacted.
[Beginning of micro-rant]: The IPKat does not know who designed this element of the programme and how it was decided to handle it the way it was handled, but he has the following messages for the person or persons unknown:
1. The internet is not owned by the United States; nor is it coextensive with the territorial borders of the United States.
2. Neither the internet nor disputes arising from its use are exclusively governed by United States law.
Right: angry kat piccie by Piez
3. An international organisation such as the INTA owes it to its members to provide an approach to subjects which is not parochially focused solely on the legal issues of any single jurisdiction.
4. There is no valid reason for excluding, in a session at an international gathering of this nature, any reference to developments in France and Germany -- two civil law jurisdictions which have a rich and varied body of case law and jurisprudence on the trade mark/internet interface.
5. It is worth questioning the wisdom of the INTA circulating under its own logo, for the benefit of this audience, a shortlist of trade mark-related weblogs. This creates the appearance of endorsement or approval of certain weblogs by the INTA, yet it omits some of the leading trade mark weblogs entirely. No non-English-language blogs are listed (for example Le petit Musée des Marques is omitted, despite its influence and popularity in the French-speaking world and its archive going back to 2004; Germany's MarkenBlog is not there. Nor is Boek 9 from the Netherlands, Lvcentinus in Spain or the exotic, colourful bilingual Catch Us If You Can !!! from Italy). The hugely popular Spicy IP, from India, is also absent -- as is the poor little IPKat ...[end of micro-rant here].
The IPKat's INTA Oscars
Best session: since modesty prohibits the IPKat speaking the truth about his own session on privilege and ethics in cyberspace, he will gallantly nominate the session on due diligence: the good humour, natural presentation skills and narrative exegisis of the speakers turned a traditionally turgid subject into quite a zappy one.
Best reception: for warmth of hospitality and quality of chopped liver, the annual feeding frenzy provided by Sanford T. Colb is hard to equal. For a small fee the IPKat promises not to name and shame the firms who had all their hosts standing in a line outside the reception, but no-one inside to talk to guests once they'd deposited their cards and entered.
Coolest venue: The Waterfront, Pier 70 -- it's almost inconceivable that lawyers work in this lovely location, with its comfortably blazing log fire, the breathtaking views and the amusingly simple death-trap of highly polished pebbles, though rumour has it that those employed at Graham & Dunn are capable of doing so.
Best audio-visual aids: it just had to be keynote speaker Elle Macpherson -- there were no other contenders.
Nicest person: Cathy Lee, the ever-smiling wheelchair-bound attendant at the Convention Center who had a cheerful word for even the gloomiest participant.
Most annoying example of arbitrary exercise of power: the posting of sentries around the bottleneck between the registration area and the reception zone in order to encourage two one-way systems for those entering and exiting, thereby narrowing the bottleneck still further.
Most-desired object: the glorious white full-sized unicorn you can see through the window of the FAO Schwartz concession, Macy's -- for which the IPKat is still yearning ... [you fool, says Merpel: if unicorns don't exist, how can you tell if this one's full sized or not?]