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INTA Blog
April 23
From Fashion to Law

​​HBZ0109AF003-de.jpgIt started during my sophomore year at Harvard University. It was winter break of 2009 and I was on a ten-hour flight back to Japan. As everyone dozed off somewhere over the Pacific, I flipped through Harper’s Bazaar magazine, hoping to gain inspiration for the Identities Fashion Show at Harvard that I would direct in the spring. There it lay, in front of me: Mayor Bloomberg’s face, a pile of knockoff Coach bags (right) and an exposé by Dana Thomas titled, “The Fight Against Fakes.”

Statistics quoted in the article described the economic consequences of counterfeit production—I learned that seven percent of U.S. annual trade consisted of counterfeit products. Horrific stories informed me of the relevance of counterfeiting to labor law and human rights abuses: in an assembly plant in Thailand, there were 10-year-olds who had their legs broken so that they wouldn’t be able to escape their fate as makers of counterfeit leather bags. But most immediately, the article informed me of a way I could remain engaged in my personal interest (fashion) while fulfilling my most pertinent intellectual pursuit (the daunting task of writing a senior thesis).
 
In the spring, when I returned to the U.S. and to my campus, I was a different student with a new focus. My research papers centered on the counterfeit industry, trademark enforcement and intellectual property rights regimes. As we approached summer, I found myself wondering how anticounterfeiting efforts occurred in reality. This is how the International Trademark Association (INTA) came into my life.
 
As a summer intern at INTA, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the External Relations department (which coordinates the Association’s policy development), under the guidance of the Anticounterfeiting Committee and the East Asia & Pacific Subcommittee. INTA was in the process of revamping its website, and I was given the laborious task of summarizing and categorizing over 100 amicus briefs and policy documents that INTA had submitted over the years. This was serendipitous because the reading provided me with a foundational understanding of the development and enforcement of trademark law, and, more importantly, reaffirmed my interest in researching trademark enforcement.
 
Throughout my junior and senior years, I stayed in touch with INTA and received immense support from both my INTA mentors and from fellow members. In particular, these individuals were critical to the completion of my senior thesis, which discussed how American companies were resolving their trademark infringement issues in China. Many INTA members responded to my survey questions regarding their preferred forum of enforcement in China, which became the crux of my analysis. Without their contributions, my thesis would not have materialized.
 
Now, as a first-year student at Cornell Law School, the scope of my interest has expanded to include other forms of intellectual property as well. A few months ago, I had the opportunity to assist the Intellectual Property & Technology Student Association (IPTSA) to organize a panel on different careers in IP law. We were fortunate to have INTA member Mr. George McGuire—chairman of Bond, Schoeneck & King PLLC and professor at Syracuse Law School—among our panelists. Mr. McGuire provided insight and advice and broadened our view of career prospects after law school. As a new student member of INTA and the new President of Cornell Law School’s IPTSA (Intellectual Property & Technology Student Association), I greatly look forward to both organizations bringing together professionals and students with shared interests in IP law.
 
Turning the pages of that Harper’s Bazaar issue two years ago definitely provided inspiration for my fashion show, which was a great success! More importantly, it led me to INTA, which fortuitously led me to law school. I hope that my relationship with INTA will continue to grow, allowing me to make equally unexpected yet exciting connections in the future.
 
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Nara Lee, pictured far right with Leadership In the Arts Award recipient Vera Wang at Identities Fashion Show 2010, is a first year law student at Cornell Law School and former intern at INTA. 

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