Supporting innovation and growth for the global trademark community
The past year was characterised by continued global economic and political turmoil. Representing the interests of brand owners and consumers around the world, the International Trademark Association (INTA) has responded by expanding its geographical and substantive scope, including increased engagement with all stakeholders in intellectual property, new educational programmes, new legal resources and the establishment of additional representative offices. In addition, INTA has sent delegations to meet with governments and members worldwide.
In 2017, INTA remains focused on several key issues – chief among them anti-counterfeiting, internet governance, plain and highly standardised packaging restrictions and working to build and maintain strong and harmonised IP laws and regulations on a global scale. Today our association represents more than 7,000 member organisations in 190 countries and its ability to play a positive role in the global economy, support trademarks and protect consumers has never been greater. We are pleased to share a brief overview of some of our achievements over the past year, as well as our plans for the future.
Global anti-counterfeiting advocacy
Global counterfeiting and IP enforcement remain a top priority for INTA. This illicit industry is growing: in 2007 worldwide counterfeiting was valued at an estimated $250 billion and accounted for 1.8% of trade; a 2016 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report estimates that by 2013, these numbers had risen to $461 billion and 2.5%, respectively. INTA is working collaboratively with governments and members in multiple jurisdictions, seeking stronger anti-counterfeiting laws and enforcement.
In terms of counterfeits and the Internet, INTA has held policy dialogues with key stakeholders, including governments, intermediaries and brand owners worldwide. Recent dialogues have taken place in China, India, Singapore and Russia. This year INTA also partnered with Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) on an anti-counterfeiting workshop series. Titled “Intermediaries and Rights Holders – Working Together to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy”, the programme provided the two organisations with a platform to amplify and project the views of the private sector to governments, the public and the media, and raise awareness and understanding of counterfeiting activities on a local, regional and international level. Workshops took place in Beijing, Brussels, Cape Town and Singapore. In addition, INTA hosted a similar workshop in Buenos Aires with the kind support of the Inter-American Association of Intellectual Property (ASIPI) and BASCAP.
Another area on which INTA focused in 2016 is counterfeit goods in transit. INTA has been advocating that EU customs officials have the ability to stop counterfeit goods in transit at the EU borders (as part of the trademark reform package). It has also made a recommendation to the Canadian government to grant the Canadian Border Service Agency the power to stop counterfeit goods in transit. And it is advocating goods-in-transit provisions in other jurisdictions, starting with India.
INTA is also asking governments to establish central coordination units to tackle counterfeiting, piracy and other IP crimes at the national level, similar to those already operating in China, Europe, Mexico, the Philippines and the United States. In this effort, INTA is focused on Asia and Latin America. Most recently, however, it submitted comments proposing a new federal IP rights coordination body to the Canadian Federal Consultation on Security and Prosperity in the Digital Age.
This year, INTA launched a full day of anti-counterfeiting programming at its Annual Meeting to facilitate the exchange of best practices and provide registrants with an opportunity to engage in dialogue with government officials. The programme will be expanded in 2017. INTA has also developed several online resources for members, including a brand owner’s guide focused on working in China and a US state anti-counterfeiting tool. Another online tool that was launched this year – the Customs Connection webcast series – provides customs officers around the world with product identification training directly from brand holders. These webinars are available in English, Mandarin and Spanish.
Further, INTA focused on education and outreach to global consumers about the dangers posed by counterfeiting. A key example is INTA’s Unreal Campaign. The campaign now has a dedicated committee with active members around the world. As a result, this year INTA was able to engage directly with students in 11 additional countries across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. The campaign will continue its international expansion in 2017.
Internet governance, oversight transition and next steps for ICANN
In 1999 there were approximately 248 million internet users worldwide. Today, there are nearly 3 billion (or 40.7% of the global population). By 2020 there will be 6.1 billion smartphone users globally and about 70% of the world’s population will be online. At the same time, global business-to-consumer e-commerce has been growing at an incredible rate – from €56.4 billion in 2000 to an estimated €1.4 trillion in 2014. Given the Internet’s crucial role in consumers’ lives and its impact on brand owners, INTA continues to devote considerable resources to engagement with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the policies that govern the domain name system.
After discussions and proposals from the multi-stakeholder community, the oversight of names, numbers and protocols for internet operations transitioned from the US government to ICANN, effective as of October 1 2016. INTA supported the transition and stressed the need for the right mechanisms and monitoring from the community. In 2017 INTA will continue its work as part of the multi-stakeholder community to ensure a stable, secure and affordable domain name system.
INTA also continues to review the rights protection mechanisms and ongoing allocation of new domain extensions, including ‘.brands’. In addition, INTA continues to engage in the review of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy to ensure that ongoing innovation is balanced with addressing trademark infringement in the online environment. Further, INTA will actively monitor the post-transition processes and reviews, including all new accountability measures and governance reforms, which are now scheduled for implementation in a process referred to as ‘Work Stream 2’. Finally, INTA and its members remain active participants at all ICANN meetings and key internet policy events, including engagement with key groups in the multi-stakeholder community, to ensure that brand owners’ rights are represented as the Internet continues to evolve.
During the course of the year and in accordance with a board resolution passed in May 2015, INTA has been actively monitoring governments’ decisions on plain and highly standardised packaging restrictions. INTA is calling for such restrictions to be rejected or repealed; to date, it has submitted comments to that effect in 13 jurisdictions. INTA is particularly concerned that plain packaging legislation affecting the tobacco industry could trigger regulations across other sectors of consumer goods.
INTA also submitted an amicus brief in a case before the World Trade Organisation Dispute Settlement Panel regarding Australia’s Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011. A decision in this case is expected in early 2017.
Collaborating with governments
In accordance with its 2014-2017 Strategic Plan, in 2016 INTA worked to develop, harmonise and implement trademark practices and procedures and to advocate for the vigorous enforcement of strong laws that provide protection for trademarks and related intellectual property. This year, INTA sent high-level delegations to meet with governments and members worldwide and filed testimony, amicus briefs and formal submissions with governments and non-governmental organisations around the world.
INTA is also encouraging collaboration among IP offices. In April 2016 it sponsored and facilitated the first-ever IP office enforcement seminar in Latin America. This seminar was co-hosted by the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property and the White House Office of the US IP Enforcement Coordinator; 12 regional IP offices participated. They have agreed to meet on a yearly basis and will join ASIPI, BASCAP and INTA to create an information repository.
With more than 10,000 registrants, the 2016 Annual Meeting in May was the largest ever in INTA’s history. The meeting included new events aimed at facilitating dialogue between members and government officials, as well as closed-door events for government registrants. INTA also hosted an IP office workshop titled “Working Towards the 21st Century IP Office”, which was coordinated by the UK IP Office (UKIPO), the IP Office of Singapore and the Chilean National Institute of Intellectual Property. In addition, INTA hosted an IP office and attaché open house that drew 500 registrants, who enjoyed a two-hour opportunity to meet with representatives from 21 different IP offices.
Following the United Kingdom’s June 2016 referendum to leave the European Union, INTA created a rapid response group to advise INTA members on Brexit and its implications for brand owners. INTA hosted a wecast on this issue and published guidance for members in the INTA Bulletin. Local members represented INTA at UKIPO Brexit discussions in October. INTA will continue to engage in a dialogue with the UK government and the UKIPO, and to monitor developments and update its members so that they can anticipate upcoming changes.
In July INTA applauded the US Senate’s passage of a resolution designating that month as National Anti-counterfeiting Consumer Education and Awareness Month. The resolution was an outcome of an April 2016 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which representatives from INTA and the Global Intellectual Property Centre testified on the impact of counterfeit goods on consumer health and safety and provided recommendations on how Congress can help to educate the public. INTA assisted in the drafting of the resolution, which recognises the 70th anniversary of the Lanham Act (the US federal trademark statute) and increases INTA’s ability to provide trademark education and outreach to all members of the Senate. Throughout 2016, INTA has provided strong support for the US Congressional Trademark Caucus (CTC), which during the course of the year grew from four members to 22. The CTC has been actively engaged with stakeholders and consumers in Washington DC, including hosting several congressional briefings and educational events.
Engaging with the global IP community
In September INTA hosted its first-ever conference in Africa. Titled “Building Africa with Brands”, the educational programme was designed to provide participants with guidance on how brands can help to promote economic growth in Africa, as well as to stress the need for strong IP enforcement and education on the continent. The event attracted close to 200 registrants from 36 countries, including legal, business and marketing experts, government officials, academics and entrepreneurs.
Later that month, the board of directors convened in Beijing for INTA’s first-ever board meeting in mainland China. The meeting was followed by a government relations programme that included meetings with the Trademark Office of the State Administration of Industry and Commerce, the China Trademark Office, the Supreme People’s Court (SPC), the Trademark Review and Adjudication Board and the SPC’s IP Tribunal (China’s highest IP court). While its leadership was in China, INTA signed a cooperative agreement with the Beijing IP Protection Association and the Zhogguancun Federation of Social Organisations. Through this agreement, INTA aims to increase cooperation with technology firms operating in the Zhongguancun area (the Silicon Valley of China) around brands and brand building.
While in Beijing, the board of directors also approved the establishment of a Latin America representative office in Santiago, Chile, which will open in early 2017. The new office will support INTA members across Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as those members abroad who have business interests in the region. This follows the opening of an Asia-Pacific representative office in Singapore in March 2016. As with INTA’s other representative offices, this office is helping to further its goals in the region by supporting local members and working with partners in government and industry to promote trademarks and protect consumers.
Finally, INTA began 2016 with an expanded committee structure. Many of the new committees are providing more members with new and innovative ways to support INTA’s strategic plan and engage with stakeholders outside the IP community. The Impact Studies Committee, for example, is commissioning research projects and studies that support and enhance INTA’s policy, resources and communications activities. The first study, which was published in December 2016, examines the impact of trademark-intensive industries on the economies of Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Peru. The study is intended to be used as a basis for raising awareness of trademarks and their value to a country’s economy and to support policymakers in developing related legislation. A second study, scheduled for publication in early 2017, looks at the economic and social impact of counterfeiting and piracy. In the pipeline are studies on the economic impact of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the cost to brand owners of the new generic top-level domains.
Planning for the future
For INTA and the global trademark community, 2017 will be another busy year, with a strong focus on supporting innovation and global economic growth. An excellent education programme includes events in Berlin, Cartagena, Dubai, Hong Kong, Mumbai, New Orleans, New York and Washington DC. And, of course, we will all be gathering in Barcelona in May for INTA’s 139th Annual Meeting.
INTA is actively planning for the future. In March the board of directors will review a final draft of the 2018-2021 Strategic Plan. As part of the process of developing this plan, we have taken into account the major global issues affecting businesses everywhere. To do so, we have taken a holistic approach, seeking input from all stakeholders in intellectual property, both within and outside the IP community – including academics, business leaders, legislators, marketers and consumers. This has helped us to develop an inclusive, forward-thinking strategic plan that offers a clear framework to guide our activities over the next four years.
The association will continue to reach outside our community, connect with new audiences and foster relationships with all stakeholders in intellectual property. This is reflected in the new committee structure, which includes a number of new committees – such as the Building Bridges and Public and Media Relations Committees – that are focused on engagement beyond our traditional audiences. INTA has also elected three ‘non-IP’ advisory board members to provide an outside perspective. This initiative to broaden INTA’s audience will also be reflected in the new strategic plan.
INTA is working in new and exciting ways with governments, associations and consumers around the world. We always welcome the opportunity to meet with and learn from officials at national IP offices, customs authorities, courts and other institutions to further our shared goals. I invite you to join us in advancing INTA’s mission: to support trademarks and related intellectual property in order to protect consumers and promote fair and effective commerce around the world. See you in Barcelona!
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