Improving Your Business and Legal IQ at March Conference: The Business of Brands

Published: February 1, 2019

Deborah Davis (Electronic Arts, USA) and Judy McCool (HBO, USA) are serving as the co-chairs of INTA’s 2019 March Conference: The Business of Brands, to be held March 28‒29 in New York, N.Y., USA.

In this interview, the Conference co-chairs discuss what attendees can expect to take away from the Conference, some of the exciting educational sessions that will benefit legal and business professionals alike, the advantage of the event taking place in New York City, and much more.

This Conference promises to take attendees beyond trademarks and focus on brands from a business perspective; how do you plan to deliver on that promise?
Deborah Davis: We’re working on including people from a business background on all of the panels. We have people from marketing, analytics, IT, finance, all of the business partners who brand professionals need to work with, and we’re bringing them on board to hear what they have to say. We wanted to bring a lot of substantive content, but still have the flow of the Conference move at an energetic pace.

Judy McCool: Different perspectives from the legal and business sides are valuable, but why? More and more lawyers are being asked to pivot and oversee areas where they have less natural training. We want to be able to give attendees tools to add to their toolkit as they’re taking on bigger responsibilities.

We’ve got communications and marketing people, we have business people who are going to be very frank about what they like and don’t like about interacting with lawyers, and I think that will be valuable to hear. Part of this broad view is that we’re focusing not just on the lawyers but on the business side too. We want to provide business professionals more insight into legal considerations, into other areas that lawyers grapple with. Having that mutual awareness is important.

What do you hope attendees will take away from this Conference?
JM: The ability to walk away with real, practical, and usable information that can be applied to your work immediately. For example, the Conference has a 30-minute session on tax tips, which can be important to developing a business strategy. There are down-and-dirty techniques for establishing your brand value and the value of the services that you can provide to a company. We want to give attendees insights into those avenues that they haven’t thought about before.

DD: We want legal professionals to improve their business IQ, and we want business professionals to improve their legal IQ. One thing we’re focusing on is harnessing and using data in an ethical way. Analytics is typically utilized by business professionals. They collect data, they look at it, and they figure out what it tells us about the strengths of a company. They figure out how happy their consumers are. In my experience, lawyers are often afraid of data because it’s not part of how we’re educated and how we do our job. In this era of harnessing data and analytics, I don’t think we can be the best legal counsel to our business partners without understanding that data.

That’s why we believe this Conference is mutually beneficial for both legal and business professionals. Having a common language and the ability to effectively communicate across teams is important. As we move to what’s in store for the future of brands, I don’t think the business and legal sides are as different as we once thought.

Are there particular sessions you’d like to highlight?
JM: Footwear designer Stuart Weitzman will be giving the featured keynote address. It will be something a little bit different and will give a totally different perspective than just the legal side. In addition, I can’t wait for the capsule keynote speakers. We’re bringing in influential people, including some C-suite speakers, to give short talks about topics of their choosing.

DD: Our look at corporate social responsibility (CSR) is going to be valuable. It’s important for brand owners to understand what they’re missing out on if CSR isn’t part of their brand. Doing the conscious thing in terms of the environment, social justice, inclusion, and diversity is not only good for public perception, but it can help your bottom line. This conference will really emphasize that CSR isn’t merely a luxury for well-funded brands, it’s a part of the day-to-day now.

“Brands in the Spotlight” is the focus of two sessions. What will attendees hear about at those sessions?
DD: Those sessions are post mortems of specific trademark enforcement situations. We have a very deep dive into the “Dilly Dilly” scenario, the Budweiser enforcement action that went viral. We’ll be hearing from the people who actually crafted that approach and executed it.

JM: The goal of these sessions is teaching people to get it right. Extending your brand voice and personality into trademark enforcement is a very hard line to walk, and we’re telling the stories of people who have managed to make that work.We have Bryce Coughlin from Netflix, who is behind the Stranger Things cease and desist letter. It was a big public relations boon for Netflix. When you try these creative enforcement strategies, the stakes can be high, but if you succeed it’s a great way for a lawyer to be a PR benefit.

You both have very busy day jobs, why did you say “yes” when INTA asked you to serve as co-chairs of this event?
DD: I attended last year’s March Conference called Brands and Innovation, and I was highly impressed with the quality of the presenters and the quality of the content. It was user friendly and high energy. I was inspired to help create a similarly high-energy experience with a practical set of presentations and sessions that will give attendees tools and strategies they need that can be employed instantly.

JM: I’ve been involved with INTA since I was in law school and argued in the Association’s Saul Lefkowitz Moot Court Competition. Having participated in INTA for more than 20 years, and now as a member of the Board of Directors, I’ve gained so much appreciation for all the things INTA does and tries to accomplish. This seemed like a fun way to get involved and make a contribution. I wanted to help put together a well-rounded event that is both informative and fun for those who go.

What are the benefits of this Conference happening in New York City?
JM: People love coming to New York City! It’s such a center of industry. There are so many corporate headquarters here. For outside counsel it’s a perfect spot because they have so many clients here. And of course, who doesn’t want to spend some time in New York City?

DD: The Conference is located in Midtown Manhattan and is very simple to get to from North America, Europe, and Latin America, which I hope facilitates attendance from all directions. The location, Convene, is a dedicated conference venue with high-speed Wi-Fi and comfortable spaces, and it’s an intimate size. Most important, New York City in the spring isn’t a very hard sell.

Register for the Conference here.

Hear more from the co-chairs in this video.

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© 2019 International Trademark Association