Game Changer: An Interview with the INTA Annual Meeting Virtual+ Co-Chairs

Published: July 14, 2021

INTA’s 2021 Annual Meeting Virtual+, taking place from November 15 to 19, is a unique hybrid format of virtual education and Business Development programming coupled with consecutive one-day in-person mini-conferences in four cities around the world: Hong Kong SAR, China; New York, New York, USA; Berlin, Germany; and Los Angeles, California, USA.

Registration for members opened today, July 14.

In a reflection of the disruptive times the world has seen over the last 18 months, the co-chairs of the 2021 Annual Meeting Virtual+ along with a dedicated project team have been working to bring this Meeting to fruition for nearly two years. The Meeting has evolved like the times, striking a balance of the personal and professional, and of virtual and in-person interaction and learning.

In an interview with the INTA Bulletin, the 2021 Annual Meeting Project Team Co-Chairs Diane Lau (Facebook, Inc., USA) and Lorenzo Litta (BrandIT, Switzerland) talk about why registering early is beneficial, the hybrid format, the new track-per-day educational programming, and the robust and varied Business Development opportunities.

Ms. Lau is lead paralegal at Facebook, Inc. in Menlo Park, California, USA. She is a brand professional with more than 15 years of experience in private practice and in-house at global brands. At Facebook, she is a member of the Brands & Marketing Legal team where she manages trademark clearance, prosecution, and maintenance of global trademark portfolios for Instagram and Facebook Reality Labs brands and works with the business team on multifaceted B2B and consumer marketing campaigns. Ms. Lau has been an active member of INTA since 2012 and has served on various committees, was co-chair of both the 2015 TMAP (Trademark Administrators and Practitioners) Meeting and 2018 Brands & Innovation Conference, and currently serves on the INTA Board of Directors.

Mr. Litta is chief business officer and legal counsel at BrandIT GmbH, in Zurich, Switzerland. He has been a partner and of counsel at several intellectual property (IP) law firms in Rome, Italy. Mr. Litta is active at the European Union Intellectual Property Office as a member of the EU Observatory Outreach Expert Group and Public Awareness Working Group. He has been an active INTA volunteer and was recognized in 2016 with the INTA Voluntary Service Award for the Advancement of the Association. Since 2010, he has served on numerous committees. Mr. Litta is currently chair of the Unreal Campaign Committee and has been involved in the project teams for other INTA events, including the 2018 Annual Meeting, the Brands and Sports Conference, the Brands, Sports and Esports Conference, and the 2014 Geographic Names Conference, where he served as conference co-chair.

Why is the hybrid format a perfect approach for an Annual Meeting at this moment?
Lorenzo Litta (LL): I would consider the time in which we are living. The hybrid approach allows members to take advantage of the virtual format, that was largely appreciated at the Annual Meeting & Leadership Meeting last year, and at the same time, there is the possibility to reconnect and network, participating in the mini-conferences in Hong Kong, New York, Berlin, and Los Angeles. It is of course of the utmost importance to protect the registrants’ health and to create a safe environment for networking events.

Diane Lau (DL): We’ve all been living through this pandemic for a while now, and it’s clear that people are itching to meet up in person. This was echoed in the results of an Association survey—people want to meet, in small groups. Given the ever-evolving nature of the pandemic, every day is a different day and it varies by region. But by having these mini-conferences in select cities, it’s allowing some of those who are more comfortable and who are vaccinated to have the opportunity to meet up in person. I think a lot of people are really excited about the mini-conferences.


It is of the utmost importance to protect the registrants’ health and to create a safe environment for networking events .—Lorenzo Litta

There are multiple registration tiers for the 2021 Annual Meeting Virtual+, including Premium Access which is open now for members. Why should members register early?
LL: If you want to attend a mini-conference you have to be quick, since the number of people who can actually attend the mini-conferences is limited. So, first-come, first-served.

DL: In the virtual programming, there is also limited attendance for workshops, Idea Exchanges, Table Topics, and some social networking opportunities, so people should register to secure their spot early.

Last year INTA hosted a fully virtual Annual Meeting & Leadership Meeting for the first time, and the feedback from participants was overall very positive. What were some of the most valuable lessons from that Meeting and from the past year–and–a half of the pandemic that the Project Team has taken forward into preparing for the 2021 Annual Meeting?
DL: I think one of the biggest lessons is that change is constant and even more so in the current times. We and our Project Team have transformed the program to help us respond to this new format so we can cater to as many registrants’ needs as possible!

LL: Having learned from the Annual Meeting & Leadership Meeting last year and from the Leadership Meeting in May, we understand that it is important to have dynamic sessions and speakers and create more opportunities for registrants to connect through our Business Development activities or catch up with friends at INTA Café, our virtual hospitality space. We also learned that we have to create an experience for the registrants. It’s really important to have a different approach and to offer something that is not necessarily expected so as to keep the right pace throughout the program.


I think the single track per day is really going to be a game changer and hopefully will help people’s scheduling.—Diane Lau

How will the 2021 Annual Meeting reflect and build on traditional INTA events?
LL: I can speak based on my own experience. I tried to take advantage as much as I could of the virtual Annual Meeting & Leadership Meeting last November, trying to be set up in the Eastern Time Zone of the United States, even though I’m based in Europe, and to be focused on the Annual Meeting as if I was there in person—trying to do what was necessary, like scheduling tons of meetings, participating in the networking sessions, and going to the hospitality area. I had the possibility to meet many colleagues, friends, and clients from all over the world, catching up with them in the different spaces of the platform.

As a consequence of the pandemic, what we’ve been experiencing has been seriously changing and forcing us to think differently. In any case, our goal has always been trying to create an experience for the registrants, whether offline or online.

For sure, we cannot say that the virtual event is the same thing as an in-person event. We have to be conscious that the pandemic forced us to live in a different way. But having considered that, the platform that INTA put together is a really good alternative to enjoy and experience a new kind of Annual Meeting.

DL: [Like] the traditional INTA Annual Meetings, there’s still the great educational content, there’s plenty of networking opportunities, and there are the workshops that we often offer. Instead of the TMA [Trademark Administrators] brunch we will have the Idea Exchanges. We will still have the Anticounterfeiting Workshop, and the corporate meetings as well. We’re offering virtually a lot of the popular offerings that we used to have in person, so I think we are holding true to the same offerings but in a different format.

LL: The virtual platform gives you the possibility to follow every single educational session because most educational sessions will be available on demand for a while after the event. At the same time, the on-demand availability is a good opportunity to listen again to some sessions that you might have missed.

The 2021 Annual Meeting will feature five days of educational programming, one track of programming per day. Why were these topics selected, and how do they cover what brand professionals need now?
LL: The first important thing is the fact that, different from any other meeting, we will have one topic track every day. I think that this is a big revolution. If you are really interested in a topic, you don’t have to go squeezing it into the different days. For instance, if you want the regional updates—and it’s always a very popular topic—you know that Friday is your day. So, then on Friday, maybe you can try to have your day free of events, free of meetings with clients, and you can just focus on following the sessions.


We have one topic track every day. I think that this is a big revolution.—Lorenzo Litta

DL: I’m particularly excited about the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) sessions [part of the Building a Better Society Through Brands track] and the Business of Brands track, as well as the Innovation and the Future of IP track, which covers fintech [financial technology] and VR [virtual reality]. These are emerging technologies that we’re all still curious about and learning, so I’m looking forward to hearing more about them. I think the single track per day is really going to be a game changer and hopefully will help people’s scheduling.

INTA is making great strides in addressing issues related to DEI. How does this theme come into play in a lasting way at the Annual Meeting?
DL: We were really conscious about involving people who are really passionate about DEI, as we wanted to give them the opportunity to lead these sessions and tracks because we know that they can offer so much to the entire program. It started from the planning process of putting the team together, and then they came up with these great session ideas which are highlighting not just the topic of DEI but diverse groups too— minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, small- and medium-sized enterprises, and perspectives of different countries.

DEI is such an important topic for the Association, the world, everybody, so I’m excited to hear from our panelists on those sessions. We’re bringing variety to the topic. It’s a hot topic here in the U.S., but it’s also relevant to everyone in the world. I’m hoping the panelists will help highlight DEI efforts around the globe since we have such a global membership.

LL: DEI values have always been omnipresent, not only at the Annual Meeting, but in every INTA event, simply because these are core values of the Association.

What is your advice for making the best of the virtual opportunities?
LL: Don’t think that because it’s virtual that you don’t have the possibility to speak about the same topics you would have spoken about in person. Also consider the advantages: you can easily move from one meeting to another. You can potentially meet more people in a virtual environment, since as we learned in these 18 months, meetings can be 30 minutes or less. So the overall logistics are way easier.

My advice: Don’t think that it’s a normal work week, because if you look at it in that way, then you’re not going to take full advantage of the opportunity. Be present, with your brain, with your energy, with your thoughts, just as you would have done at an in-person Annual Meeting!


We were really conscious about involving people who are really passionate about DEI.—Diane Lau

DL: As Lorenzo said, be engaged and take advantage of those opportunities that are being offered. There are committee happy hours, community networking, Corporate Table Topics, the INTAcafé, INTAconnect, the Pet Corner, social networking, Speed Networking, Table Topics, and virtual receptions. There’s also Corporate Circle, where in-house folks from various industries can get together and meet others who they typically wouldn’t meet. Take advantage to expand your network. If you’re not making the time for these Business Development opportunities, then you’re going to lose out on a lot of great networking opportunities.

LL: The combination of the various Business Development sessions is unique. If you want to connect with someone, consider all the different options.

As a registrant of INTA’s recent virtual events, what are you most looking forward to from the virtual experience?
DL: For me—I think we’ve all seen this—in the virtual format, the engagement online through the live chat during the sessions has been really awesome. Typically at an in-person meeting, you go to live sessions and you’re likely not talking to the person next to you, saying, “Wow that’s a great point” or “What that person just said really resonated with me.” Now, this discussion is being done virtually, and I, for one, love seeing that engagement through the live chat.

Why is the 2021 Annual Meeting the must-attend event of this year?
DL: The programming has been thoughtfully curated to a point where we hope people would be really looking forward to each of those sessions and the topics that have been chosen. We strived to make them different from other sessions we’ve seen, from other meetings and conferences.

LL: We tried to combine the legal aspects with the business aspects and the tech aspects. It’s a unique approach. We didn’t just focus on the legal things; we didn’t want to create the Meeting just for IP attorneys. We wanted to create an event for brand professionals, including attorneys, non-attorneys, marketing people that deal with IP, and so on. In my opinion, it’s a meeting that is open to all. This is what INTA wants to be: the reference Association for brand professionals, not only trademark attorneys.

Registration for INTA’s 2021 Annual Meeting Virtual+ is  open now through October 29. You must register first for the virtual Meeting before you can register for one or more of the in-person mini-conferences.

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.

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