INTA CEO Etienne Sanz de Acedo Deems 2021 and 2022 ‘Exciting and Promising’

Published: January 12, 2022

Etienne Sanz de Acedo

Etienne Sanz de Acedo, INTA CEO (USA)

For each of us, personally and professionally, the transition from one year to the next is traditionally a time of reflection—to look back at the past 12 months and to look at what lies ahead. INTA CEO Etienne Sanz de Acedo gives much weight to this exercise, ardently recognizing that intelligence about 2021 underpins many of the Association’s operations, initiatives, events, and member experiences that will mark 2022 and even beyond.

Just before 2021 was about to conclude, Mr. Sanz de Acedo shared some thoughts with the INTA Bulletin on the Association’s past and future.

If you could describe 2021 for INTA in a few words, how would you do so?
Challenging, difficult, exciting, and promising. Those would be the four words I would use. It’s both what has happened in 2021, and what we might be able to achieve in the future.

Every INTA President, each year, brings something different to the Association. How would you characterize 2021 President Tiki Dare’s contributions in 2021?
I would say she’s been extremely personal. She’s been very close to the members, caring a lot about the members.

There are two aspects I would like to highlight about Tiki’s presidency. One, of course, is her Presidential Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion—which is so important. The other one is the President and CEO video calls, where she met with members from all around the world, probably around 30 or more different countries. In all, approximately 300 to 500 members had a chance to meet and interact in person with Tiki. She was very interested in knowing how members were doing, how their families and loved ones were doing, and she made every person in every meeting speak to her and speak to the others. I think that says a lot about Tiki.

And you were on those calls as well, so what was your takeaway? How is the INTA community doing?
Well, I think the INTA community is doing really well, but my intake from those calls was first that we have an extremely dedicated, committed, and loyal membership.


I think the INTA community is doing really well, but my intake from those calls was first that we have an extremely dedicated, committed, and loyal membership.

We have members really willing to support INTA. You could feel that, and the sense of us being a big family was reinforced even further during those calls. On top of that, as CEO, I got a lot of insights from the members, a lot of great ideas that we will try to implement for the future. So, the calls were extremely positive, and I would say very rewarding for Tiki, for myself, and for all INTA staff who participated on those calls.

In 2021, due to the ongoing pandemic, INTA pivoted for the second year in a row regarding the Annual Meeting—holding it as a Virtual+ event, on a virtual platform plus limited-attendance mini-conferences in select cities—rather than the traditional large in-person gathering. Were you pleased with the outcome and were there any lessons learned to be incorporated into future planning?
I think it went really well. From our members, all the feedback we got was extremely positive, both from a virtual and from an in-person perspective. For the [3,000 attendees] of the virtual Meeting, I think they got used to the technology, and they felt far more comfortable than in 2020, so the outcome was very positive. For those who attended one of the in-person events in Berlin, New York, or Los Angeles, I think they were thrilled to meet again, and they’re looking forward to doing that again at the [2022 Annual Meeting Live+].

To be honest, there were tons of lessons. First and foremost, health and safety. I think we did great at the in-person mini-conferences, and we’re going to keep the same procedures and protocols or even go a step further [in 2022], because we want everybody to feel absolutely safe and healthy at the in-person part of the Meeting. We also learned a lot about attendance at sessions, INTAconnect, Business Development, virtual networking, and even interactions with officials from all around the world. So, we received a lot of intelligence about this Meeting that is very helpful to start planning Meetings of the future.


The moment we announced the 2022 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., this time being a Live+, there was a lot of excitement around it.

In looking at the 2001 Annual Meeting Virtual+ survey results, one statistic that is very interesting is that a high percentage of respondents said that they would be attending the 2022 Annual Meeting in person or in-person and virtually, so that was good news.
Indeed, the moment we announced the 2022 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., this time being Live+, there was a lot of excitement around it. And in terms of preregistrations, more than 400 members preregistered, so that’s very promising indeed.

INTA, in 2021, also continued establishing itself as a thought leader—with the release of two reports, The Women’s LeadershIP Initiative and the Brand Restrictions Study: A View from Gen Zers and Millenials. What are your main takeaways?
There is so much information, so much intelligence in those reports that it’s very difficult for me to highlight any specific point. But I’m going to start with the latter. When it comes to brand restrictions, it was very interesting to understand the behavior of millennials and Gen Zers. They don’t think that plain packaging or the equivalent is the right solution to remove consumption of some kinds of products. They are also very attached to their own freedom of choice and liberty. And they do think that the existing information on the packaging of products is probably more than sufficient, so I think that’s a great lesson learned.

When it comes to The Women’s LeadershIP Initiative, I think we all agree, and that was confirmed by the workshops and the data, there is still a big gap, unfortunately, between men and women, and that’s a gap that we would like to get rid of within the IP ecosystem. It’s something that is very dear to our heart. I really want to thank both 2020 President Ayala Deutsch and 2021 President Tiki Dare because they’ve been really championing that cause. But that’s really something that should be an absolute priority for INTA. We want to be very diverse. We want to be absolutely inclusive and that means that there needs to be absolute parity from a gender, ethnicity, etc., [standpoint] within INTA and within the IP ecosystem.


We want to be very diverse. We want to be absolutely inclusive and that means that there needs to be absolute parity from a gender, ethnicity, etc., [standpoint] within INTA and within the IP ecosystem.

2021 also showed that, no matter what the circumstances, the Association will continue to focus on key policy issues. There was a lot of activity in terms of submissions, amicus briefs, and eight Board resolutions. All the Board resolutions are important, of course, but is there one that stood out?
Well, not really, but what really stood out is that it has been a record year in terms of resolutions passed by the Board of Directors. I think that says a lot about INTA. The other thing that is relevant is that all these resolutions are extremely different; we had resolutions regarding strengthening anticounterfeiting, protection of nontraditional marks, industrial designs, and we even revised the INTA Model Trademark Bill, which was looked at for the first time in the late 40s. So, it’s something that really shows that INTA has a history, a tradition. We are respectful of that, but we are also projecting ourselves into the future.

Moving to 2022, this marks the beginning of a new four-year Strategic Plan. What are the pillars of the 20222025 Strategic Plan?
There are three main pillars. The first one is promoting and reinforcing the value of trademarks and brands. The second is building a better society through brands, and the third one is really adding value to the members as individuals [professional development].

I think all three are equally important. We’re going to continue doing all the advocacy and policy work we’ve always done, and we’re going to strengthen that even further.

But now it’s time as well to look at ourselves, as key stakeholders in society. It’s about looking at our Women’s LeadershIP Initiative; diversity, equity, and inclusion; corporate social responsibility; ESG [environmental, social, and corporate governance]; and pro bono activities, so that we become good citizens. I think we already are, we’re already working on these issues, but now we’re kind of saying, “We want to be here, and we want to help others understand how important this is within the IP community.”

Concerning the last pillar, we’re a membership organization, we’re an organization of volunteers, and we’re committee-driven, but we also should bear in mind that there are individuals who work on a volunteer basis for INTA. It’s time for us to give back even more to those individuals.


We’re going to continue doing all the advocacy and policy work we’ve always done, and we’re going to strengthen that even further.

The start of a new Strategic Plan is always very exciting. I am especially looking forward to working with our 2022 President, Zeeger Vink, to carry out the Plan’s objectives, and, of course, on all other initiatives. He brings enormous expertise and insights, and a passion for our Association.

Speaking of membership, it is membership renewal time. Give me your elevator pitch. Why should someone continue to be a member?
I think there are three main reasons. The first one that everybody will understand is a financial one. When you want to attend the Annual Meeting it’s much better for you to renew your membership, because your costs [membership and registration for the Annual Meeting at the member rate] will be lower than just attending the Annual Meeting as a non-member.

When you think about it—and everything that goes with INTA membership—it’s really worth it to renew your membership, and to do it the sooner the better.

And now, what are the benefits as a member? Well, you do participate in the work of committees, so you are involved at the advocacy level at the Association. You get great opportunities to network, to do Business Development, to make friends and connections for life, and, last but not least, you get tons of information on what’s happening within the IP ecosystem—particularly looking into not only the legal issues, but the soft or dynamic skills and the future of intellectual property.

The last question reverts to the first question of this interview. As you look to 2022, how would you describe the year ahead?
For 2021, I talked about it being exciting and promising. That’s exactly the way I look at 2022. I think we always need to be optimistic. We’ve had very difficult years. We know that, and it’s perhaps not totally finished. But we have the right mindset. We have the right behavior. We need to be agile. We need to continue being resilient. We need to be relevant. And we need to be inclusive.

Watch part of the interview here.

Membership renewal is now underway. Registration for the 2022 Annual Meeting Live+ opens on January 19.

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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