INTA Report and Micro-Rant, Day 4, 20 May

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.

The next session the Kat attended, and the last for 2009, was also his biggest disappointment -- partly because it was the session he had most looked forward to. This was on the exciting topic of "Latest developments in internet law and the impact of blogging on trademarks". The fault was not with the speakers. Rachel Matteo Boehm (Holme Roberts & Owen) and Ian Ballon (Greenberg Traurig) were clearly knowledgeable and had obviously gone to some considerable effort to provide current and authoritative information. The problem was in the session itself. There was nothing to warn the audience that this session was a throwback to the USTA -- the old United States Trademark Association -- and that it was aimed at local attorneys who wanted to collect their CLE points rather than to the members of the International Trademark Association who had come to enhance their understanding of problems that do not belong exclusively to the United States (the words "CLE" were mentioned twice in the presentations, but the Kat doesn't recall any mentions of other countries at all).

[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]. 
Now that he has typed this all up, the IPKat is already feeling a lot happier. The rage is abating. As is well known, the IPKat is hugely fond of the INTA and does all he can to persuade his friends (and his not-yet-friends) to join it. He has participated in its workings for many a long year and fervently hopes that this micro-rant will mean either or both of two things: that sessions intended for the whole membership will be better balanced, and/or that sessions intended for our US colleagues who seek CLE points will be clearly flagged as such. 

And now for something lighter ...

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?]

The Kat has now packed his bags and is ready to return to the Old Continent -- but he's already looking forward to returning for next year's Meeting, Boston 2010.
INTA Report and Micro-Rant, Day 4, 20 May INTA Report and Micro-Rant, Day 4, 20 May Reviewed by Jeremy on Thursday, May 21, 2009 Rating: 5


  1. Great post. I entirely agree with your rant. The internet sessions, of all the sessions, should be more international in focus and perspective because the nature of the internet is international. Also a little more communication between the organisers of the two internet sessions would have been good, as the Google Keywords topic was covered in both sessions, yet nobody talked about the jurisdictional problems the internet brings, or other pertinent subjects. I am going to volunteer to be on the INTA Internet Committee. If they accept me (I gather it is by no means a foregone conclusion that one is accepted when volunteering at INTA) I hope to bring a wider perspective to this interesting and fast moving topic.

  2. If that was a micro-rant by a vexed kitty Kat, let's see a full fledged adult tom Kat temper tantrum hissy fit with fur flying about US IP hegemony.

  3. Merpel is unjust. The non-existence of unicorns (at present) is about as well established as one can expect for a negative proposition, but their size is clear enough: generally somewhere between a goat and a Shetland pony. And see Stoppard: ".. a God who may have any number of predicates including omniscience, perfection and four-wheel drive, but not, as it happens, existence." (Jumpers, Act I, 1972).

  4. Shireen,

    The INTA Internet Committee is not involved with sessions presented at the Annual Meeting on Internet-law related issues.

    In addition, the committee has a cross-section of members from different countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil,Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Paraguay, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

    In the future, you may want to pause before you begin casting stones in all directions.

    Incidentally, several years ago, I was on an INTA panel at an INTA Cyberspace Conference that specifically addressed the issue of personal jurisdiction issues arising from activity on the Internet. We discussed and included materials on case developments in this area worldwide. As I'm sure you'll appreciate, not every topic can be covered at every meeting. In addition, having attended INTA's annual meetings for over 15 years, I have been very impressed by the efforts of the organizers to see that most sessions are not US-centric.

    Mitchell Stabbe

  5. Since I hope to be invited one day to speak on an inta panel, I write under cover of anonymity.

    I agree entirely with the criticisms, only I do not think they go far enough. As an experienced but non-US practitioner I am familiar with the usual legal and technical terminology of internet law. I do not know, though, what SLAPP is supposed to mean. By the time I have asked the person sitting next to me and have gotten an answer, I have missed the point the speaker is making.

    Please inta tell your speakers not to speak in code.

  6. Let's get real about this, shall we? Here are some facts:

    1. The U.S. created the INTA and hosts its administration.

    2. Most of its members practice in the U.S. and there are more U.S. attendees than from any other country.

    3. Most of the world's leading brands and most successful trademark strategies developed in the U.S.

    4. Most of the reported cases, case notes, law review articles etc come from the U.S.

    5. The Internet is de facto a U.S. territory because almost all its added value for users comes from the U.S. Ever heard of Google, MSN, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Second Life, Wikipedia. The list is endless. I struggle however to name a single non-U.S. Internet brand that has made it beyond its own 'hood.

    So stop complaining, kids and kats. If you want to play, you have to go to where the game is. Right now you better watch the big boys play -- and they're all from ... you guessed it, the U.S. of A.

  7. Tim Berners Lee the acknowledged inventor of www was born in London. The Internet is English since the US is just a colony.
    Group Hug

  8. I am delighted that Proud to be American is proud to come from one Of englan's colonies and I think he may find that he owes more to England than he thinks

  9. - As mentioned, Tim Berners Lee (teh internet) is English.

    - Pierre Omidyar (eBay's founder) is French.

    - Jawed Karim (Youtube founder and key developer of Paypal) is German.

    - Jerry Yang (Yahoo) is Taiwanese.

    - I guess PTBA never heard of Skype (Estonian/Scandinavian).

    As an endnote, doesn't the added value of the internet lie in content rather than form?

  10. Proud to be American's little rant surprises me in no way, very American. Funny that I met maybe 2 Americans during the entire INTA conference and plenty of people from the rest of the world. In fact, I met more Yorubas than Americans. Guess it depends on where you hang out.

    The issue with the session was not so much that it was completely Ameri-centric, but that attendees had no way of knowing this in advance. If the session had been billed as an American look at the issue, or more accurately, as a Californian look at the issue, then those who were not interested could have chosen ahead of time not to attend. We all know everyone is exceedingly busy at INTA and their time is valuable. Give people the information to wisely choose how to allocate their time.

    As an American, I did find the session helpful in the sense of informing me about areas where I need to learn more. The panelists were very knowledgeable and speaking to people with a similar level of expertise. I can easily see how foreigners, newer attorneys and people who can't read tiny power point font or understand fast American-accents could get little value from the sessions.

    1 - if the session is going to be jurisdiction-specific, just say so in the info paragraph.
    2 - slow down when speaking, esp. with multi-ethnic audience. Even Americans can have trouble with our regional accents!
    3 - If reading your power point slide on your computer screen is difficult, it will NOT be easier when projected. Yes, projected image is large, but people are farther away.
    4 - smile and remember we need to work together :)

  11. Those who broadcast their pride in their nationality usually lack anything more substantial to be proud about.

  12. Apart from missing the opportunity of potentially having to choose between schmoozing with Elle or and Jeremy (difficult choice - glad I didn't have to make it), I'm sure glad I wasn't there.

    On the "America Forever" issue, our American friends should begin to brace themselves for the fact that their empire is in decline. The sun finally did sit on the British Empire. But it's not so bad to be in England these days.

    In case some folks in the USA haven't heard about it, there's places called Brazil, Russia, India, China and Europe that are becoming increasingly important.

  13. Mitchell,
    The International jurisdictional issue I would have liked some discussion about at INTA was geo location and its possible future impact on jurisdiction. The internet is changing very rapidly, and it would be good if the INTA sessions could be an opportunity to stock take on latest developments.
    It’s a shame that the Internet Committee is not involved with sessions presented at the Annual Meeting. I guess both this and the fact that you are quite senior in the Internet Committee (and have responded to my comment in the way you have) might dissuade me from applying to be on the Internet Committee after all.

  14. This was my third INTA and every year I get more annoyed by how poor most of the sessions are. Why are all the interesting theme-based topics divided up between US lawyers with a token smattering of Brits, Canadians and Aussies?

    You then have these farcical round-up sessions such as India, Pakistan and the Middle East being covered covered in one hour. South East Asia was covered in an hour (with two US speakers!) and Latin America and Africa also only got an hour each. What is the point of these sessions? Almost no-one goes because they don't have time to go into any depth on any subject. It seems like a very tokenistic way of making INTA seem international. "You sum up developments in your unimportant countries and leave discussion of the interesting issues to us," is what the organisers seem to be saying.

    Why did the session on counterfeiting have two brits, two americans and an aussie? Did it not occur to someone to ask what is being done on the ground in China? Instead there was a session on enforcement in Brazil, Russia, India and China that lasted an hour. I bet that was useful.

    Why not integrate the programme a little bit more? Wouldn't it be interesting to hear what the situation is for online TM infringement in the increasinly important markets of India or China, rather than hearing US lawyers go on for the zillionth time about the difference between the 2nd and the 9th circuit on keyword advertising? This year I even recognised the images of google searches used as slides to illustrate keyword advertising. They were exactly the same as last year. As were the presentations.


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