For the half-year to 30 June 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Alberto Bellan, Darren Meale and Nadia Zegze.

Two of our regular Kats are currently on blogging sabbaticals. They are David Brophy and Catherine Lee.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

The IPKat visits INTA 3: some final thoughts and observations

Readers may have wondered why, following two posts on Monday on the International Trademark Association (INTA) Meeting in Dallas (here and here), there have been no further INTA Katposts till now. Had the Kat been hibernating or, worse than that, merely socialising?  The reality is not as exciting, nor as scandalous, as the various hypotheses on offer.  A serious attempt was made to attend several of the substantive sessions, either to learn from the speakers or, in a couple of cases, out of curiosity to find out if they knew what they were talking about -- but to no avail.  On each occasion when this Kat strode out towards the relevant conference room, he kept encountering a succession of familiar faces who hailed him, caught him by the proverbial buttonhole, and detained him for long enough for his late entry to be something of an embarrassment.  Thus thwarted, this Kat resolved to spend his time talking to registrants and, more importantly, listening to what they had to say about trade marks, how they regarded this year's venue and programme, what they thought they could take away with them from a meeting of this magnitude [apart from business cards and stress balls, says Merpel], and why they had decided to attend the Meeting in the first place. The following bullet-points represent a combination of what they said and what this Kat had been intuiting.

You wouldn't notice if Dallas looked like this
if you were spending all day in a windowless
room in the Conference Center ...
Dallas as a venue: while there was in general far less enthusiasm for Dallas than for more culturally or physically attractive venues like San Francisco, Washington DC or Seattle, there was a consensus -- occasionally a rather grudging one -- that Dallas had worked out well.  The distances between the Convention Center and the main hotels were far less than many had feared, which facilitated swift movement between meetings and receptions, and the relative lack of massive tourist attractions meant that there was less truanting from the Meeting. Some people told the Kat that they had made a point of attending Dallas this year because they thought they probably wouldn't be able to go to Hong Kong next year.

Hong Kong as next year's venue: the anxiety that it would be difficult to get clearance for the cost of attending an INTA Meeting on the other side of the world was articulated by a considerable number of US-based registrants, but not by so many from other countries. This may be accounted for in terms of American in-house and private practice trade mark experts having to live with more rigorous financial controls these days rather than anything sinister. It was generally accepted that there would be far more China- and Asia-based registrants, something which was regarded as a plus by some but as a negative by a small number of people whose practices or corporate efforts were not Asia-directed.

Will trade mark attorneys take steps
to keep the patent folk at bay?
People: curiously, if one considers what INTA is there for, this Kat encountered several people who described themselves as "out-and-out" patent attorneys. They each pointed out that many if not most IP practitioners do not work exclusively in the field of trade marks. One even said, perhaps jokingly, that a gathering should be arranged next year for patent attorneys who have no interest in trade mark work at all.  While remaining on the topic of people, this Kat may have missed the official announcements, but he didn't pick up the annual boast that the total number of this year's registrants was an all-time record. Accordingly he assumed that there were fewer registrants this year than last.  He also heard informally -- and he has not even tried to verify this -- that of the 8,500 or so registrants only around 3,000 were from the US.  If this is true, it demonstrates how INTA has changed since its USTA (= "United States Trademark Association") days, when the ethos, reflecting US predominance, was as American as you could get.

The programme: it is plain that the table-top sessions, which are intimate and highly focused, are very popular with many people who conduct them and those who sign up for them. They seem to generate more enthusiasm at the personal level than many of the formal conference sessions.  As to the programme itself, this Kat remains concerned that there are too many sessions in which all of the participants are from the United States -- something that is liable to reduce the breadth of coverage of the topics for those sessions and also create the false impression that the organisation is officially US-centric.  The problem is neither specifically INTA's fault nor necessarily within INTA's powers to rectify it: many new issues are recognised and litigated in the US before they are appreciated and analysed elsewhere, and even where expertise is generated elsewhere it can be hard to identify unless individuals are encouraged to put themselves forward.  Topics which received the all-American treatment this year were

  • the Cloud (which certainly does not hover exclusively over the 50 States of the Union), 
  • professional leadership ethics, 
  • social media problems for beginners, 
  • trade mark administration, 
  • the financing of litigation, 
  • retweets/reposts/repins, 
  • trade marks in the food industry and 
  • pro bono advocacy.  

This list is far too long and the IPKat will be happy to assist INTA in finding non-US speakers and panellists to complement their US colleagues if INTA calls upon them to do so.

Take-away benefits: the Kat found no clear consensus here. There seemed to be as many aspirations as there were people attending.  Cementing client-attorney relations, personal development, sniffing out possible job or career moves, social and personal motives -- all of these and more appeared to motivate attendance.

The INTA administration: this Kat, who recalls what things were like in the 1980s, is greatly impressed at how much more professional, proactive, flexible and generally caring the INTA and its staff have become. Whether this is the result of picking the right people, training them or just plain good luck, this Kat has no idea. However, their commitment, hard work and apparent sincerity has itself added, to a considerable degree, to the INTA Meetings becoming a pleasurable and conducive environment for learning, arguing, networking and sharing one's thoughts with one's trade mark peers.

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