Inside INTA’s U.S. Advocacy
Published: March 2, 2022
More than 3,200 registrants from 100+ countries globally have already signed up for the 2022 Annual Meeting Live+, which takes place virtually and in Washington, D.C., April 30–May 4. Working from INTA’s Washington, D.C., Representative Office, Director of Government Relations, Jennifer Simmons, oversees the Association’s advocacy with the U.S. government. With delegates from around the world preparing to descend on the capital next month, Ms. Simmons sat down with the INTA Bulletin to shed some light on how INTA interacts with U.S. policymakers and advances its policy agenda on Capitol Hill.
In an INTA Bulletin update from your office last month, you identified INTA’s policy priorities for the United States in 2022. How does INTA engage with policymakers on these issues?
Here in the United States, we work primarily with members of Congress and their staff. We draw strongly on INTA Board Resolutions as well as input from our many amazing committee members to articulate and explain our various policy positions. We also interact frequently with government agencies on topics of importance to our members. For example, we recently presented INTA’s top issues to the USPTO’s IP Attachés, and we’ve explored the high-profile fraud issues plaguing trademark filings at the USPTO. We’ve also worked with the U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration to present our views on upcoming engagements.
Additionally, we often collaborate with other intellectual property (IP) associations when our interests align. This is helpful when we want to raise our voices around issues of major concern. For instance, I routinely speak with new foreign service officers at the U.S. State Department, along with other IP organizations, to highlight important trademark and counterfeiting issues that might arise while they are at post. Likewise, we work with groups sharing our viewpoints on pending bills in Congress to strengthen our message, and we explore and coordinate our positions during quarterly calls with the other IP associations.
Of course, we engage in any discussions in Congress that directly relate to IP, but we also look for opportunities to explain the impact of other issues on IP, brands, and consumers. Oftentimes, it may simply be a matter of raising the profile of IP on Capitol Hill as well as making our presence known and letting congressional staff know that we’re at their disposal. This is how we gain traction and build influence. For example, during the height of the pandemic, INTA cohosted a virtual event with the Congressional Trademark Caucus (CTC) focusing on counterfeits during the time of COVID-19. Members of Congress, U.S. State Department, the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Division of the Department of Justice, 3M Company, USA, and Johnson & Johnson, USA spoke at this event, drawing the largest attendance for any CTC event to date.
We draw strongly on INTA Board Resolutions as well as input from our many amazing committee members to articulate and explain our various policy positions.
You mention the CTC. INTA played a role in establishing this Caucus in 2014. Please briefly explain the role of the CTC within the U.S. government, how it advances IP on the Hill, and how INTA interacts with the Caucus.
In the U.S. government, a congressional caucus is a group of members of Congress who have come together to pursue shared goals. The formation of the CTC was a major accomplishment and plays a pivotal role in raising the profile of trademarks on Capitol Hill.
The CTC highlights the importance of trademarks to global commerce and plays a role in creating public policy dialogues on the responsibilities of state and federal governments and brand owners in combating counterfeit goods in the marketplace. The CTC speaks to other members of Congress and their staff, the media, and the public.
The CTC is dedicating its efforts to unite the private sector, consumers, and government agencies, and other stakeholders around important trademark issues that negatively impact consumers, brand owners, economic growth, and national security.
Over the years, the CTC has conducted numerous education and outreach events. INTA is pleased to host these events on behalf of the CTC. Last December, for example, we co-hosted the 6th Annual CTC Briefing (virtually) on “Consumer Shopping Tips to Safeguard Against Counterfeit Products During the Holiday Shopping Season.” This presentation featured the U.S. State Department, U.S. Department of Justice, and private sector efforts to stem the tide of counterfeit products in the marketplace
The CTC has four co-chairs, two from each major party. The current co-chairs are Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL), Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX).
And then there is the INTA PAC. What is it and what role does it play?
The INTA PAC is our nonpartisan political action committee. PACs are common in the U.S. They are usually formed around specific issues and are used to raise funds that are then donated to specific campaigns and political candidates.
The INTA PAC was created to amplify brand owners’ voices and perspectives in the political process. It contributes to incumbents in Congress, based on their positions on significant IP issues.
Effective advocacy depends on creating relationships with members of Congress who share our values and principles, including the importance of strong brand protection.
Effective advocacy depends on creating relationships with members of Congress who share our values and principles, including the importance of strong brand protection. The INTA PAC complements the work of the Association and provides additional ways for members to get involved in the political process.
I should note that the INTA PAC hosts a reception at every Annual Meeting. We’re thrilled that Congressman Deutch will be joining us at this year’s INTA PAC Reception, which takes place on May 2. It’s virtual, so it’s easy for eligible INTA members who are registered for the Annual Meeting to join. Congressman Deutch will make remarks and answer our questions.
A recent and major advocacy effort for INTA went into the Trademark Modernization Act (TMA), which the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) implemented in December 2021. What are some of the key changes the TMA brings to trademark registration procedures? And how do these changes align with INTA’s comments on the draft TMA?
Significantly, INTA advocated for inclusion of the rebuttable presumption of irreparable harm to be included in the TMA, and we are very pleased to see that now in the law. The TMA is a big deal for all INTA members with business in the U.S. Indeed, the USPTO implemented numerous changes from its proposed rule which INTA advocated for in our comments. Let me touch on three of the most important of these changes.
Firstly, the TMA authorized the USPTO to set flexible Office Action response periods, between 60 days and six months, with options for extensions. INTA advocated for a response period of three months, with one three-month extension option for a $125 fee. The Office agreed with this position. The USPTO also delayed the implementation date for the three-month response time to December 1, 2022, in light of INTA’s concerns regarding the impact on trademark owners’ docketing systems and IT changes the USPTO will need to make to its own systems.
Secondly, the TMA also required the USPTO to implement regulations relating to the new ex parte expungement and reexamination proceedings, under which any party may seek cancellation of registrations for unused marks in whole or in part. Petitions must meet a “reasonable investigation” standard for alleging lack of use. The Office’s proposed rules required registrants to respond with rebuttal evidence within two months of an Office Action (issued by the USPTO). Because trademark owners may experience difficulty in gathering use evidence, particularly for extensive goods and services, INTA advocated for a longer, three-month deadline. The final rules reflect this three-month response deadline with a one-month extension available for a $125 fee. INTA advocated for a reasonable filing fee that was not low enough to encourage abusive filings, or too high to dissuade filings. The $400 fee achieved these goals.
And thirdly, INTA supported the Office’s proposal not to require a petition for expungement or reexamination to identify the real party in interest, but also suggested that the USPTO may eventually find that such information may be appropriate. The USPTO reflected this reasoning in the final rule, which gives the director discretion to require identification of the real party in interest.
[W]e engage in any discussions in Congress that directly relate to IP, but we also look for opportunities to explain the impact of other issues on IP, brands, and consumers.
How has the pandemic affected INTA’s interactions and advocacy with the U.S. government?
As I’m sure has been the case for many organizations and how they interact with their stakeholders, the pandemic presented challenges but also opportunities. The same can be said for INTA and our engagement with the U.S. government.
In short, we did not lose a beat during the pandemic! We quickly pivoted from in-person to virtual advocacy. We did well to leverage this “simpler” way of engagement; there is no travel time, and it’s easier to gather relevant officials. As a result, we were able to take more meetings with government officials than we did pre-pandemic. What’s more, there are more opportunities for our members to connect with government officials and participate in our advocacy. That’s actually a perk of going virtual!
Nevertheless, we very much look forward to meeting in person with our friends on the Hill, and as we emerge from the pandemic, we plan to take advantage of both in-person and virtual advocacy opportunities.
As a long-time Washington, D.C., local, what insider tips do you have for Annual Meeting registrants as they prepare for the week in the U.S. capital?
Our timing should be good to catch the blooming of the cherry blossoms. It’s an incredibly beautiful sight and good reason to take a walk. These trees were a gift from Japan to the city of Washington, D.C., more than a century ago. They grow in three park locations: The Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, East Potomac Park, and on the grounds of the Washington Monument.
Washington, D.C., is a very walkable city with so much to see and do on foot. Even though I’ve worked in the city for many years, I still enjoy walking around the National Mall, sampling from the many food trucks lining the streets, as well as visiting the Smithsonian museums.
And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite museum, which I think I may enjoy most being a lawyer. This is the Planet Word Museum, which provides an immersive experience and brings words and language to life. To paraphrase the famous quote, “Language is a lawyer’s stock-in-trade!”
I really can’t wait to welcome INTA members and other stakeholders from around the world to this amazing city. It really is a great host city for an Annual Meeting, and I’m sure everyone is going to have a fantastic time.
Early-bird registration for the 2022 Annual Meeting Live+ (in person + virtual) closes Friday, March 4, 11:59 pm (EST). Learn more about the Meeting and register.
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.
© 2022 International Trademark Association
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