INTA Annual Meeting Recap
INTA Annual Meeting Recap
From May 18th to May 24th, over 11,000 trademark practitioners from over 150 countries gathered at the Boston Convention Center for the biggest annual trademark event in the world: the International Trademark Association’s Annual Meeting. From trademark search agents and attorneys to marketing manager and CEOs, everyone with a passion for trademarks traveled to Boston for the Annual Meeting. This year, the Meeting’s central themes were Big Data and Cybersecurity, Anticounterfeiting, and Gen Z consumer trends. Those three themes are hot topics in trademark law, and were thoroughly discussed in group sessions, workshops, and even table discussions.
Big Data and Cybersecurity
Since the Meeting occurred exactly one year after the European Union’s roll-out of the Global Data Protection Regulations (“GDPR”), many sessions revolved around its impact on consumer brands and companies outside of the European Union. One of the first sessions on the topic even touched on privacy law regimes in Canada and the United States, and exciting developments in data protection in Brazil, India, and Japan. Most attorneys in the room agreed that there must be changed in cybersecurity, and that data protection is a 21st century human right.
However, the GDPR revolution came with significant changes in the legal field. For example, in one of the sessions touching on GDPR compliance, several attorneys expressed their concerns about obtaining information needed in litigation proceedings because of the strict regulations of the GDPR. Although the law only covers the European Union, the world is now interconnected through the internet, and the law has a global impact.
In terms of Big Data, several sessions touched on how law firms can use big data, and why they are not. The main source of confusion stemming from these sessions was that most attorneys do not know exactly what “big data” means, and therefore gloss over how it could positively affect their business. In a session led by Jayne Durden from CPA Global, attorneys from the U.S., Argentina and Finland explained that artificial intelligence, used hand-in-hand with big data, is actually frequently used in the trademark world – “from clearance and prosecution strategy, to policing, enforcement, and litigation.” In fact, big data, if used correctly, can generate significant profit increases due to time reductions in completing tasks and computer-level research accuracy.
Several sessions also touched on how attorneys can present the integration of big data to their law firms, without sounding too technical – or too scary. Overall, the theme of Big Data and Cybersecurity was debated thoroughly throughout the meeting, presenting the pros and cons of the current virtual revolution.
With the dramatic increase of the Chinese counterfeit market, many sessions touched on counterfeiting and its impact on brands and trademark owners. In fact, in order to combat this epidemic, INTA promoted its Unreal Campaign, an initiative seeking to educate students from all over the world on counterfeit goods. Since the launch of the campaign, INTA has reached over 40,000 students from North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. At the Meeting, INTA unveiled the Unreal Campaign Challenge, encouraging trademark professionals to pledge to conduct educational workshops for students in their area. But what exactly is this infamous counterfeit outbreak?
Since the spread of e-commerce websites, counterfeit goods are more readily available than ever before, and it can be difficult for consumers to differentiate between real and fake products. In China, counterfeiting has become such a big problem that the government recently announced a new e-commerce law targeting the counterfeit market. This is a big issue for brand tarnishment, as consumers who are unaware that they are purchasing counterfeit goods expect a certain level of quality from brands.
So, how can brands can prevent the sale of fake goods through anticounterfeiting efforts on the internet? Well, sessions mostly focused on developing an anticounterfeiting policy on e-commerce websites, as well as joining the Unreal Campaign to encourage the youth to shop directly from a brand’s website, instead of going through an intermediate platform. Overall, INTA stressed the importance of combating counterfeiting on and offline, and the role of attorneys in ensuring this change.
Generation Z Consumer Trends
By 2020, Generation Z is set to be the largest consumer demographic in the entire world, and this generation is different from any other current market. The week before the Annual Meeting, INTA released a report on Gen Z market trends and their relationship with counterfeit products. The report surveyed thousands of members of this group throughout 10 countries: Argentina, China, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, and the United States.
Although the results of the study differed depending on the country, the main trends were uniform throughout: (1) Gen Z consumers are much more likely to purchase from brands that they believe in, rather than simply for convenience and a good price, (2) most of the consumers surveyed said that they have purchased counterfeit products in the past year, and (3) these consumers care the most about their environmental impact.
These seemingly inconsistent takeaways were unpacked in the Gen Z Insights: Brands and Counterfeit Products session, explaining that Gen Z consumers would much rather purchase sustainable, ethical, vegan and cruelty-free products developed by local brands, but that they are aware of the price jump associated with such good quality. Since this consumer group is composed of people aged 22 and younger, the affordability aspect is crucial in developing a Gen Z-approved brand. The speakers on the panel stressed the importance of keeping the general buying public in mind when developing a product.
Departing from the biggest slice of the Gen Z discussions, a few sessions also touched on fan works, specifically fan fiction. Having grown up in a world of fan fiction, Gen Z fans consider this art to go hand-in-hand with the original art, however creators of the original art are often quick to protect their intellectual property rights by banning or removing fan fictions or other derivative works from the internet.
In the session Understanding Consumer and Brand Owner Reactions to “Fan Works,” faculty from different university programs in the United States discussed that there must be a middle ground between the protection of intellectual property and promoting thoughtful and relevant derivative art. For example, fans often draw their favorite characters as members of an underrepresented group in order to promote representation in the media. This social impact, coupled with the ingrained fan fiction culture in Gen Z, signals that brand owners and fans should have open discussions about the realities of creating art in the 21st century.
Overall, these three topics took center-stage in most of the sessions held at the Annual Meeting. Other topics discussed included online advertising, managing new IP technologies in law firms, a career development day for students, conversations with USPTO leadership, and more. With the Annual Meeting gathering over 11,000 trademark professionals, there was a topic for everyone to enjoy and learn about. Next year, INTA will be gathering in Singapore for its next Annual Meeting, and as the trademark world is ever changing with new technologies and a new market, the schedule for the meeting will likely be just as promising as this year’s.
 INTA ANNUAL MEETING, Schedule By Day, https://www.inta.org/2019Annual/Program/Pages/Schedule-by-Day.aspx (last visited Jun. 4, 2019, 4:47 PM ET)
 INTA, The Unreal Campaign, https://www.inta.org/Advocacy/Pages/UnrealCampaign.aspx (last visited Jun. 4, 2019, 5:00 PM ET)
 INTA, Gen Z Insights: Brands and Counterfeit Products, Comprehensive Global Report, p. 3-6 (2019)