INTA report: day one, Sunday 17 May

The IPKat was hampered in his attempt to bring you a picture of events in Seattle on the first day of the International Trademark Association (INTA) 131st Annual Meeting by his inability to be in several places at the same time. Still, he covered a good deal of ground (pedometer reading 20,901 paces) since he first ventured off to the Convention Center for registration.

The first big event of the day for him was to read the INTA Daily News, expertly published by Managing Intellectual Property and designed to provide lots of interesting reading material even when there hasn't been much news yet. Two things in this issue caught the Kat's eye. The first was the inclusion of ENCARTA in a list headed "Popular Microsoft Brands". The second was a quote from INTA Madrid System Subcommittee chair Nadine Jacobson:
"This [news of the one millionth trade mark registration under the Madrid System] shows that the Madrid System is still very attractive after more than 100 years ...".
The IPKat thinks the Madrid System wasn't very popular at all until the 1990s, when the Madrid Protocol gave it sufficient appeal for most of the world to stop ignoring it, but the world is big enough for more than one opinion.

Much of the rest of the afternoon was spent darting between a selection of pleasantly beery receptions and wandering round the Exhibition Hall, where more than 90 publishers, service suppliers, organisations and trade mark practitioners have set out their booths -- some quite lavishly. Finally at 5pm came the big treat of the day, the Opening Ceremony. Usually this is a bit of an embarrassment, with a small scattering of dutiful registrants dutifully sitting themselves at random around a cavernous hall in order to hear the speeches while their many colleagues are frolicking around in the sunshine. This time, though, the auditorium was packed; the audience was rapt. Some cynics might say that this was in some way connected to the choice of Elle Macpherson (left) as keynote speaker.

The IPKat can however assure readers that nothing was further from the truth. He has it on good authority that the assembled masses had come only to pay homage to a dashing redhead with peachlike complexion and a winning smile -- the lovely Richard Heath (right), who melted all our hearts with talk of expanding private/public partnerships, putting the can on ICANN so far as introducing more general top-level domains is concerned, establishing regional councils and coordinating their assault on counterfeiting, and so on.

Following on from Richard and a neat double-act by the Meeting Co-chairs Katrina Burchell and David Grace came Elle Macpherson herself [historical query: is this the first time in INTA's history that neither the President nor the keynote speaker had American accents?]. Elle spoke eloquently and fluently of her brand -- Elle Macpherson Intimates.

The presentation, delivered to a backdrop of photographs of the speaker which many of us would get sacked for looking at over the internet during work hours, focused on the development of the brand from a series of casual but consistent decisions made early in the model's career (she called herself "the accidental executive") to the point at which it had become a commercial product and a vehicle for corporate responsibility. 

Funding of the business came from Elle's successful modelling career which, while it made her feel increasingly insecure and objectified, provided her with the financial independence to escapethe tyranny of the camera lens and pursue her own business objectives. She emphasised the key lesson which her mentors taught her: "learn to listen; listen to learn".

It was apparent that Elle's notion of corporate responsibility was not a limited and trivial one, but rather one that applied across the board. She mentioned how brand-based businesses flourished in the boom-time of the 1980s and 1990s, describing this as "a culture of debt-fuelled consicuous consumerism" which has since collapsed. It would be sad if our generation were to be defined by notions of consumer waste, at a time when issues such as durability, sustainability and carbon footprints have risen to the fore. If BP could shift their brand ethos from "British Petroleum" to "Beyond Petroleum", this was proof that the face of a brand could be redefined in response to public concerns and consumer demand.

Elle also spoke powerfully about the communication of a brand's ethos. Gone were the days when communication was one-way, from brand owner to consumer. The internet has now redefined channels of communication, both interactively between brand-owner and consumer and between consumers themselves. Citing the recent climb-down by Marks & Spencer over its two-tier pricing policy for brassieres, she added: "Global society has become hardened to brand insincerity", this being one of the objectives which her own brand sought to avoid.

After explaining the 'lyrical poem' of her brand's key values -- faith, intimacy (which is not synonymous with sex), spontaneity, evolution, rebel, tribal, true -- she closed with a chilling reminder that consumerism and consumption are not the same thing: "for some the choice is not between brands of shoes but between shoes and food".
INTA report: day one, Sunday 17 May INTA report: day one, Sunday 17 May Reviewed by Jeremy on Monday, May 18, 2009 Rating: 5


  1. Actually Jeremy the old-style Madrid Agreement was quite popular over on the continent. The Germans were massive users of the system as it allowed a very cheap and reliable extension of trademark registrations. And since the French, Benelux, Italians and Swiss did not have any form of opposition or examination procedure most registrations went through on the nod. It was only the pesky Spanish who seemed to object to everything, sometimes on the most spurious grounds.

    The big break-through came of course with the realisation that French was no longer the language of the international trademark world and that English should probably be acceptable. This then lead to the recognition of the Madrid system throughout the English speaking world.

  2. Poor Jeremy. It's a rough job consorting with IP experts such as Elle, but somebody's gotta do it. If Merpel and Tufty are there, they could maybe divide up and cover more traditionally academic ground. And maybe even get a photo op with la belle Elle at an A-list reception.

    So - who will be the keynote speaker next year? Maybe Carla Bruni? Angelina Jolie? Beyoncé Knowles? Probably not Naiomi Campbell or Britney Spears. Madonna could speak to issues such as the need for revision and the niceties of renewal.

  3. Next year speaker? Maybe someone experienced in issues of collective trade marks? Brangelina?

  4. I thought she said choosing between "shoes and food," which I thought would be a very though choice indeed. But, maybe my ears were making Freudian slips.

  5. Jeremy:

    Why not provide a link to Elle Macpherson Intimates (tm}? After all, we must see her erudition in context. All in a day's work.

    Here is is:

  6. Goldenrail (and others) - you're right: Elle did say "food", not "clothes". It was a classic late-night mistranscription! I've corrected the post.

  7. Surely Cat Deeley would be a suitable option for next year? Or Cat Stevens (hasn't he reverted to that name again?) to discuss re-branding?


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