2021 Leadership Meeting Shines Light on Road Ahead for Trademark Professionals

Published: May 19, 2021

Leadership MeetingINTA’s 2021 Leadership Meeting resonated this year as we continue to cope with the impact of the global pandemic and move into a new landscape. Registrants harvested knowledge from an educational program featuring top-shelf speakers, Leadership Development sessions offering critical skills, and Business Development opportunities providing information on various topics and opening networking doors to new relationships. Participants were also engaged with intermittent social activities and receptions.

The May 3 to 7 virtual Meeting brought together 1,450 registrants from 89 countries. Although the event was held virtually, the registration numbers and participation level in nearly 30 sessions, including 11 Business Development opportunities, and 177 committee meetings rivaled that of previous on-site Leadership Meetings.

With the theme of resilience, growth, and the future, the Meeting featured sessions with topics ranging from diversity, equity, and inclusion to sustainability to influencers and content creation to leadership development to brand relevance in today’s marketplace. The top two most-attended sessions were IP Enforcement Strategies: How to Demonstrate Value to the Business and LEAD: Leadership Through Disruptive Times. The educational sessions are available on demand for registrants until June 11.

Opening the event, Leadership Meeting Project Team Co-Chair Laura Ganoza (Foley & Gardner, USA) highlighted the many ways to be involved with INTA. “That, to me, is the beauty of this organization, and especially the Leadership Meeting—the ability to meet and network with people from all around the world while developing professionally along the way,” Ms. Ganoza said.

And the future? That, she said, is best predicted by creating it yourself. “The best way to know what is coming next is to be an active participant in what is happening now,” Ms. Ganoza said. “You have to be an active player in order to shape what the future holds.”

Joining Ms. Ganoza during the Opening Ceremony, Co-Chair Lisa Ritchie (Philip Morris International, Switzerland) took the opportunity to describe a model for future intellectual property (IP) professionals. “In essence, the IP practitioner of the future will advise their clients in a more human-centric, emotionally intelligent way,” Ms. Ritchie said. “It is a movement toward a legal ecosystem of value creation and flexibility, where everyone has a voice, and a culture of trust is fostered.”

“As brand practitioner leaders, we have an individual and collective responsibility to create professional pathways and opportunities for tomorrow’s IP practitioners—tomorrow’s IP leaders,” she added.

During his Opening Ceremony address, INTA CEO Etienne Sanz de Acedo provided an update on the progress and impact of the Association, with an emphasis on the accomplishments to date of the volunteers in the current 2020‒2021 Committee Term. For example, on the advocacy front, the Association has issued 52 testimony and submissions to 22 government and non-government agencies globally.

Mr. Sanz de Acedo also looked forward to the year ahead and beyond. In that respect, there are two new think tanks being launched this year to build on the Association’s current body of research and thought leadership, which includes reports on women leaders in IP; brand value; brands and CSR (corporate social responsibility); and the future of intellectual property offices (IPOs), IP law firms, and in-house practice. The new think tanks will look at the future of technology and the service of IP, and IP and the judiciary, he said.

Also looking ahead, he noted upcoming events, such as the Brand Resilience: Risk, Recovery, and the Future of the Brand Practitioner Conference on September 22 and 23. Further, he announced that the 2021 Annual Meeting, from November 15 through 19, will be held as a “Virtual+” event—educational programming and Business Development opportunities complemented with one-day gatherings in select cities around the world.

Mr. Sanz de Acedo also reminded registrants about the upcoming committee selection process (opening June 7) for the next term and revealed that the Association is testing a new platform, INTAcollaborate, a central gathering point with collaborative workspaces, resources, and discussion groups for members of committees and other groups. It is expected to be rolled out Association-wide by the end of August.

Lastly, he highlighted the Board’s recent adoption of INTA’s 2022‒2025 Strategic Plan. Its pillars are to promote and reinforce the value of brands, build a better society through brands, and support the development of IP professionals.

INTA President Tiki Dare (Oracle, USA) spoke about brand stories and how brands play a role in our lives. Her presentation featured a video of heartfelt stories about brands through interviews with five INTA members in various regions of the world.

“As we know, trademarks serve a specific—and critical—role in the marketplace: They are the foundation of trust between brands and consumers,” Ms. Dare said. “Brands, on the other hand, do something bigger. As consumers, we let brands into our lives. We build an affinity for our favorite brands. They become woven into the tapestry of our lives. They tell our stories.”

“When we work to protect trademarks, we’re doing something important. We’re protecting the trust that consumers place in brands,” she added. “When we work to protect brands, we’re doing something quite beautiful! We’re protecting the wonderful stories brands bring to our lives. We’re protecting memories—of family gatherings, of freedom, creativity, and growth, of childhood and home, of loved ones, and, of our true selves … when we need it most.”

The brand stories video (see below) stirred an outpouring of positive comments among participants in the Opening Ceremony.

Brand Stories

Regional Perspectives on the IP Office of the Future

There was a high level of government participation at the Leadership Meeting. Regional dialogues during the Meeting gathered leaders from a range of IPOs to reflect on their roles in the future, based on the IPO of the Future Report

The Report, published by INTA, represents the independent views of former and current heads of IPOs from Australia, Canada, Chile, Europe, France, India, Mexico, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Uganda, and the United States. The Report provides a thought-provoking reflection on the roles IPOs might endorse in the next 10 years.


At the Asia-Pacific dialogue, moderated by INTA President-Elect Zeeger Vink (MF Brands Group, Switzerland), the presenters from four IPOs homed in on the impact of new IP strategies and new technologies.

The speakers were Hrishikesh Desai, general manager, Trade Marks and Designs Group, IP Australia; Sungho Mok, director general, Trademark & Design Examination Bureau, Korean Intellectual Property Office; Pawan Kumar Pandey, deputy registrar, Trade Marks and GI, Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trademarks, India; and Isabelle Tan, director of Registry of Trade Marks, Intellectual Property Office of Singapore.

Mr. Pandey noted how his Office is implementing the country’s IP Strategy, with a focus on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and awareness. Ms. Tan spoke about how the country continues to pivot toward a larger concept of IP to include intangible assets which play a new role in the country’s updated 2030 IP Strategy released last month on World IP Day. Mr. Desai talked about how artificial intelligence (AI) will play a role in examination and how blockchain will help the management of IP rights. Finally, Mr. Mok noted pending legislative updates to the trademark law that will include important updates to intermediary liability to combat trade in counterfeit goods.


The perspective from Europe was moderated by Hélène Nicora, INTA’s chief representative officer – Europe. Speakers included Habip Asan, president, Turkish Patent and Trademark Office; Pascal Faure, director general, French National Institute for Industrial Property; José Antonio Gil Celedonio, director, Spanish Patents and Trademarks Office; and Kathrine Myhre, general director, Norwegian Industrial Property Office.

European IPOs demonstrated an open mind and appetite to continue exchanging on their roles in the future, following a first European regional dialogue on March 25 (see INTA Bulletin article). Representatives from more than 22 European IPOs joined the speakers in a lively exchange during the Leadership Meeting. There was consensus that the IPO of the future will need to provide support to SMEs, especially raising their awareness of IP benefits while facing some challenges related to setting the adequate level of fees and avoiding the provision of legal advice. SMEs should not be considered as a subcategory of users of the IPO of the future, but as its main users, with every other user being the exception, participants said.

Innovation was portrayed as one of the areas where IPOs will have to adapt the most. Speakers and attendees from IPOs shared a few best practices for the IPO of the future when it comes to supporting innovation, such as signing memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with technological platforms or partnering with public universities to educate innovators about IP benefits. They also discussed the potential of new technologies to interact differently with users. There was consensus that the IPO of the future must be fully digital and staffed with the appropriate teams with communication skills, increasingly treating users as partners. Cooperation among IPOs was described as “a must,” with the need to find mechanisms and space to exchange ideas, failures, and successes to identify best practices and quickly evolve together, without increasing the gap between IPOs.

Latin America

At the dialogue on perspectives from Latin America, representatives of 15 IPOs from Latin America and the Caribbean reflected on four topics addressed in the IPO of the Future Report. These included the increase in bad faith trademark registration and how IPOs are adapting to tackle the problem; the challenges of informal IP rights recognition or systems; how AI and AI-made inventions would affect current patent requirements and law; and the importance of data to support public policies, as well as the challenge to harmonize data and platforms in order to improve work collaboration among IPOs.

The speakers were Joel Talavera, director nacional de la Dirección Nacional de Propiedad Intelectual del Paraguay (Paraguay) and Fabiola Varela, directora general del Registro Nacional de la Propiedad Intelectual de Costa Rica (Costa Rica).

INTA Foundation

Separately, a session featured a chat with members of INTA’s Foundation Board of Governors. They discussed the relaunch and mission of the INTA Foundation, which is aimed at expanding educational and professional opportunities related to IP for diverse, underrepresented populations around the world.

Business Development

Representing a significant portion of the Meeting, Business Development sessions provided networking and learning opportunities as well as entertaining events for registrants to unwind (see the related INTA Bulletin article for a review of a few Business Development sessions). During the week, registrants enjoyed four Speed Networking sessions, attended by more than 300 registrants. They learned from experts during the Build Your Professional Profile sessions, and from each other, during the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Workshop. But they also let loose and relaxed together at the Wellness Wednesday sessions and “Show Your Spirit” Welcome Reception; enjoyed a Talent Showcase in which several members shared their musical talents; and celebrated at the two-hour closing session with a DJ and fellow members at all hours of the night and day around the world.

Registrants found connections, old and new, in the INTA Café and via INTAconnect, the virtual platform’s AI-empowered matchmaking and scheduling tool. They also sought insight into INTA’s various committees by speaking with staff liaisons during the Committee Office Hours, a new feature.

MoUs Signed

Alongside the Leadership Meeting, INTA signed two separate MoUs with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and Turkpatent, the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office.

The MoU with WIPO formalizes the cooperation between the two organizations, specifically with regards to WIPO’s Indigenous Entrepreneurship Program offered by its Traditional Knowledge Division. The program aims to strengthen the capacity of entrepreneurs from indigenous peoples and local communities to make strategic and effective use of IP rights, in support of their businesses and projects based on traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions.

Separately, INTA crystalized its enhanced cooperation with Turkpatent. Ms. Dare and Turkpatent President Habip Asan signed the MoU. It will allow further work on a broad range of matters, including trademarks, designs, geographical indications, enforcement, and anticounterfeiting. INTA and Turkpatent look forward, in the frame of this MoU, to exchanging information, organizing joint events, advancing Turkpatent’s practices, and enhancing cooperation with other Turkish authorities with the support of the IP Office.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of this article, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

© 2021 International Trademark Association