I have just returned from the annual meeting of the International Trademark Association (INTA), in Seattle. The best part of INTA is simply being surrounded by a socializing with peers and colleagues (and yes, even adversaries and competitors) from around the US and the world (and from just down the street – several other attendees live within a mile of me!).

As a professional, I believe it is important to contribute to this community and to learn from it. (When hiring counsel, I suggest businesses inquiry how involved potential counsel is industry organizations – it is quite hard to become an expert in a silo, without both absorbing and sharing information with other experts).

Some brief observations:

  • INTA is clearly moving toward a wider focus on branding as a whole – all aspects of brands from designs to consumer interactions with brands, and more. Trademark protection, registration, and enforcement is but one (very large) element of this broader picture.
  • Good speakers increase the odds of great sessions to learn from. Not all speakers are good, but many are and the vetting of them has improved considerably.
  • Comfortable shoes are the most important thing to pack.
  • The behavior of a small but not insignificant number of men is abhorrent and inappropriate for any setting, much less a conference of professionals. It is shocking that in 2018, women (primarily) are subject to questions/conversations about attire, dating, childbirth, and more that are wholly inappropriate with someone you just met, or someone with whom your law firm or employer conducts business. The amount of alcohol dispensed and consumed clearly has something to do with this. (Of course, the great majority can enjoy responsibly.) At the grand finale it was not easy to find a beverage that was non-alcoholic, even water. I hope that INTA will be more proactive in the future in recognizing that there has been a culture among lawyers and law firms for decades that still has much room to improve and that we as a profession ought to be vocal and provide more leadership in bringing about such improvements.
  • The growing academic participation in conferences is great for all involved.
  • Meet the Bloggers event is so much fun to host! See pictures below.
  • More sessions featuring debates, audience participation, and interactive exercises should be encouraged.
  • The discussions and sessions could focus more on practical decisions that brands must face everyday about choosing brands, registering and protecting them, and balancing benefits versus costs.
  • Computers and AI will be able to do a lot of work in the future, including a lot of work that attorney do. However, there is also a lot they won’t be able to do, making experience counsel even more valuable. (For example, devising a strategy to maximize approval odds when facing a potential conflict; knowing how to craft a description of goods that balances all the relevant factors such as breadth, scope, specifics, registration strategy; weighting which arguments will work best in a response to a substantive office action refusal; and much more).
  • Seattle is a beautiful backdrop and host, and it really does have great coffee, and lots of it.

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