From October 2016 to March 2017 the team is joined by Guest Kats Rosie Burbidge and Eibhlin Vardy, and by InternKats Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo, Tian Lu and Hayleigh Bosher.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

A Kat visits #INTA15: Monday's mewsings

Being a creature of habit, this Kat knows pretty well each year what his game plan is for the Monday of the International Trademark Association (INTA) Annual Meeting. He starts the day by wandering off to the Convention Center's vast hospitality area, where he picks up a coffee and some fruit for breakfast, then chats to other registrants about their ideas, their professional roles and their impressions of INTA. If left alone for a moment or two, he scans the pages of INTA News, the excellent daily Meeting newspaper produced by his friends at Managing Intellectual Property magazine.

At precisely 10 am the security guards allow admission to the Exhibit Hall. At that moment, this Kat speedily leaps up and enters its hallowed portals, initially checking out his JIPLP friends and colleagues at the Oxford University Press booth (this year it's booth number 2216, if you want to pop over and say hello) and then exploring the other exhibitors' wares. In the olden days the Exhibit Hall was much more exciting since, in the pre-internet era, you could be more or less guaranteed to encounter books, journals, search services, portfolio management systems, computer applications and other exotic items that you never knew about and may not even have imagined. Nowadays there are few surprises and the emphasis has shifted from promoting products to promoting humans and the services they provide.  Thus law firms, trade mark granting offices and organisations now proliferate and there are far more facilities for people to sit and chat at the booths rather than to collect their logo-bearing carrier bags, plunder the freebies on offer and then walk on.

These examples, taken from Alison Malsbury's
Canna Law Blog, illustrate some of the
IP/cannabis issues raised by Shabnam Malek
At mid-day this Kat's INTA activities usually take on an academic air, with the Professors' Lunch, as indeed happened this year. The lunch was subtitled "Sex, Drugs, and Motorcycle Clubs: Trademark Issues on the Edge", with speakers advertised as representing the cannabis industry, brands relating to adult content and the Hell's Angels. Alas, the promised speaker on bike clubs was unwell, so we had to make do with sex and drugs alone. First up was Shabnam Malek (Cobalt LLP), who spoke about the branding, packaging, labelling and regulatory issues that faced manufacturers of lawful cannabis products under federal and state law. Shabnam's presentation was bright, informative and entertaining, though it was delivered far too fast for this Kat to be able to make coherent notes.

Shabnam was followed by Todd Alberstone (Alberstone Consulting), who explained the human resources, content creation and clearance, protection and practical considerations relating to businesses relating to adult content. Todd gave insights into the problems of dealing with intellectual property issues in a commercial sector which was viewed by some with distaste or prejudice, with special reference to companies such as Playboy, which were concerned to protect the continuity of their brand image.

Neither Shabnam nor Todd made any concessions to the possibility that some members of the audience might not have been based in the United States, which made their entertaining talks a good deal less useful than they might otherwise have been. It is now 12 years since the United States Trademark Association became the International Trademark Association, and this Kat avers that is no longer acceptable, if indeed it ever was acceptable in the first place, for speakers to assume that people will follow their unexplained references to US law -- just as no European speaker would throw in references in the form of bare initials and acronyms, or toss out references to "Article 2" or "Article 5" to an international audience without indicating the regulation or directive to which he was referring.

After lunch, a is his wont, this Kat sat through two sessions of presentations of academic papers. The format of these sessions allows two speakers to introduce papers which, ideally, two colleagues drawn from practice and academe will have read in advance so that they can present comments and constructive criticisms. In the first of these sessions the papers were "What Can Harm the Reputation of a Trademark? A Critical Re-Evaluation of Dilution by Tarnishment" by Australian scholar Michael Handler (University of New South Wales) [Michael being the only non-US presenter in the afternoon sessions] and "Well-Known Trademarks under Trademark Licensing" by fellow Kat Neil Wilkof (Dr Eyal Bressler Ltd).  The second session selected by this Kat featured "Willfulness" by genial scholar David Welkowitz (Whittier Law School) and "Policing the Cease-and-Desist Letter" by Leah Chan Grinvald (Suffolk University School of Law).  This Kat thoroughly enjoyed these sessions, from which he learned a great deal, though he was hugely disappointed that they were so poorly attended, given the large numbers who flocked to the corresponding sessions last year in Hong Kong.

This Kat's final event of the day was the "Meet the Bloggers" reception in Henry's Pub, in the heart of San Diego's Gaslamp District.  He had rather hoped that this would be a chance to chill out and chat to friends over a couple of beers, but the immediate presence of 450 intellectual property lawyers meant that many of the conversations had a natural tendency to veer towards, er, intellectual property law. Nevertheless the beer was both good and free, as were the other beverages, thanks to the beneficence of White Plains law firm Leason Ellis, whose Marty Schwimmer was an admirable host-in-chief.  This year's raffle of counterfeit articles was conducted by Erik Pelton.  Further details of the names and faces behind this year's event can be found here.

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