Boston Beckons: The Inside Scoop on the 2019 Annual Meeting


Get ready for five days of action-packed educational programs and networking opportunities! INTA 2019 Annual Meeting Co-Chairs share their thoughts on some of the best and brightest aspects of the event—the world’s largest gathering of global brand professionals.

During the next five days, more than 11,000 brand professionals from 150+ countries will descend on Boston for INTA’s 141st Annual Meeting. Registrants will take advantage of 300+ educational offerings, including general sessions, Table Topics, and workshops that cover a wealth of relevant intellectual property (IP) and related business topics. Opportunities to meet with like-minded professionals will abound at numerous receptions and networking events. Registrants will be able to meet with clients and colleagues on site and explore one of the United States’ oldest cities.

As co-chairs of the 2019 Annual Meeting Project Team, Cynthia Walden, Principal at Fish & Richardson P.C. (USA) and Ronald Van Tuijl, Intellectual Property Trade Marks Director at JTI (Switzerland) are fully prepared for—and excited about—this year’s gathering. 

Here, Ms. Walden and Mr. van Tuijl share their insights on how the Annual Meeting can empower registrants to face the present and future challenges of the IP industry.

What are some of the most pressing issues facing brand professionals in 2019—and how are these being addressed at the Annual Meeting?

Cynthia (Cindy) Walden: Counterfeiting, especially its prevalence on e-commerce sites, continues to be a pernicious issue for brand owners. There is an all-day Anticounterfeiting Workshop [exclusive to in-house practitioners and government officials] on Saturday—just as the Meeting gets going—that will provide an excellent opportunity to learn about the latest strategies and techniques and to share experiences and best practices.

The opportunity to meet people in person at the Annual Meeting has on several occasions given me the chance to talk through an issue with a competitor and to settle matters that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.”- RVJ

There are also sessions relating to anticounterfeiting in China, and policing and identification of counterfeiting on e-commerce platforms. Other important emerging issues such as augmented reality and virtual reality, big data, blockchain, 4-D printing, and millennial consumerism will also be covered. 

Ronald Van Tuijl: I concur with Cindy. For me, with my global responsibility in a multinational corporation, what stands out are the sessions that give updates on case law, jurisdictional updates on regions, and industry updates—as well as those that give broader coverage in terms of the area or topic that they are discussing. 

A particular favorite of mine is a Lunch and Learn session about personal branding, which takes place on Monday. I think it’s increasingly important that brand professionals really know who they are—that they know how to market themselves, that they’re true to themselves, and that they understand how they come across—and really make that a part of their personal and career development. 

How have you benefitted from attending INTA’s Annual Meetings in the past?

RVJ: The opportunity to meet people in person at the Annual Meeting has on several occasions given me the chance to talk through issues with a competitor and to settle matters that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. The Annual Meeting has given me the opportunity to meet great IP professionals—some of whom I’m still working with today. In fact, I was introduced by mutual friends at the Annual Meeting to someone who later became my boss. 

What are some of the unique benefits of holding this event in Boston?

CW: Boston offers a unique combination of old and new. It’s full of history, architecture, and esteemed academic institutions dating back hundreds of years. But it’s also a city of innovation. There has been so much change and progress. It’s not just the home of esteemed academic institutions such as Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), but it is also the home of innovative companies, cultural institutions, and an incredible food scene. 

The neighborhood around the convention center is currently undergoing a revival. It’s also right on the water with amazing views and vast green spaces for walking and jogging. There is something for everyone, and many interesting things to do and sights to see.

What are some of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives this year at the Annual Meeting, and how do they align with INTA’s 2018–2021 Strategic Plan?

CW: Today, companies are more conscious than ever about their role in making a difference in the world. We want to set an example, and also create opportunities for business professionals to give back to the community. 

The programming this year incorporates various ways to do that through charitable events and initiatives. One is the Bikes for Kids event on Saturday, where [preregistered] participants will help to assemble bikes, which are then donated to kids in need. It’s a wonderful team-building event and also a really fun activity. 

Among other initiatives, we’ll also be holding a volunteer service day for those who want to participate in The Greater Boston Food Bank effort. The Annual Meeting also offers some excellent programming focusing on this important issue.  

RVJ: On the educational front, several sessions will address CSR from different vantage points. There’s a noteworthy session, Brand Protection and the Intersection of Trademarks, Advertising, and Corporate Social Responsibility, that talks about how your CSR disclosures impact your brand—particularly with respect to environmental, social, and health issues. All of these CSR offerings at the Annual Meeting are about giving back and being socially responsible. They also help to build consumer trust, one of the pillars of INTA’s Strategic Plan. 

Today’s young consumers are increasingly demanding that a brand be authentic and socially responsible. If the brand is not authentic, they will simply not buy their products because they don’t trust the brand. As brand professionals, all of us are, in a way, guardians of brands. And brands are increasingly owned by consumers, and shaped by consumers and their expectations. So social responsibility is squarely within our role.  

Changing demographics, emerging technologies, and the rising influence of younger consumers are key factors affecting the work of today’s brand professionals. How are these issues covered in the educational program?

CW: There’s a whole new generation of consumers coming into the marketplace relying almost entirely on digital technology. So there is an imperative to really focus on and maximize the innovative use of technology when it comes to how companies market, advertise, and render their services. 

There’s an interesting session on artificial intelligence that I think will be really relevant to both long-time and younger practitioners who are getting into the industry. There’s also an industry breakout session on blockchain that will discuss how things will be marketed, and I think this will increasingly relate to trademark issues in the marketplace. 

RVJ: We’re looking forward to the findings of INTA’s new study, “Gen Z Insights: Brands and Counterfeit Products,” which will address insights into Gen Z [those born in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s] and their relationships with brands. As practitioners, we tend to see innovations such as virtual reality and augmented reality as disruptive technologies and initially approach them as threats to IP. But from a Gen Z perspective, these are considered perfectly normal and part of their lives. 

As professionals, I think it’s important that we find a way to make sure that we, as always, enforce, defend, and protect our trademarks as we have historically done—but adapt to the new expectations of Gen Z.

What can registrants gain from taking advantage of all the aspects of the Annual Meeting beyond the programmed sessions? 

RVJ: I personally enjoy the In-House Practitioners’ Idea Exchange, which is not limited to a specific subject. Practitioners talk about a wide range of topics, from case law updates to personal branding, from designs to geographical indications to trademarks. 

The range is very broad, so there is something for everyone. Many of the topics addressed can really help you develop yourself and your career in the broad sense, even beyond IP knowledge. 

CW: I think the way to get the most out of the meeting is really to dive in and take advantage of all the offerings, such as the Lunch and Learn sessions. There are also Table Topics where you can sign up for a subject that interests you and have breakfast or lunch with an expert and your peers. It’s a very interactive opportunity, and you can share experiences and engage in a group discussion on a smaller scale than sitting in a big conference room.

The Exhibition Hall always has great vendors with new things to show and talk about. And then of course we have the Industry Breakouts and a whole host of receptions, including some for in-house practitioners, and some for students.

"There is an imperative to really focus on and maximize the innovative use of technology when it comes to how companies market, advertise, and render their services." CW

What advice do you have for young practitioners and first-time registrants joining us in Boston?

RVJWe’ve all had our first INTA Annual Meeting experience. And I’ve met many people who really took the time to make sure that the Annual Meeting was a positive experience for me. So my advice is—don’t be shy, talk to people, introduce yourself, and ask any questions you may have while you’re there. 

But also, be prepared. Look at the educational and networking opportunities ahead of time, because once you’re there it can be overwhelming. I also strongly recommend first-timers attend the First-Time Orientation and Reception Saturday afternoon. 

CW: Have a game plan. Roll up your sleeves and dive in. Take advantage of the opportunities to hear and to learn from the experts. There are so many esteemed practitioners, academics, judges, and other industry experts from around the world who will be there.

For example, officials from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the Copyright Office will be there doing a session. We have an international panel of judges. There will be many, many people there. It is a rare and exciting opportunity to hear what they have to say and ask questions. 

So put yourself out there. Go to the programs. Engage in the networking events—and really try to stretch yourself and learn something new.  

INTA19, workshops, networking, IP professionals, anti-counterfeiting, e-commerce, VR, big data, blockchain, MIT, CSR, digital technology, brands, GI, USPTO