By Joff Wild
May 08 2012
The INTA has found its mojo once again. After what have seemed like several flat annual meetings in a row, the buzz around the convention centre in Washington DC, where this year’s event is taking place, has been palpable. The conversations are more animated, the exhibition hall is busier, the sessions are more incisive; and as for the evening receptions, well let’s just say that they have been lively and leave it at that! All in all it’s just like it used to be; except that there are many more people in attendance – a record number, in fact, with some even saying the total could be pushing 10,000.
Quite why the 134th annual meeting should be the success it undoubtedly is is not entirely clear, but to this observer there are several possible reasons. First of all there is the location: Washington DC is one of the world’s great IP capitals. It is home to many federal and international organisations; it has the USPTO on its doorstep; and the offices of more law firms per square foot than almost anywhere else on earth. In short, there is always a good reason to come here. Throw in the fact that it is a relatively compact city and you already have the foundations upon which a successful conference can be built.
But you need more than that to turn potential into reality. Absolutely essential to the mix is a delegate-base determined to make the most of the opportunities on offer. And this year, it is. Nowhere else apart from the annual INTA shindig do you get the chance to meet, exchange views with and size up so many IP specialists from so many countries. As trademark filings begin to rise across the globe, so the need to develop international contacts has become a pressing priority once again. But, interestingly, it is not just trademarks that are being discussed. I have seen a number of leading patent practitioners in attendance too. Clearly they feel there are opportunities to harvest at a time when the reach of patents has never been greater.
Just as filings are on the rise, so there are also a number of major issues to discuss. The expansion of the gTLD space is happening right now and will have a significant impact on trademark owners and their advisers for years to come. At the same time, enforcement issues generally are more pressing in more jurisdictions; and, of course, trademarks are not immune from the growing political scrutiny of IP, as seen by the rough ride that the likes of ACTA, SOPA and PIPA have received recently. All in all, the environment within which trademark specialists are operating is more dynamic than it has been for a long time. The INTA meeting is a reflection of that.
Some things never change, though. Notably, the mix of the event is continuing to tilt heavily towards private practice. The in-house folk are in Washington DC alright, but they are heavily outnumbered. You rarely see them at the education sessions or in the main meeting areas – instead, they prefer one-on-ones in quiet corners with their advisers, before heading off to select receptions in the evening. But given that a lot of trademark work these days is firm to firm, perhaps their general absence is not as significant as it might be.
Next year, INTA 135 will be held in Dallas. That is not a city with deep IP roots and will also be harder to get to for many of the international delegates. Then in 2014 the event moves out of North America and, for the first time, will be held in Asia when Hong Kong is the venue. How many of those here will make that trip? What is certain, though, is that Washington DC has thrown down the gauntlet to both cities. They will do well to match the challenge the US capital has set.
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