INTA’s 2019 Leadership Meeting Delivers Inspiration for Brand Owners

Published: December 15, 2019

INTA’s 2019 Leadership Meeting took place from November 19 to 22 in Austin Texas, USA, offering registrants advanced-level educational programming and the opportunity to conduct business and network with colleagues from around the world. This four-day event encompassed substantive content and skills for in-house and private practice lawyers and brand owners, featuring a full range of intellectual property (IP) topics, including artificial intelligence, online counterfeiting, and the value of brands.

Here, members of the INTA Bulletins Committee cover some of the sessions they attended.

Welcome and Keynote Address

At the opening ceremonies on November 20, INTA CEO Etienne Sanz de Acedo welcomed registrants to Austin and introduced featured speaker Derrick Chubbs, President and CEO of the Central Texas Food Bank. Mr. Chubbs thanked the INTA members who earlier that day volunteered at the Food Bank and processed nearly 3,000 pounds of food-amounting to an amazing 10,760 meals at the Food Bank.

Registrants then heard some sobering statistics from Mr. Chubbs about the numbers and diversity of people who rely on the Food Bank every week. “The face of hunger is not what you think,” Mr. Chubbs explained, pointing out that even someone with a regular job might be in need of food assistance. In fact, many people are in the position of having to choose between medicines and food, or between housing and food. As he put it, it’s common to hear people saying, “I never thought I would be in line to get food from the Food Bank. I work every single day.”

Mr. Chubbs noted that operating the Central Texas Food Bank is “an exercise of logistics,” depending on the work of volunteers and on donations from a variety of sources, such as grocery stores, farms, manufacturers, distributors, and individual donations. Brands are also key factors in contributing to the cause. As Mr. Chubbs noted, companies that are also donors can incorporate their charitable giving into the culture of their brands. Mr Chubbs concluded aptly with a quote attributed to Arthur Ashe: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Mr. Sanz de Acedo used his time on the stage to reflect on the Association’s achievements from the past two years following the inception of the 2018‒2021 Strategic Plan. Particular highlights included the success of the Pro Bono Committee’s Trademark Clearinghouse and the ongoing outreach of the Unreal Campaign to educate young consumers about the value of trademarks and brands and the dangers of counterfeits. He also looked ahead to the next two years, highlighting some of the major future projects to be implemented. Next year, he noted, INTA will launch two studies, one into the impact of brand restrictions, and the other on in-house benchmarking.

In terms of the Strategic Plan overall, Mr. Sanz de Acedo noted that INTA had made excellent progress toward achieving its objectives of promoting the value of trademarks and brands, reinforcing consumer trust, and embracing innovation and change. Looking ahead, he also highlighted INTA’s new digital transformation plans as well as the main policy priorities for 2020‒2021.

Next, INTA President David Lossignol (Novartis Pharma AG, Switzerland) discussed the importance of volunteerism and how brands can be instrumental in helping to create a better society. Under Mr. Lossignol’s leadership, the Association established a Presidential Task Force titled “Brands for a Better Society,” which resulted in the creation of a new INTA committee dedicated to pursuing this objective. Mr. Lossignol also emphasized the Association’s corporate social responsibility activities, many of which have been infused into INTA’s educational programming.

Mr. Lossignol reminded attendees that INTA is a mission-driven and volunteer-run organization. He said that to volunteer is to offer to do something you are not obliged to do. Often, volunteering is part of a collective action working toward a common goal. A key INTA goal is to help brands operate more effectively to make the world a better place. He also stressed how the hard work of the Unreal Campaign had made great strides. “A world without counterfeits is not impossible,” he said, echoing his words from the Annual Meeting Opening Ceremony. “What we do contributes to building a better world.”

Mr. Lossignol concluded by honoring members of the INTA community with the Tomorrow’s Leader Award, the INTA Service Awards, and the President’s Award. Details on these awards are available here. INTA congratulates the winners on their significant achievements and dedication to the Association’s work.

Insights into Iancu v. Brunetti

Among the many educational sessions presented at the Leadership Meeting, INTA held a discussion that examined the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Iancu v. Brunetti. The Brunetti case was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2019. The Court found the clause in Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act prohibiting registration of “immoral” and “scandalous” marks to be viewpoint-based discrimination in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. A lively dialogue took place on November 20 between speakers Megan Carpenter (University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law, USA) and Brunetti counsel John R. Sommer (Stussy, Inc., USA).

The speakers discussed how the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has been addressing trademark applications that involve arguably immoral, scandalous, or disparaging marks post-Brunetti. Both speakers observed that the USPTO apparently is still refusing to register such marks based on the argument that the marks constitute “widely-used commonplace wording,” that allegedly do not function as a source indicator. They agreed that these refusals are “very dangerous to brand owners” because many famous marks are “common words,” such as APPLE and BEST BUY. Mr. Sommer noted that the USPTO’s use of the “widely-used commonplace wording” argument fails to consider a mark in the context of the goods and services with which the mark is used.

The panelists also covered other implications of the Brunetti decision, including whether the government could enact a narrower version of the “scandalous” clause, such as a clause prohibiting registration of marks that constitute profanity and whether the First Amendment allows an applicant to register a mark that criticizes a third party.

Leadership Lessons from South by Southwest

Hugh Forrest, Chief Programming Officer at South by Southwest (SXSW), delivered an engaging session titled “Leadership Lessons from the Emergence of South by Southwest: Austin’s Technology and Creative Arts Powerhouse.” SXSW is an American cultural institution founded in Austin in 1987, and Mr. Forrest was one of its first employees. As Mr. Forrest explained, the music, film, and tech event has grown to feature 1,500 sessions, showcasing 2,000 bands, musical events in 80 clubs, and 250 films; it draws 70,000 registrants from 100 countries, and injecting over $355 million into Austin’s economy. The session featured sizzle and promo reels highlighting SXSW’s 2020 lineups. “It took us a long time to establish this level of success,” Mr. Forrest said. “SXSW 2020 has literally taken us 30 plus years to build. If you take anything from this morning’s talk, this is it.”

Forrest provided five valuable leadership lessons gleaned from his years of experience at SXSW:

  • Building something big takes a long time.
  • Always embrace change.
  • Aggressively listen to your community.
  • Creativity is king.
  • Nothing compares to the power of face-to-face connections.

Forrest summed up SXSW as an event that most importantly draws people together, provides connections that people simply need, and which cannot be replaced by technology.

Fireside Chat with Shelly Lazarus, Chairman Emeritus, Ogilvy

Mr. Sanz de Acedo held an engaging “fireside chat” with esteemed advertising pundit Shelly Lazarus (Ogilvy, USA) November 21. The audience benefited from Ms. Lazarus’s extensive experience and profound insight of brands. She described herself as being inherently curious and experimental, with a love of producing creative thinking. She stressed the importance of how a leader is perceived, but pointed out that even more important is a leader’s self-awareness of her impact on others.

Ms. Lazarus highlighted the tremendous value of ideas, and stressed that it’s crucial to reduce these ideas to simple thoughts. She emphasized that there are no “crazy” ideas. In fact, she noted, her capacity to champion so-called crazy ideas is something that has helped make her creative work particularly enjoyable.

She went on to describe a brand as a kind of “data compressor,” because so much messaging goes into the creation and marketing of a brand. At the same time, truly strong brands have a strong emotional component, she pointed out. Therefore, she explaiend, good CEOs must feel and live their brands. In the end, she noted, what matters is not so much how a brand is perceived internally, but ultimately how it is viewed by the outside world. Moreover, it’s crucial for today’s brands to take a stance on political and social issues, and to make good choices in this regard. In conclusion, she encouraged female leaders to “love what they do and be authentic; be generous and decisive as leaders.”

INTA Influencers

On the final day of the Meeting, three of INTA’s experienced leaders shared their personal stories about their careers, experiences, and interests beyond trademarks. Video interviews with the INTA Influencers will be available soon via INTA’s e-Learning portal.

First up was INTA Past President J. Scott Evans (Adobe Inc., USA). He titled his presentation, “The Importance of Brands: From Your Favorite Brand to Your Personal Brand” and described the importance of building a personal brand. Mr. Evans pointed out that intention can be very different from our actual impact, which is by far the most important thing. He explained, “Most of the time we are the barriers to every desire or goal or objective we want.” As Mr. Evans noted, “You have to be a brand ambassador for yourself and part of that is remaining completely authentic even when nobody appreciates that authenticity.” He concluded his talk by inviting everyone to embrace their own personal brand, to be authentic in it, and to spread it as far as possible to make the world a better place.

Peter Dernbach (Winkler Partners, Taiwan), in his talk, “Growing a Brand as a Law Firm,” pointed out, “If we want to build a brand as a law firm, it’s got to get personal, and getting personal is going to be uncomfortable.” Mr. Dernbach mentioned that in his firm, integrating diversity and inclusion of different experiences has always been rooted in the company’s structure. “We want to simultaneously provide the best working environment for our colleagues, the best legal services for our clients, and the best possible contribution we can make to our community, within which we include the natural environment.” Using the analogy of a rooftop garden, Mr. Dernbach said, “Not everything is going to flourish, but each season brings new growth. Our job is to plant the seeds of what we really want to grow, tend the garden, take the action we need to maintain it and share it with clients, colleagues, and members of the community.”

Concluding the INTA Influencers session with a talk titled, “The Personal and Professional Transformation That INTA Makes Possible,” Shwetasree Majumder (Fidus Law Chambers, India) gave an overview of her career, explaining that she knew at a young age that she wanted to be an IP litigator. After graduation, she joined the most prestigious law firm in India, but ultimately decided to move on and become her own boss. “It didn’t matter how big or small that space was as long as it was my own.” She declared that she has come a long way and has grown to be “bolder, brighter, a risk-taker, but most importantly, willing to own myself.” While Ms. Majumder has spent 13 years serving on numerous INTA committees, she noted that being part of the INTA Board of Directors “was really the best insight into the organization’s global footprint and how it influences law and policy globally.” She concluded by sharing an inspiring message: “We shouldn’t be afraid to dream, to believe in that dream, and work together to translate that individual dream into reality.”

INTA’s 2020 Leadership Meeting will take place on November 3-6 in Miami, Florida, USA.

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.

© 2019 International Trademark Association