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April 15, 2015 Vol. 70 No. 8 Back to Bulletin Main Page

Why INTA Is Reorganizing its Committees

INTA’s committee structure and application process has changed, effective for the 2016-2017 committee term. But what does this mean for the average member? The INTA Bulletin spoke with the Co-Chairs of the Committee Structure, Participation and Function Presidential Task Force to find out more.

In 2014, Immediate Past President Mei-lan Stark (Fox Entertainment Group, USA) appointed a Task Force to review the Association’s current committee structure and function, and to identify potential areas for improvement. The primary goal of the Committee Structure, Participation and Function Presidential Task Force was to improve the volunteer experience and to offer opportunities for more meaningful participation. As INTA’s membership has grown, committees have in some cases become large and unwieldy, and term limits, performance objectives and other rules were often not enforced. The new structure (see chart on page 5) developed by the Task Force over the past year will ensure, among other improvements, that more INTA members have an opportunity to participate on committees and that the experience and knowledge of committee leaders, Board members and other leaders are not lost.

Under the new committee structure, the number of committees has expanded from 29 to 37. There are eight new committees under the Advocacy Group and four new committees under the Communications Group. Each of the three groups—Advocacy, Resources and Communications—will be coordinated by an INTA Officer (one year, by rotation), an “Experienced Leader” (two year, by appointment) and Chief Staff. Experienced Leaders are defined as a Past President, Past Counsel, Past Board of Directors, or someone otherwise deemed an Experienced Leader by the Nominating Committee, appointed by the Nominating Committee. Group Leadership will look to better coordinate from group to group, committee to committee and between staff. Additionally, Project Teams, traditionally composed of current committee members, will include more unassigned applicants in order to maximize opportunities for participation. Finally, the committee structure will include two Advisory Councils—the existing Global Advisory Council and a new Programming Advisory Council, which will be coordinated similarly by the Groups.

The INTA Bulletin spoke with the Co-Chairs of the Committee Structure, Participation and Function Presidential Task Force, Janice Bereskin (Bereskin & Parr, Canada) and Alicia Lloreda (Lloreda Camacho & Co., Colombia), to learn more about the changes, what they mean for INTA volunteers and how the Task Force approached this important and challenging project.

Why was there a need to change INTA’s committee structure and function?
What we found during this process is that there was a lot of INTA committee work that was going extremely well where no change was necessary. However, we did uncover several areas for improvement, and that’s because INTA itself has grown significantly over the years and delved into new challenges for trademark owners. As a result, the current committee structure is no longer working to its best ability. We needed to reflect changes to trademark practice by adding new committees and to accommodate the increased size of the organization.

Related to that, with the growth of INTA and the number of committees and volunteers involved, we realized changes were needed in the application process and selection of volunteers to enhance the volunteer experience; in other words, we need to do a better job of placing the right people on the right committees. That will result in better committee experiences, better work and productivity. We are looking for increased opportunities for volunteers. Right now, there are many unassigned volunteers who are frustrated that they haven’t had the opportunities that others have had to become involved.

We also wanted the committee structure to be transparent and the application and selection process to be more transparent. We thought it was important that members realize they could be part of the committee structure if they just apply and show their skills. The new structure will make it easier to climb the ladder and will make the process more accessible and clear to everyone, so if people are ready to volunteer, they can.

How did you go about identifying the weaknesses?
It was a very complex process. We had excellent members on the Task Force (see box); all are experienced INTA leaders and have been on committees before, chaired committees and/or Project Teams or have been Board members. They were especially committed to this process; everyone was so involved and interested in the task and brought such diverse experiences. The Task Force represents a range of geographical areas, in-house counsel, law firms, Board members, officers, committee chairs or vice chairs and project team leaders. So it was very helpful to start by sharing and communicating within our Task Force. But then we also expanded and had several calls with the Board, the Nominating and Planning Committees, INTA President J. Scott Evans (Adobe Systems, USA), INTA CEO Etienne Sanz de Acedo and other staff. Etienne, Mei-lan and J. Scott were involved throughout the process and crucial to its success. The help of INTA staff, particularly Task Force Liaison and INTA Manager, Member Operations, Ryan O’Donnell, was unbelievable; we couldn’t have done what we did without him.

We reviewed all of the INTA data and surveys available to us and spoke with different constituencies to get all of the information we could. We also were quite transparent about what we were finding and doing, so as soon as word got out about the Task Force, we started to get calls with questions, concerns and suggestions from members, which also helped us to identify areas for improvement.

After many discussions—almost weekly—we decided upon the changes, divided the work and came up with the recommendations in the report.

What are the biggest changes and how will they improve the volunteer experience?
The biggest change is the new committee structure and its composition—it’s not just the structure that is changing, but who is serving on the committees. We’re involving “Experienced Leaders”—people who have served on the Board or as a committee chair before—in a number of ways. This includes as members of the Global Advisory Council and Programming Council and also in an advisory role for each committee Group. INTA has so many people who have done great work and they want to continue to participate, so we came up with this system to serve the whole structure. It will make the committees work better.

There are also some exciting new committees that we’re adding. These include a number of new Advocacy Committees, some of which were subcommittees under the previous structure. Under the new Communications Group, there will be committees for Public and Media Relations as well as the Unreal Campaign. And finally, the work started by the two other 2014 task forces—”Brands and Innovation” and “Building Bridges”—will be continued by two new committees bearing those names.

Equally significant is the new application process for becoming a member of a committee. It will take a little bit longer to fill out the application starting this June, but it will result in better matching.

Another change is the establishment of Rapid Response Teams—these will be hand picked on a case-by-case basis by the INTA CEO and President to address specific, urgent situations that require a quick and specialized response.

Can you talk more about the decision to create a role for experienced leaders? Why was that necessary?
We knew we wanted new members to come on to committees, but we also knew that we wanted to utilize the existing expertise to help these new committee members. Right now, that isn’t always happening—for example, someone will be President one year, then chair of the Nominating Committee and then have little involvement after that. We have this amazing pool of leaders that is currently underutilized. When word of our suggestion to engage experienced leaders started to spread, we received a lot of positive feedback.

What are the next steps—when will members feel these changes?
The changes were approved by the Board of Directors at its March 2015 meeting and are effective for the upcoming term. The new committee structure applies for the 2016-2017 committee term and INTA has already started working on the new application form and implementation. From the point of view of the average member, they will see the changes when they apply for a committee in June 2015. Also, when they serve on those committees, there will be more communications made to members, more expectations, consistent application of term limits and uniform, and fair enforcement. Waivers to extend term limits are sometimes necessary, but we’re going to enforce the bylaws governing term limits more strictly. We’ll see that starting in the new committee term.

There is also some work still in progress on issues such as non-performance. Our hope is that with these new guidelines we will see fewer instances of non-performance. But when there is need to remove someone from a committee, there will be recommendations coming from us later this year on how to deal with those issues.

What would you say to INTA members who may have reservations about the changes?
We want to make it clear that we didn’t make changes for the sake of making changes. We really kept all the working components intact. The new committee structure and application process are just improvements. We listened to INTA members and took their suggestions and put them in place. We don’t think the changes are going to feel so strange or new to anyone. We would urge INTA members to embrace the changes because it will make for a better experience and organization. If members look at the structure and see how simple it is to understand, they will find that it will help everyone to feel more connected, despite the size of the organization. We tried to remind ourselves throughout this process that INTA is a volunteer organization and this is all extra work for its members, so we want participation to be more meaningful and fruitful for everyone.

How can members find out more about the changes?
We are going to be conducting a session at the Annual Meeting in San Diego—INTA Committee Selection, Membership and Involvement: Behind the Curtain (CSU50)—from 2:00 pm–3:15 pm on Sunday, May 3. It will include experienced leaders Susan Brady Blasco (Muncy, Geissler, Olds & Lowe, P.C., USA), Shwetasree Majumder (Fidus Law Chambers, India) and David H. McDonald (Johnson & Johnson, USA), who will share their personal experiences and involvement with INTA as leaders and Board members. Attendees will benefit from hearing about how they got involved, and then they will hear from us and we will highlight some of the changes coming up.

It’s very important that people attend because it will be a place to have all of their questions answered and to clarify any doubts, and we will explain all of the new opportunities. We look forward to seeing everyone there and talking more about the new committee structure and application process.

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.

© 2015 International Trademark Association