The interview runs as follows:
"KAT: You may be the first INTA President from a non-English-speaking country (if it’s even right to call Germany’s highly-educated population “non-English-speaking” these days), but you are not the first non-American to hold the INTA Presidency. Do you think that the nationality and cultural background of the President is of any significance where the organisation over which he presides enjoys massive international participation and is as near to “global” as any private sector body can be?
PRESIDENT: IP in general—and trademarks especially—affect everybody, irrespective of one’s nationality or cultural background. As such, professionals in this sector have to approach the subject with a global mindset, so I do not see an impact by nationality. Nevertheless, the international character of an organisation is visible by the national and cultural variety of its members, as well as its Leadership.
KAT: Not many people outside INTA’s corridors of power have an idea what the organisation’s Vice Presidents do. What role do you have in store for your Vice Presidents? Will it be work — or fun?
PRESIDENT: INTA is a well-structured organisation formed in groups that oversee its committees and sub-committees. These groups play a key role in the overall function of the organisation, as it is where we interact and exchange information and knowledge.
Currently, INTA has two Vice Presidents who have the crucial role of overseeing the function of two important groups in the organization: the Education and Services Group, and the Policy and Development Advocacy Group.
The Education and Services Group oversees all committees and subcommittees that handle member benefits, services, programs awards and competitions. Vice President Bret Parker (Elizabeth Arden, Inc.) will be leading this group in 2011.
The Policy and Development Advocacy Group is led by Vice President Toe Su Aung (BATMark Limited). This group handles all committees and subcommittees that work on INTA’s policies and advocacy efforts.
Our Treasurer (Mei-Lan Stark, Fox Entertainment Group) and Secretary (Lucy Nichols, Nokia Corporation) oversee the Association’s Finance Committee and the Publishing Group.We all have a lot of work to do – may it be in our daily work life or in the roles in our organisation. I am always impressed by the hard and dedicated work of INTA’s members and leadership. But I also see that working together for a common goal creates friendships. And where there is friendship, there is also fun.
KAT: Since the interests of manufacturing brand owners are in many cases in conflict with those of branded retailers and internet companies, do you consider that the INTA can realistically continue to reflect these competing interests in terms of its policy formulation? If so, how?
PRESIDENT: The brand world is like a huge family. Everybody is in contact with one another, and we are generally pursuing the same goals. As it is within each family, there may be differing views of interests. But the target is to find common grounds which will be accepted by all members.
If one looks at the diversity of INTA’s membership and at the results of its work (position papers, guidelines etc.), one can easily recognize that INTA has successfully accomplished this target.
KAT: The brand and trade mark sector is very heavily represented by organisations with overlapping and sometimes duplicated objectives. In Europe alone we have, for example, MARQUES, ECTA and the Pharmaceutical Trade Marks Group; beyond Europe there we have organisations such the AIPPI, FICPI and the LES. Is the voice of brand owners strengthened by this diversity or does it lose effectiveness through lack of a clear message? More importantly, INTA has organised events and engaged in some degree of cooperation with some of these organisations in the past. Do you feel that this cooperation been an advantage to INTA or is it a distraction from its core objectives?
PRESIDENT: As I had mentioned before, diversity and broad membership is one of INTA’s strengths. It is for this same reason that INTA encourages cooperation with other organisations whenever it’s suitable to pursue common interests.
For example, INTA, AIM, BusinessEurope, ECTA and MARQUES, are observers at OHIM’s Administrative Board and Budget Committee meetings. Last June, the five associations were invited to meet with the Max Planck Institute about their study on the European Trademark System. In this case, the strong cooperation among the associations ensured that brand owners’ interests were well represented during the important meeting.
KAT: The United States is still in the early days of its experiment in appointing an Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, working within the White House and with the ear of the President. Do you believe that trade mark enforcement, particular in terms of criminal law and customs, requires higher levels of cooperation between public sector enforcement agencies and, if so, do you think that appointing an IP coordinator or “IP Tsar” is the way forward?
PRESIDENT: Cooperation and coordination play a major role in ensuring effective measures and successful results. I highly favour the role of an “IP coordinator,” and I am pleased that the United States went in this direction.
Other examples of such coordination can be seen in Japan, and we are also looking forward to the initiative that OHIM’s new leadership has announced for the European Community.
KAT: No-one attending INTA Meetings in recent years can fail to have noticed the dissonance between INTA’s generally upbeat, positive and constructive attitude towards China, which is said to be the world’s major supplier of both legitimate and counterfeit products, and the generally pessimistic and angry sentiments which many of its members and participants have expressed off the record. What is your advice to a typical brand-owner who has outsourced his manufacture to China and now feels that he has lost control of his brand?
PRESIDENT: Nobody can deny that China plays an important role in the manufacturing process, and that trademark owners have faced problems and challenges within the country. However, we also need to recognize that China is developing its own technologies and products.
There are genuine Chinese brands being created, and the country is exporting more of its brand products to the rest of the world. By doing so, Chinese brand owners are experiencing the same problems we did with China. And as a result, China (and its brand owners) will develop a modern and effective IP protection system.
KAT: Everyone who comes from Europe has strong feelings about some of the rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union — the court whose rulings probably have more impact on the fate of trade marks than any other court. Can you share with us your thoughts on one case where the Court got it just right, and one where you feel the Court truly missed the mark?
PRESIDENT: The Court of Justice of the European Union has yet to rule on two important cases: the Onel case, which addresses genuine use, and Nokia Corporation v. Her Majesty’s Commissioners of Revenue and Customs, which addresses transhipment of counterfeit goods in the EU. INTA filed a brief in Nokia Corporation v. Her Majesty’s Commissioners of Revenue and Customs and participated in the oral argument. The rulings of these cases will have a tremendous impact on trademark owners, and we are looking forward to hearing the Court’s decisions.
KAT: Would you advise a young managerial graduate today to opt for a career working in an organisation which cultivated and developed goodwill in its own brands, or to work for a manufacturer of cost-competitive generic products?
PRESIDENT: If you want to “live” your brand’s values and not just the technical character of your products, I would strongly advise representing a brand owner with enormous developed goodwill.
KAT: Why has the INTA’s popular 5K Run been eliminated from the Annual Meeting Programme for the past few years — and will you be taking steps to reintroduce it?
PRESIDENT: Attendees’ schedules are demanding during the Annual Meeting, and they barely have enough time to do business. Over time, it was no longer conducive to ask members to leave their immediate premises to participate in sports, when the type of business conducted during our meetings is so important to them and their companies or firms.
I know—for sure—it will not be reintroduced this year, because I am not a good runner and prefer to drive my car.
KAT: What (apart from the INTA roundel and any Daimler-owned properties) are your three favourite brands—and why?
The IPKat thanks the President for his time and trouble. Merpel likes the bit about "Attendees’ schedules are demanding during the Annual Meeting, and they barely have enough time to do business". She guesses she won't be seeing any of them in the hotel bar at 2.00am then, will she!PRESIDENT: As a representative of brand owners and practitioners worldwide, INTA’s President does not have any favourite brands. Though, the question should be asked again when I have stepped down from the presidency in a year’s time".