INTA Annual Meeting goes virtual as concerns over delegate safety and company travel restrictions continue

  •  INTA switches 2021 Annual Meeting from a physical event to a ‘virtual+’ format
  •  Reveals intention to host smaller local events, where possible, at same time
  •  CEO says plan brings community together in “safest, most sensitive and most prudent way”

INTA has announced that it will be holding its 2021 Annual Meeting as a ‘virtual+’ event on 15-19 November, rather than in person in Houston, stating that there are too many unknowns to plan a large-scale, in-person event for November.

At the outset of the pandemic, the INTA Annual Meeting became the first high-profile international trademark event to fall victim to the pandemic – its planned industry gathering in Singapore pushed from April 2020 to 2022, and a US-based Annual Meeting scheduled to take place in Houston in May 2020. The latter was then pushed to November and became virtual, with the association reworking its 2021 plan to time the Annual Meeting later this year in a bid to maximise the likelihood that a physical event would be possible. However, this week INTA officers, along with the board of directors, decided that the meeting would switch to a ‘virtual+' event on the same dates that the in-person meeting had been planned for.

In a statement issued late yesterday, CEO Etienne Sanz de Acedo explains: “In making this change, we, as always, have considered as the highest priority the health and safety of our registrants, sponsors, staff, and others. We assessed the current situation around the world. While some countries fortunately are emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, others unfortunately are in a mounting crisis. The status of the pandemic, vaccine administration, quarantine requirements, government and company travel restrictions, etc., are continually shifting, creating too many unknowns to plan a large-scale, in-person event for November.”

So what is ‘virtual+’? For last year's combined annual and leadership event, the association invested in an online platform that facilitated group sessions, networking events and an exhibition space. That investment continues to pay off. The organisation states that all the Annual Meeting’s education sessions, business development opportunities and committee meetings will take place on the virtual platform. In that regard, the association can build on previous experiences, rather than having to reinvent the wheel.

As for the ‘+’ element, alongside the virtual event offerings, in-person one-day events will be hosted in selected cities. Sanz de Acedo expands: “With the ‘Virtual +’ format, we will be providing high-quality educational content, dynamic business development sessions, and social activities on a virtual platform which, as proven by our past events, are very conducive to gathering for learning and networking. And, with the plus element, we have the flexibility to add smaller in-person events (eg, discussion forums, receptions) where appropriate from safety and logistical standpoints. More details will be forthcoming as we continue to monitor conditions around the world.”

As the largest international event in the trademark calendar, the INTA Annual Meeting is at a disadvantage when it comes to making plans during a pandemic. While the covid-19 situation is improving in some countries, in others it is worsening and throwing up heart-breaking scenes on a daily basis. Given both the international nature of the delegate base and the heavy financial investment required to secure a big enough venue (and effectively take over large swathes of a host city), making an early call on the event is a logical one – and one that few in the industry will disagree with.   

Sanz de Acedo concludes: “With this approach, we will achieve the desired objective - to still come together as a community, but in the safest, most sensitive, and most prudent way given the unsettling circumstances. As always, we hold in our thoughts all those affected by COVID-19, and we wish all of you good health.”

Get unlimited access to all WTR content