The International Trademark Association (INTA) 137th Annual Meeting, held at the beautiful coastal city of San Diego, successfully concluded on May 6. During the week-long meeting, almost 300 customized educational sessions and over 30 official networking events were carried out. It had attracted over 9,915 trademark practitioners worldwide. The attendance set a new record for the Annual Meeting in the past 137 years.
China IP journalist got a chance to interview J. Scott Evans, President of INTA for 2015. Handsome, gentle and magnetic, Mr. Evans has a legendary story for his IP career. Let's see how he performs his show on the world trademark stage.
J. Scott Evans, President of INTA for 2015. Photo provided to China Daily.
The first step on IP
China IP: What was your first job and how did you get into the IP industry?
My first job as a professional once I graduated from school was an act or in a show. I played Rudolph, the headwaiter, in Hello Dolly. And then I got enrolled in a lawsuit over the show. My lawyer suggested me to go to a law school. So I did. My first job as a law practitioner was with Fruit of the Loom, a clothing company, and was responsible for managing the international intellectual property portfolios. Then I went into private practice for about 13 years. I was doing all of the ICANN work through INTA for free, then I gradually built up a reputation as an Internet expert. Yahoo! called me to deal with its Internet-related business.
Exposure in Asia
Last year's (The 2014) Annual Meeting was a great success. It attracted a lot of trademark practitioners from mainland China and near-by countries since it was held in Hong Kong. Many of them had experienced the great charm of INTA for the first time. Does INTA feel any changes on its business in China or Asia-Pacific?
Yes. The Hong Kong Annual Meeting gave us great exposure in Asia. We have record attendance from China and across the region, many of whom have joined us again this year in San Diego. We also hosted a great deal of high-level officials from China while we were in Hong Kong. We signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Hong Kong IP Department and a Cooperation Agreement with the Quality Brands Protection Committee (QBPC). In February we traveled to Japan for a well-attended INTA conference with high attendance from trademark practitioners across the ASEAN region. All of those I think are the direct result of raising our profile in Asia through the Hong Kong meeting.
INTA in China
INTA has over 6,600 member organizations from 190 countries, with 1,355 in the Asia Pacific region. How many members are based in China? And besides law firm members, are there any policy addresses to attract more Chinese company members?
There are 231 total member organizations.19 of those are corporate members. 172 are associate members. That translates into 1,497 individuals. One of the policies is offering seminars to show the benefit of the membership. We tried to populate that event with people from both large companies and SMEs. In January, I joined staff and members on a delegation tour to Beijing. The delegation met with high-level officials from the China Trademark Association (CTA), National Leading Group of the State Administration of Industry & Commerce of China (SAIC) and the Supreme People's Court of China (SPC). INTA also hosted two seminars for local members on online counterfeiting and brand-building for overseas markets. Both seminars were very well attended. Officials from NLGO, SAIC's Consumer Protection Bureau, the Ministry of Public Safety, the SPC, and the General Administration of Customs joined INTA members for a lively discussion on the issue of online counterfeiting.
And during the brand-building seminar, we were joined by association representatives from the BPC and the CTA, and experts from the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) who discussed international registration strategies and methods. We look forward to returning to China in October for a fall delegation visit.
Besides offering seminars, we invite non-members to events. We hosted a dinner for about 20 Chinese non-member enterprises to further explain the benefits of INTA. So we are trying to reach out. Recently we approved, as part of our fee restructure, the offer of a 90-day free membership for non-member or a member that has been inactive for more than five years. They can attend the conferences at a member price, and get all of electronic tools open to members. We would like people come, see and experience INTA. It is much better than a brochure.
Charm of INTA
The Annual Meeting is considered to be the largest and the most dynamic trademark event in the world, it is always on the top list of not-to-miss events for trademark practitioners. For years people keep their enthusiasm on the meeting and always give very positive comments. I was wondering how the INTA has made itself and its Annual Meeting so attractive.
Thank you for the kind compliment. Yes, INTA continues to grow year after year as does the Annual Meeting. This year we are hosting our largest meeting in 137 years! There are over 9,900 attendees at this year's meeting. We are happy to have 462 registrants from China. China is the third highest attending country, after United States and United Kingdom. So that shows that Chinese practitioners and companies are getting more involved in the INTA.
In the past few years we're beginning to understand the INTA's potential, both as a membership association and as a representative for the global trademark community.
The Association continues to grow into a more globally inclusive organization—Hong Kong is a fantastic example of this. At the same time, we're building bridges with high-level government officials and IP offices around the world.
In terms of the Annual Meeting and our other meetings and conferences, we listen to our members and do our best to provide them with what they want and what they need, in terms of networking and business opportunities and in terms of educational offerings.
And even at meetings this large, there remains a strong sense of community. I think that's quite unique to INTA.
Are there any special arrangements for this year's meeting? Are there any hot topics that INTA will pay special attention to at this Annual Meeting?
This year's educational program includes almost 300 customized educational offerings, including 33 general educational sessions, more than 250 table topics, users' group meeting with leaders from several national and regional trademark offices, and industry exchanges for in-house practitioners.
In terms of the hot topics, we have regional updates on China, Japan, and Korea, which provide an update on recent revisions to their respective Trademark Laws. This will be very useful to all attendees who conduct business in the Asia Pacific region.
There is also a session on the protection of well-known trademarks in China. China has legislative protection for "well - known trademarks" but many foreign brands that have a strong reputation in their home jurisdictions do not reach the high threshold of "well-known trademarks" in China. So again, this will be a hot topic for both local and international trademark owners and practitioners. And speaking on this panel is a Judge from the SPC IP Tribunal.
There are also more than 30 official networking events, including the INTA Gala, the Opening Ceremony and Welcome Reception and the Grand Finale. These events are great for networking and client referrals.
This year we also have a more innovative meeting space. There are four different types of meeting spaces within the convention center to accommodate one-on-one meetings, breakfast or luncheon sessions in private or semi-private areas, and for giving training sessions. These meeting spaces have proved to be very popular and no doubt we will look to improve this offering next year.
China IP: What is the key aim for your year in INTA?
As I said in my opening remarks, one of the key themes to the year is to get trademark owners to think of trademarks not just as legal rights but as a brand resources. In my opinion, brands are emotional things for consumers; they have brands they love and brand they hate. In our world today, consumers have a lot of power, because they talk to each other. For legal representatives of a company, I suggest they think from a brand perspective.
Another thing I've really concentrated on is leadership. INTA is getting bigger. The chief executive officer has set up a strategic plan that will take us to the next level.
We have to adjust how we do things as a volunteer organization. Many times, volunteers find themselves in leadership roles because they are good workers, but a good worker isn't always necessarily a good leader.
We need to teach people how to lead, how to run a meeting and set an agenda, the difference between having a telephone conference and having an in-person meeting, how to be respectful of other people's time.
Moreover, leaders should know how to motivate people and make them feel good about participating.
And lastly, I'm having our council look at the governance structure and bylaws, which hasn't been done for ten years. It's time for us to make adjustments. To change the bylaw, a member meeting with all 6,600 members is needed. So the bylaws need to be very light, and then a regulation manual or policy manual are needed. When the market changes we can mend the policy manual rather than the bylaws.
The fees to be a member are going to be changed in 2016. For many years, the Annual Meeting was the biggest revenue source for the organization, and it was out of balance. The budget would get hurt if something happened to the Annual Meeting. So we hope to change the revenue structure to make it more even.
Looking into the Future
The INTA 2014-2017 Strategic Plan was released last year, how is it going? What are the progress in your term?
With regards to the protection of trademarks, we've filed comments in China and in India, and helped to launch the first ever Congressional Trademark Caucus in the U.S. We also have worked very hard on the EU Trademark Reform on the new package, and we are very pleased that they've reduced the fees and improved the provisions with regards to goods and transit.
As for communications, we continue to publish the INTA China Bulletin and started doing quarterly global reports. Besides, we are really trying to strengthen our media outreach in China, our delegation met with China IP Magazine, China IP News, and etc. in January when we visited Beijing. We try to let them know the updates of the Association and make it transparent to the public.
With regards to international expansion, which is another one of our goals in the Strategic Plan, we've sent delegations to China in 2015.
We met with the CTA, SAIC, and SPC. We went to India and met with the IP office, customs, ministry of commerce and industry, courts and the IP policy think tank.
In Japan, we met with the IP office, customs and high court. In Europe, we worked very hard on trademark reform and media engagement on that issue. In Southeast Asia, we've been working hard in Asian Region, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Vietnam Ministry of Science and Technology on educational efforts. In Latin America, we've been to Argentina, Chile, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay. Those are things that show that we really are working hard to reach out internationally.
As I mentioned earlier, we also held two seminars in China in January and a two-day conference in India. The first-ever Trademark Administrators and Practitioners Meeting will be held in Spain in September this year and we will take our Leadership Meeting outside the U.S. for the first time, to Panama City, Panama, in November. It will be our first major event in Latin America. We are also having a conference on geographical indications in Rome in December.
Member satisfaction is another goal. We will have more committees in 2016, and will have a much more transparent committee selection process. And we are going to provide a lot more information to volunteers about what the committees do, and also have a more robust application for committees, so that we can better match skill sets with the committees' issues.