Spreading the Ukraine message; green freebies; badge pick-up success – INTA 2022 day one report

The great and the good of the trademark industry have descended on Washington DC for INTA’s 2022 Annual Meeting Live+. Over 6,700 IP professionals are in town for this year’s event, not to mention all of the unregistered attendees holed up in hotels and meeting rooms, and there is a full programme of sessions, table topics and, to cap off each day, receptions for attendees to enjoy. The WTR team is on the ground, and you can meet many of them at stand 206 in the exhibition hall. Meanwhile, our roving reporters – Trevor Little (TL), Tim Lince (TJL), Victoria Arnold-Rees (VAR) and William New (WN) – will present a daily round-up of event highlights and observations. Here’s what caught our attention yesterday and on today’s first full day of proceedings…

And we’re back – A lot has happened since the last full-scale, in-person INTA Annual Meeting. Yet, in some ways, it feels like no time at all. Whether heading to the convention centre to attend the early sessions, preparing stands in the exhibition hall (or ‘Brand Marketplace’ as it has been renamed this year), bumping into old friends or hitting the first receptions, there was a palpable sense of excitement in DC on Saturday. So much so that delegates on that flight from London (what does a six-hour delay matter when we’ve waited so long to be back boarding planes to INTA?) – or inching forward in perhaps the slowest moving customs clearance line since, well, Dallas in 2013 – barely felt they had cause to grumble. It is good to be back. (TL)

A different, greener kind of check-in – One place where this author experienced no delays was at the convention centre for registration. At past INTAs, Saturday morning meant joining a long and snaking queue to pick up your badge and get set for the days ahead. Yesterday I entered the venue and, five minutes later, had my badge in hand – despite this year’s additional covid-related checks and protocols. Perhaps it was because this is, inevitably, a smaller Annual Meeting than previous years. Perhaps it was thanks to the 1,100 people who, we were told, picked up their badges on Friday. It was likely a combination of factors but a major one was undoubtedly the automated badge pick-up system. It worked and it worked well. Attendees will also notice the lack of a plastic cover on their badge, and no free backpack filled with promotional materials. It’s “a new green era” at the INTA Annual Meeting, one organisation representative told WTR. And with the speedier, queue-free experience of badge pick up this year, it’s a more efficient era as well. (TL)

Who has the best green swag? Attendees cast their votes – There may not be a promotional goody bag on offer at badge pick-up, but attendees will not be leaving INTA 2022 empty handed. Furthering the sustainability message this year, a number of exhibitors in the Brand Marketplace are battling it out for the ultimate glory of having their goods crowned best Green Swag. Visitors to the Brand Marketplace are encouraged to swing by any of the nine booths participating in the contest (highlighted in green on this list), pick up their sustainable freebies and vote for their favourite online. Items range from pine trees in biodegradable planters to bags made from recycled counterfeit products. Voting closes at 16:00 on Tuesday and the winner will be announced that afternoon. Who can resist a little healthy competition to promote an important message? May the best swag win! (VAR)

The IP-dominated life of fictional soccer star Tanya George – On Sunday morning, registrants enjoyed a lively session entitled ‘The Life and Times of a Professional Football (Soccer) Player’, which delved into the laws around rights of publicity. Introducing the session, moderator Chris Chaudoir, senior counsel at Chevron Corporation, reflected on the return of delegates in person: “It’s really nice to see you not in front of an LCD screen.” The session primarily focused on the life of a fictional female soccer player called Tanya ‘Blaze’ George, starting from high school through college, eventually ending up at Spanish club Athletico Madrid and scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final, finishing with her post-career life and then her death. As well as the fictional player, the session featured made-up companies such as ‘Draft Queens’, ‘We Infringe Cellular', ‘Allen Motorcycles’ and even George’s own company, ‘Blaze Spirits & Whiskey’. We can imagine the preparation for the session was a fun process, with the panellists creating an entire life of an athlete – dominated, naturally, by various IP issues. The trendy topic of NFTs also made an appearance, with a fictional photographer minting an iconic photo of George as an NFT and the various legal and ethical considerations around that. “To my mind, are NFTs displays of copyrighted work or merchandise? In terms of the right of publicity, the answer to that question will be key.” The session ended on a sad note – Chaudoir informed attendees that George unfortunately “died of a heart attack while sipping on some fine bourbon on her porch”. The silver lining of her fictional death was that it spurred a discussion into post-mortem rights of publicity across the United States, revealing the states that have statutory protection of rights of publicity after a person dies, those that rely on common law protection and those that have no protection. “The general rule is that for post mortem rights, look to the state that the deceased person was resident at the point of their death,” said speaker Howard Shire, partner at Troutman Pepper, who has raised previous lawsuits involving disputes over residency, including cases involving Marilyn Monroe and Jimi Hendrix. “It would be nice if Congress would enact a federal right of publicity, but with all the other issues they are grappling with, I don’t see that happening any time soon.” Finally, attendees were told to tune into the ongoing Johnny Depp/Amber Heard lawsuit tomorrow, which will feature an appearance from session speaker Doug Bania, founding principal at Nevium Intellectual Property Consultants. (TJL)

Tickets still available for Ukraine fundraiser – Tuesday night’s Brand Action for Ukraine fundraiser is creeping up to full capacity, but there is still time for those in DC this week to purchase tickets and show their support. The event aims to raise money to help provide meaningful on-the-ground help to the people of Ukraine. Taking place at Baby Wale next to the convention centre, the cocktail reception will benefit charities World Central Kitchen and Support Hospitals in Ukraine to help get vital nutrition and medical support to those in need. Around 240 people had registered for the event by Sunday morning, and the evening is on track to reach full capacity, JMS Legal’s Jackie Stelling tells WTR. There is still time to get involved, though. Anyone with Tuesday night dinner plans is encouraged to sign up and come along for a drink afterwards. Those who have already registered can pick up their Brand Action lanyard at the Alt Legal booth (number 322) in the exhibition hall. Each attendee will receive a free drink ticket, with snacks and entertainment provided on the night. Those looking to show their support can register here. (VAR)

‘.sucks’ returns with gifts for Ukrainian exhibitors – One consistent exhibitor at the INTA Annual Meeting in recent years has been Vox Populi, the operator of the ‘.sucks’ new gTLD. At first, the company sought to stoke controversy in an effort to create buzz around the launch of its domain extension. When it first came to the event at the 2015 meeting in San Diego, the company brought ‘.sucks’-branded condoms and a sign was transported around the city declaring ‘INTA.sucks’. A year later, in Orlando, the company offered ‘.sucks’-branded candy, this time targeting law firms including Bird & Bird, DLA Piper and Finnegan. In more recent years, the company has brought a T-shirt printing machine that allowed attendees to create a custom ‘.sucks’. This year, however, there is no customisation available – like many attendees and exhibitors, there was a certain element of hesitancy that a covid-19 spike could impact the event, so Vox Populi decided against organising the machine to be delivered. Nonetheless, ‘.sucks’ T-shirts make a return, with around 15 choices available for attendees (including XX). One of those is a ‘putin.sucks’ T-shirt, with Vox Populi CEO John Berard telling WTR that he delivered two shirts to the exhibition booth of the National Association of Patent Attorneys of Ukraine. (TJL)

NAPA raising the Ukraine message in Brand Marketplace – On the outer edge of this year’s exhibition hall, the National Association of Patent Attorneys of Ukraine (NAPA) is seeking to spread the message that Ukraine is in “full operation”. Talking to WTR today, two NAPA representatives spoke about the special programme that the organisation has launched in an effort to support its community of Ukrainian IP professionals. One element of the programme is urging all of its members not to postpone or slow down their legal activities, if they can. “It is important that we all help play a part – by continuing to file marks and paying trademark fees to help the government, to continue paying salaries to our employees to help support them, and to help brands show support for Ukraine by obtaining and maintaining brand protection in our country,” explained Michael Doubinsky, managing partner at Doubinsky & Osharova Patent and Law Agency, who revealed that his firm has had an unprecedented number of foreign companies seeking trademark protection in Ukraine. Furthermore, NAPA has set up a special charity fund (separate to Brand Action For Ukraine) to help support colleagues who cannot work right now due to Russia’s ongoing military action and members who are on the frontline as part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Money is often raised via calls for action on NAPA’s Facebook page. On the stand, NAPA is represented by around 10 IP professionals from Ukraine. Most of those are women, explained Natalia Kirichenko from Kinstellar Ukraine LLC; 28 practitioners from Ukraine are registered as attending this year’s Annual Meeting in-person, 20 of which are women. “Many of the males cannot leave the country right now due to the ongoing mobilization,” Kirichenko noted. In the first few hours since the exhibition hall opened, “surprise” was the main reaction from delegates, Kirichenko said – specifically that IP activities are continuing at the Ukrainian IP Office (Ukrpatent). Indeed, that is the message that Kirichenko and her colleagues are hoping to spread: continuation. “We want everyone to know that Ukraine is fully operational, and that we are all doing our best for business continuity,” she concluded. “We stand as one to make the world go round in Ukraine.” (TJL)

Com Laude offers VR ‘red pill’ experience – It was only a matter of time before virtual reality (VR) came to the INTA Annual Meeting, and Com Laude – self-described as ‘purveyors of the red pill’ – pledged “to give a few ideas on what brands could look like in the VR space”, says the company’s DotBrand services director, Martin Sutton. The term ‘red pill’ originated from the movie The Matrix, in which protagonist Neo was given the choice between red and blue pills – with the former leading to the discovery of a ‘potentially unsettling or life-changing truth’ and the latter ‘remaining in contented ignorance’. In the past few years, this metaphor has been co-opted by the men's rights movement and, more recently, by the alt-right. For Sutton, the choice of using the ‘red pill’ is rooted in brand protection professionals needing to “do something different”. He adds: “Certainly within the rise of the multiverse, significant new challenges and we believe DotBrands will play a more important role going forward. They can give brands a more trusted digital space at a time when things are going to become more complicated and complex going forward. For example, with a DotBrand, phishing scams won't happen – and who knows what new scams will emerge in the future, but we are sure that a DotBrand will be a protection against future threats too.” For delegates curious about the VR experience, the Com Laude stand is worth a visit. Alternatively, attendees can pick up free Jelly Belly ‘pill’ sweets (red and blue coloured, of course). (TJL)

Newbie Huski.ai welcomes ‘warm reception’ of INTA delegates – The youngest company in this year’s exhibition hall must be Huski.ai, an organisation that has been developing its AI technology since 2020 but launched as a company earlier this year. It offers a unique take on text and image infringement detection, with one of the developers, Henry Du, moving from developing AI in self-driving cars. “In that job, the AI was only looking at the road – things like identifying people, cars, traffic and road signs. With trademarks, there are millions of variables, and it is often very difficult to tell them apart. How do we solve that problem?” That question was enough to tempt Du over to the trademark side, and he spent a year-and-a-half trying to “conquer the problem”. The company arrives at the INTA Annual Meeting with bold ambitions, including a mission “to build the industry’s first and the best brand and insight search engine” – even comparing itself to Google for “the world’s branding information”. As relative ‘newbies’ in the exhibition hall, a representative tells us that the feedback has so far been positive. “I've been so shocked by the warm reception, with many counsel telling us there's a huge need for technology like this.” (TJL)

Corsearch then and now When exhibiting at the 2019 INTA Annual Meeting, Corsearch had recently acquired Yellow Brand Protection, indicating an expansion into brand protection alongside its traditional trademark clearance services. In the years since, the company has continued its acquisitions, with the likes of Incopro, Marketly, Trademark Now and Pointer Brand Protection coming under its umbrella. Speaking to WTR, Stephen Stolfi, president of trademark solutions at the company, reflects: “For Corsearch, the pandemic period was a transformative time for business. We acquired a number of companies, while adjusting to the pandemic and remote working. We had to support our employees and customers, and also learn about the businesses we are looking to acquire.” Researching, acquiring and integrating businesses, while not able to actually meet new colleagues in person, is no easy task. Positively, he reflects: “It has worked out wonderfully – we are all culturally aligned and there has been a strong sense of collaboration. We are passionate about the business and the space and are 100% customer-centric.” INTA therefore offers an opportunity to meet not only clients, but also colleagues for the first time. “We have close to 70 people registered. We decided to invest in the Annual Meeting and brought people from 15 countries to represent Corsearch. We haven’t been in person for three years so we wanted a strong presence and we wanted to connect with as many people in the market as possible. And meet our colleagues,” Stolfi says. “Many of us met for the first time yesterday, even though we have been working together for two or more years. So when we met for the first time yesterday, it was like a reunion.” Stolfi has been with Corsearch for over 20 years. At his first INTA – in Denver – the company had five representatives on the ground. Now it has almost 70, representing its trademark solutions (which Stolfi heads up) and brand and content businesses. (TL)

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