Rob, what is the purpose of this conference? Who attends it?
The INTA Annual Meeting takes place with the aim of bringing together over 10,000 professionals from around the world with an interest in trade marks. Attendees include trade mark attorneys, lawyers, brand owners, academics and trade mark registry staff, who meet to discuss and learn about the latest trade mark developments and practices in their countries and in others.
The conference also affords the members of the committees and sub-committees to meet to discuss their particular interests. In this case, I was able to meet with my fellow parallel import committee members and hear from a representative from the Directorates-General for Trade concerning the difficulties in Bulgaria following a recent Court decision. The Bulgarian Courts have introduced a different approach to dealing with parallel imports, allowing imports from outside the European Economic Area to enter through Bulgaria without breaching trade mark law.
What knowledge did you gain at this conference?
The conference has a heavy approach to learning and includes courses on a wide range of trade mark topics. This year’s conference included seminars and round table discussions on the value of cultural intelligence when considering trade marks overseas, updates on the European Union Trade Mark, the changes to the Madrid trade mark system, digital enforcement of trade marks, trade mark mediation, trade marks in the ASEAN countries, and protecting culturally-sensitive trade marks.
There are courses available on applying for trade marks, exploiting them and enforcing them if they are infringed, as well as training available on meditation and negotiation skills.
I had the opportunity to hear from high-profile speakers, including the President of DC Entertainment and officers from the World Intellectual Property Organisation, the European Union Trade Mark Registry and the Chinese Trade Mark Registry.
The knowledge gained covered approaches used by fellow lawyers around the world and the best practices applied in different countries. I was pleased to learn that the practices being promoted as the best are adopted and applied by the Shulmans IP Team, but it is always good to make sure we are at the forefront of best practice.
Were there many networking opportunities?
Absolutely. Against the backdrop of the structured seminars and discussions, the conference provides a huge opportunity for networking.
Before attending the conference, I had arranged to meet a number of the associates I work with overseas, including our Interlegal colleagues from Germany and experts from the USA and Australia.
Whilst at the conference you have the opportunity to meet people in the hotel and on the shuttle bus, and that is just before breakfast. The networking goes on until late in the evening, and I was delighted to make new contacts and friends from around the world including in Argentina, Mexico, USA, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Hungary, Turkey, India, Nigeria, Cyprus, China, Australia, New Zealand and St Lucia. Due to the conference being based in the USA, nearly half the attendees came from there, but there were delegates from all over the world.
Whilst you get to meet many new people, there is also plenty of opportunity to meet with existing contacts and friends to maintain those relationships.
Were there any particular highlights?
The welcome reception with the President of DC Entertainment provided a typically American show, and there was the opportunity to visit Orlando Studios. We also had the chance to spend a few hours, at the end of the conference, at Harry Potter World. This was held after the park had emptied of the day’s guests, so INTA attendees had the park to themselves. These events provided great opportunities for further networking and also for meeting new people and people I had already met in a slightly less formal setting.
Whilst those events were on a large scale, I also enjoyed smaller events, such as the exclusive arrival dinner organised by a Canadian lawyer, which was attended by others from the US, Canada, Mexico and India.
Finally, I should also mention the INTA run, which featured almost 60 runners braving the Orlando heat and humidity around an eleven-kilometre course. It was certainly an experience to watch them running in what felt like a steam room!
So overall, was it worth attending?
Yes it was.
There was value in the learning opportunities, and in the chance to meet associates we’ve worked with before and to make new contacts and friends around the world.
The conference is relatively inexpensive, but represents a significant investment in time. The fact that 10,000 professionals are willing to do this and that some delegates have attended the conference more than 10 times demonstrates the value they perceive in the conference.