Grab Your ‘Peeps’ and Get Ready for INTA’s 2018 Trademark Administrators and Practitioners Meeting

Published: June 15, 2018

INTA’s 2018 Trademark Administrators and Practitioners (TMAP) Meeting is heading to Orlando, Florida, USA, from September 12 to 14, and this year’s Project Team Co-Chairs are especially excited. Amber Sterling, Corporate Counsel at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) (USA) and Marion Woods, Paralegal Specialist at Eversheds Sutherland (USA), both credit the TMAP Meeting as helping to kick-start their careers and are eager to share that experience with newcomers and seasoned registrants alike.

The two Co-Chairs spoke with the INTA Bulletin about what they’re most looking forward to and how the practical and collaborative approach TMAP offers has been so valuable over the course of their careers.

What has TMAP meant to each of you over the years, and what was the experience of helping to organize the 2018 meeting like?

Amber Sterling (AS): The TMAP Meeting has been instrumental to my career. In fact, it gave me a career, as I wouldn’t have known I wanted a career in trademarks without it!

I served on the TMAP Project Team in 2010 and have spoken on a number of panels over the years. This year, what I’m most excited about is that I’m a lawyer now and get to serve as the attorney co-chair, having attended these meetings for the last eight years as a paralegal-that’s not necessarily a perspective other co-chairs have had.

Marion Woods (MW): The first time I attended the Trademark Administrators Conference [as it was then called] in 1998, I was the only paralegal doing trademark work in my law firm. I didn’t know what I was doing. The partner I worked for knew about INTA and invited me to attend TMAP. I was so green I didn’t even know it existed. That’s often what happens; it’s really on the shoulders of the attorneys to let staff know about INTA and TMAP, because paralegals often don’t know about these resources and don’t even know to ask. The attorneys need to realize the value of INTA for their employees who are doing the day-to-day work.

Like Amber, I was able to serve on a TMAP Project Team. It was in 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. I really enjoy working with so many different people with different ideas and the energy that comes from that. A legal environment can be limiting, and the beauty of TMAP is that you can be creative and think outside of the box and do things differently. I’m very happy to be a part of that.

What was your first TMAP Meeting experience like?

Ms. Sterling’s first TMAP Meeting was in 2007 in Long Beach, California:
“When I first attended TMAP, I had just started working with the AAMC and one day they said to me, ‘Congratulations, you’re going to manage our trademarks!’ I replied, ‘That circle with an ‘R’ thing? Cool.’ I was clueless. I did a search on the GOOGLE search engine and found INTA and quickly started taking some online courses and then attended the Trademark Administrators Conference [as it was then called]. While I understood only a third of the subject matter, it was super helpful and gave me the confidence to return to the company and say, ‘I know what a trademark is.'”

Ms. Woods’ first TMAP Meeting was in 1998 in Washington, D.C.:
“I couldn’t believe there were so many people who did the same work I was doing and who had these incredible procedures for their portfolios and systems. Those two days made my life so much easier. I was in awe.”

What will be unique about this year’s meeting?

MW: One challenge of planning TMAP is that we need to address the new people who don’t know a lot about trademarks, but we also have a lot of registrants who have come to the meetings for years and are highly experienced paralegals and young practitioners. We want to make sure we bring something for them as well. Our task in every session is to provide something tangible that attendees can leave with. We have registrants coming from all over the world, and even the U.S. registrants work on international projects, so the program can’t be U.S.-centric. We will have an entire session on Africa, one on Europe, and also are going to focus on ethics, which is really important for those who are required to have Continuing Legal Education credit.

To expand on Marion’s point, we were very deliberate in how we organized the sessions. First, we’re doing single-track programming, so people don’t have to pick and choose. We’ve also organized the sessions to follow the life cycle of a trademark, starting with searching [Session 2: Searching and Opinions-Who? What? When? Where? Why? And, Most Important, How?] and ending with the trademark disappearing from the marketplace [Session 12: The Brand That Won’t Disappear: Amicable Divorce, Peaceful Death, and Other Losses].

We’re focusing on the practical application of trademarks as well; we have a session dedicated to clearing collateral [Session 3: Collateral Damage: Clearing Collateral], as well as one on trademark use in marketing and advertising [Session 7: Trademarks Meet Marketing Meet Advertising and Find Data Privacy Lurking Behind the Door]. It’s one thing to get a trademark registered, but your company/client wants you to advise them as to how that trademark is going to work in the marketplace and what you need to do with that mark to keep it.

You’re also holding a “mini-session” on INTA’s Unreal Campaign-why is that important for this audience?

MW: The Unreal Campaign session will be a 30-minute mini-session that will discuss what the Unreal Campaign is doing and accomplishing. I see the Unreal Campaign as one of INTA’s more public faces, and I think it’s important for registrants to know what it is and how INTA is addressing the issues around counterfeiting from the perspective of young consumers. Also, I’m hoping attendees will see more volunteer opportunities for themselves in the Unreal Campaign, especially paralegals.

Are there particular topics or sessions you’re each personally looking forward to learning more about this year?

AS: I’m really excited about Session 3: Collateral Damage: Clearing Collateral. TMAP hasn’t dedicated a session to the topic before and will address how you put your trademark on a product and get it through various jurisdictions. We’re going to follow the VELCRO brand and how they get their hook and loop fasteners entered into Canada, South America, and Europe.

I’m also looking forward to Session 12: The Brand That Won’t Disappear: Amicable Divorce, Peaceful Death, and Other Losses. The AAMC’s most well-known brand-the Medical College Admission Test-is often used by others with fair use; and there is an industry built around that brand, so how do we prevent genericide? Once you do become famous and have saturated the marketplace, you’re not done-you’re just starting. We will also address brands that don’t last forever and how to properly close down a brand or retire a trademark.

MW: Those two sessions offer unique programming, and we’re very happy to have them. I would also mention two sessions that are out of the ordinary. We start with Session 1: Trademark Trivia, which will be an interactive way to lay out the basics for the rest of the meeting. We will build a fun trivia game so that each session doesn’t have to start with explanations and definitions.

We end with Session 13: You Want It? INTA’s Got It! A Quick Guide Through INTA’s Resources. It is another 30-minute mini-session that will let our attendees know what resources are available through INTA, because time and time again, we’ve seen that people just don’t know what’s there. It’s going to be dynamic and we think a great way to end the meeting.

What benefit does TMAP have for people who aren’t trademark administrators?

AS: Young practitioners in particular will benefit from attending the TMAP Meeting. Law school doesn’t address the “hows” and the practical day-to-day work. Also, more and more often, attorneys don’t have the paralegal staff that they once did. If they’ve switched firms and no longer have a paralegal supporting them, this is a great opportunity to brush up on skills and learn day-to-day trademark management.

MW: That’s a really good point. I’ve met attorneys at prior TMAPs who changed their focus to trademarks from another area of law, moved firms, or became a sole practitioner. This is two days where you learn more than what you could possibly pack in any other way.

Why should law firms and companies invest in sending their staff to TMAP?

AS: TMAP is the only conference dedicated to the trademark administrator. The education and personal connections made at TMAP are invaluable. A company or law firm will see the value of sending an employee to the TMAP Meeting as soon as the employee returns to the office with new ideas on efficiencies and the ability to do more. The TMAP meeting provides the information your staff need to go back and do the job the next day-and do it better.

MW: It’s also a very collaborative environment. Now that I’m no longer a “newbie,” TMAP allows me to foster what I call “my peeps.” I have a network of trademark professionals I’ve developed over the years from attending TMAP. They work in-house and in law firms from all over the world, and if I have a question about anything, I can post it to that group and I’ll get so many valuable responses. You can’t pay for that. It doesn’t just help me to look good in front of the attorneys, but clients as well. That’s invaluable.

For more information, see the TMAP Justification Toolkit here.

What do you each hope registrants take away overall?

AS: Knowledge and empowerment are my goals for this meeting. TMAP registrants will learn the latest in trademark law and related fields, as well as practical tips to do their jobs more efficiently and with a higher level of confidence. We also have a session dedicated to YOU [Session 8: YOU. Tales from Around the World About Professional Development], which will hopefully empower folks to return home and ask for what they need from their employers.

MW: All I would add to that is “two fun days of knowledge and empowerment.”

Register for the TMAP Meeting today.

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