|Tish Berard took the helm as INTA President on January 1, and has a busy year planned. As an INTA member since 2000, Ms. Berard has gained invaluable insight on the benefits of moving up the INTA leadership ladder, and how to do it. Here, she shares with the INTA Bulletin her policy goals for her presidency, how she has personally and professionally benefited from INTA involvement through the years, and her advice on how to be a good leader.
How did you first become involved with INTA?
After graduating law school, I worked for six years as a law clerk for a magistrate judge in Arizona, and then for a federal judge in the district of Arizona, before I joined a small, boutique IP firm. It was just me and one partner, and the partner wanted me to take over the trademark work. He thought I’d learn trademarks best by (1) reading McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition; and (2) becoming involved with this organization called INTA. So, in 2000, he sent me off to the INTA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, and I signed up for pretty much every beginner educational course I could take. That’s essentially how I taught myself about trademark law, and I continued to stay involved with INTA from that point on.
What were your initial impressions of the Association, and what have you learned from being a member through the years?
I went by myself to that first Annual Meeting. It was a bit overwhelming, but I was amazed. The education was top notch, the speakers were exceptional, and once I started interacting with people, I learned how friendly everyone was. Even if you were competing with other firms or companies, everyone was still focused on the fact that we were all trademark professionals and had common goals. I was really impressed by that. Over the years, this has all been reiterated—I have built some lifelong friendships through INTA with people around the world.
Why did you choose to take on leadership roles with INTA?
I had no intention of becoming a leader; my goal, initially, was to overcome my fear of speaking in public. I decided that one way to do that was to volunteer more and get on a committee. I just wanted to become a better speaker and be more knowledgeable, and I thought that the way to do that was to take on anything that was asked of me. Over the course of all of that, I guess I caught the attention of people who thought I’d be a great leader. When I got the call to be on the Board, I asked, “Are you sure?” It wasn’t a plan, it just happened that way!
What experiences or mentors kept you interested in moving up along the way?
Watching through the years how all of the amazing INTA presidents took on that role and ran with it and brought their own unique perspectives really inspired me. But most of all, it was the committee leadership that I worked with who made me want to move things forward for the whole trademark community. I was involved with the In-House Practitioners Committee, and watching how the committee members wanted to do such great things really motivated me.
What issues do you want to focus on during your presidency?
I’m fortunate that 2018 is the beginning of the new 2018–2021 Strategic Plan. Implementing that and getting it off the ground is the first and foremost goal I have.
Part of that will be the more traditional policy goals, such as promoting trademarks and brands, harmonization, and enforcement; but we’ll also focus on valuing brands and showing consumers how important IP is through studies that show how many jobs IP adds to the economy and how much money IP-intensive industries bring in. We want to ensure that consumers understand the value of IP and how it protects them—not just as an asset for owners, but as a vehicle by which consumers can feel good about the choices they make when they purchase products. Also, brand restrictions fall within that, because some of the restrictions that are occurring around the world take away that ability for consumers to choose thoughtfully and carefully.
I’m also going to emphasize embracing innovation and change. We’re all aware that things change quickly in the IP world because of new technologies and the Internet. There are all kinds of new issues facing brand owners, and we have to keep abreast of those.
In addition to all of that, I want to take a close look at small and medium enterprises (SMEs) because of my own background. I think there are some unique challenges for SMEs, as well as entrepreneurs, especially in developing countries. We need to examine how we can make SMEs aware of the importance of IP early on, rather than after the product is developed and launched, when it might be too late for them to secure the rights they need. I’ll be creating a Presidential Task force around this topic that will look at what the issues are that are important to SMEs in terms of IP, challenges with IP registration, variations in knowledge around the world, and how INTA as an organization can help SMEs and entrepreneurs by providing tools and education.
Another big issue will be Brexit. Things are going to be moving on Brexit this year, we believe, so continuing to monitor that and staying on top of the potential IP implications will be a top priority for INTA members, and for me as well.
What are you most looking forward to about being president?
There’s so much to think about, but I think I’m most excited about the opportunity to work closely with INTA staff and to engage with government officials on the critical issues facing brand owners. Everyone looks to INTA on topics related to trademarks and brands. Having the opportunity to be that much more involved at a policy level and to move the ball forward on all the work that volunteers do, is what I’m most looking forward to.
What advice do you have for members about how and why to move up in leadership?
The why is kind of a personal decision; for me, it was more about personal development and becoming a better speaker. Overall though, I think everyone can benefit from being a leader. It brings confidence, knowledge, networking, and building relationships. All of those are helpful as you go about your everyday job. It’s amazing how much being a leader in INTA really helped me in my own career path to be more confident at work, and taught me how to discuss issues and be thoughtful, and bring ideas to the table—and not just IP issues, but all legal issues, as I developed into a general counsel. It’s an amazing opportunity to develop personal growth. It doesn’t matter what level of leadership you reach, it’s just about developing yourself as a person.
How to move up in leadership is really simple—be active and be involved. INTA is a member-run organization. Volunteer and join a committee. That’s the first step, and the second is being friendly. It’s easy to be dogmatic when it comes to policy, and there are topics where you get passionate, but learning to do that in a friendly and collaborative way is the keystone to getting things accomplished. That applies no matter what you’re trying to do. Being able to see others’ perspectives and finding a way to get to “yes” with everyone, or at least finding common ground, is a great thing to do when you want to be a leader. Part of that is staying informed and thinking about all sides of an issue to really understand the opposing position as well.
Finally—the most important step I think—is being yourself. Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” You sometimes think when you’re moving up and trying to be a leader that you have to conform to the person you think you should be, but I’ve found that, despite my quirks and laid back personality, being myself has really been the way for me to become a better leader. Don’t try to be something you’re not—that’s key.
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© 2018 International Trademark Association