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March 14
Law Students from Austria Get a Taste of Trademarks—Literally!

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On February 16, twenty-five law students from various universities across Austria were warmly welcomed at INTA’s European premises in Brussels. The study visit of this group was sponsored by the European Law Students Association (ELSA), as part of ELSA Study Visits program that brings law students from all over Europe to the heart of the European Union. 

The students were welcomed in German by Christina Sleszynska, INTA’s Chief Representative Officer – Europe. Milesh S. Gordhandas (INTA Advisor, Europe Office) briefly introduced INTA to the students before our guest speaker, Florence Verhoestraete (NautaDutilh, Belgium), took the floor and gave a lecture on the basics of trademark law. A member of the INTA Bulletins Committee—Law and Practice: Europe Subcommittee, Florence described the Association’s mission, its core values, its membership structure, and its variety of academic programs and activities. Students were keen to learn more, raising questions about how INTA can contribute to their professional development and lead to career opportunities. 

Florence then started to unpack a shopping bag filled with chocolates, biscuits, and other products to demonstrate how distinctive characteristics such as colors (e.g., MILKA’s purple) and shapes (e.g., TOBLERONE chocolates) were important from a legal perspective.

ESLA_blog2_031317.jpgWhile students sampled the MILKA, TOBLERONE, and SPECULOOS goodies, Ms. Verhoestraete described several trademark dispute cases, emphasized the importance of protecting trademarks, and explained how trademarks can become generic, using ROLLER-BLADES and ASPIRIN as examples. She went on to discuss how trademark protection can cover not only daily consumer goods (such as chocolates and tissues) but also sophisticated products in industries such as biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

During the question-and-answer exchange, students raised many questions including how Brexit might impact trademarks, the price of registering a trademark, and cutting-edge topics on IP that could be used for a Master’s thesis. Concerning Brexit, Ms. Verhoestraete highlighted the uncertainty that currently lies upon trademarks and trademark owners, who wish to see a smooth conversion of their rights after Brexit negotiations. Regarding cutting-edge topics, Florence mentioned nontraditional marks and, more controversially, the restriction on trademark rights due to other policy concerns such as public health. 

INTA would like to thank Ms. Verhoestraete for volunteering to speak to this young and enthusiastic audience about INTA and trademark law. We look forward to welcoming new students in the near future!

If you would like to learn more about INTA's activities in Europe, please contact Milesh Gordhandas (Advisor, Europe Office) at mgordhandas@inta.org. If you are interested in learning more about INTA's Academic Program, contact Kensey Cybul (Coordinator, Academics) at kcybul@inta.org

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