|The External Relations department plays a vital role in representing the interests of INTA and its members before intellectual property offices, organizations, and national governments worldwide.
“The External Relations department simply helps to make the world safe for trademarks,” says Bruce MacPherson, Director of External Relations and also INTA’s Chief Policy Officer. Bruce oversees INTA’s global public policy issue identification, issue development, and advocacy. He is also the staff liaison for the Association’s Advocacy Group (AG).
Bruce leads an agile core team of six staff with government relations backgrounds. They are: Debbie Cohn, Senior Director, Government Relations; Lori Schulman, Senior Director, Internet Policy; Iris Gunther, Advisor, Enforcement; Maysa Razavi, Manager, Anticounterfeiting; Tiffany Pho, Coordinator, Anticounterfeiting; and Tat-Tienne Louembe, Africa and Middle East Representative. External Relations works closely with INTA’s regional offices in Brussels, Santiago, Shanghai, Singapore, and Washington, D.C., and also retains consultants in New Delhi and Geneva, further strengthening INTA’s advocacy efforts.
In performing its public policy and advocacy functions, External Relations works closely with and supports the AG along with its Council, 19 standing committees, 103 subcommittees, and five regional advisory committees consisting of about 1,500 volunteers.
The External Relations staff don a number of hats on a daily basis to further INTA’s mission and Strategic Plan goals. A glimpse into a normal day at work reveals a plethora of responsibilities, such as: making recommendations for the development of INTA’s policies and positions on trademark-related issues; researching and drafting position papers, testimony, reports, speeches, and correspondence; analyzing proposed legislation and regulations of interest to INTA; reviewing materials for submission to government and intergovernmental entities; participating in INTA’s strategic planning and communications; and representing the Association at various meetings, conferences, and forums worldwide with governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, including those in the private sector with similar goals.
The External Relations staff is also responsible for organizing meetings of top-level delegations of INTA officers and the CEO, with policy-shapers, executives, and the judiciary in key regions of interest for INTA and its members, to put forth and further and promote the Association’s position on important trademark issues. Furthermore, External Relations reviews all material to be placed before the Executive Committee and the Board and plays a key role in facilitating the acceptance of INTA’s proposed positions by the Executive Committee and the Board.
Currently, the External Relations team has a number of important initiatives in the pipeline. Some of the interesting priority projects include: getting Board approval on resolutions coming from the Copyright and Designs Committees; organizing dialogues and training for Customs officials, trademark examiners, and judges; assisting the current committees to complete numerous projects before the end of the committee term; ensuring INTA’s voice is heard on a host of legislative and regulatory issues, including putting in final INTA submissions and meeting directly with officials; and supporting INTA delegations to Canada and China.
Among its many accomplishments in the last couple of years, those that particularly stand out are the projects the team undertook with several INTA regional offices, including: several submissions to governments regarding brand restrictions and implementation of the EU Trade Mark Directive; forging new relationships with trademark offices in Africa and Southeast Asia; expanding INTA’s visibility and credibility as a significant player in Internet and anticounterfeiting spaces; leading the effort to establish the Latin America Representative Office; expanding the membership and activity of the Congressional Trademark Caucus in the U.S. Congress; and organizing policy dialogues on enforcement matters, particularly with the judiciary. The External Relations team indeed exemplifies international cooperation and team spirit.
This article would not be complete without a behind the scenes dive into the personal experiences and personalities of the talented and motivated External Relations team.
“I was hired in March 1993 as the International
Manager for the United States Trademark Association to handle
‘international’ government relations and to help expand the
Association’s influence and presence outside the U.S.,” recalls Bruce.
“That May, the name of the Association was changed to the International
Trademark Association, which greatly boosted my ability to fulfill my
mission,” he adds. The most enjoyable project during his 24-year career
with INTA would “definitely have to be finding a way to break the
deadlock over voting rights within the Madrid Union, which led the way
for the United States and the EU to accede to the Madrid Protocol. The
groundwork for the accession of the EU and the United States took about
six years, and another ten years for the breakthrough in Latin America
with Mexico and Colombia’s accession,” he explains. When he does get
some time off, Bruce enjoys visiting Lake George, New York, with his
family. When asked about his favorite trademarks, Bruce is careful to
give a diplomatic answer, “As an INTA staffer, it is better not to
choose among trademarks. All are beautiful and need to be protected!”
Maysa joined INTA five years ago as the
Anticounterfeiting Coordinator. In her present role as
Anticounterfeiting Manager, she develops INTA’s anticounterfeiting
strategy and implements it worldwide with the support of INTA’s
Anticounterfeiting Committee. She also supports the INTA U.S. Amicus
Subcommittee. The most exciting project she has worked on was the
Seventh Global Congress on Combating Counterfeiting and Piracy, which
took place in Istanbul in 2013—her first international trip representing
INTA, where she met with several officials to advocate for stronger
anticounterfeiting measures. “I came to INTA looking to change the world
a little bit, and this was the first time I felt like I was really
meeting that objective,” says Maysa. When she is not reinforcing
consumer trust with her work on INTA’s Unreal Campaign, Maysa enjoys
playing with her ten-month-old daughter, Natalie, going to the theater,
Tiffany, who has been with the External Relations team for just over a year, enjoys working with the Anticounterfeiting Committee and working on the Association’s global anticounterfeiting policy. Her favorite project so far has been the Customs training programs, which she believes provide a lot of value to members, as it gives them the opportunity to interact one on one with officials in the public sector, thereby building great relationships. Tiffany believes that anticounterfeiting enforcement plays a huge part in promoting the value of trademarks and protecting consumers: “Brands devote so much time and resources into creating a product that consumers trust, and when the consumer inadvertently gets a counterfeit product, their trust in that brand is impacted.” In her free time, you can find Tiffany cooking and going on long walks with her dog Shoyu or visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Iris is an Advisor, External Relations,
Enforcement and deals with substantive legal issues related to
enforcement, drafting of legal comments or submissions to government
authorities on legislative projects, and planning advocacy events. She
also manages and supervises the INTA trademark portfolio. “There have
been several interesting projects so far, but at this point the
organization of the Brand Authenticity Conference, the judges workshops,
and management of INTA’s involvement in the development of the Hague
Convention stick out,” she says. Iris has diverse interests, such as
hiking, watching her child play baseball, photography, painting,
gardening, traveling, and volunteering at shelters. She likes trademarks
with a mission and a good message, such as PATAGONIA, TOMs, and NATURA.
“As far as great marketing goes, GEICO wins—I can’t stop laughing over
these goofy ads!”
Tat-Tienne (“Tat”) is from Congo Brazzaville in Central Africa. He recently moved to New York from Vienna, Austria, where he was working for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. Tat is an Associate on the External Relations team in charge of coordinating INTA engagement with brand owners and government officials in Africa and the Middle East. “IP could be an interesting tool for the two regions to boost job creation and further economic diversification,” Tat says. “My role with INTA allows me to interact with many interesting people.”
While their mandate is daunting, the dedicated External Relations team members along with the extraordinary volunteer members from the AG channel their energy and passion into expanding INTA’s growing influence on important trademark issues and advancing the cause of brand owners worldwide.
Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of items in the INTA Bulletin, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.
© 2017 International Trademark Association