Seeing the Bigger Picture


INTA must continue to embrace issues both inside and outside the traditional trademark realm while interacting with as many different stakeholder groups as possible, says INTA CEO Etienne Sanz de Acedo in an interview with Sarah Morgan.

Etienne Sanz de Acedo, INTA’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), looks at the IP landscape with an expansive view—one that is intensely global and spreads beyond trademark professionals to incorporate multiple audiences. 

“In strengthening intellectual property rights, we should be not only targeting our own members, but looking to other stakeholders who are concerned about the policies we advocate, such as policymakers, enforcement officials, and consumers,” he says.

It is with this in mind that the Association has structured and begun implementing its new 2018-2021 Strategic Plan. 

The plan has three core pillars: promoting the value of trademarks and brands, reinforcing consumer trust, and embracing innovation and change.

Discussing the first pillar, Mr. Sanz de Acedo notes that INTA must demonstrate the value of IP if it wants to combat a growing anti-IP sentiment, which is manifested in brand restriction initiatives, for example. 

“It’s extremely important for us to show the value of brands within companies as well as to society at large and to policymakers,” he adds. 

To do this, the Association’s Board of Directors in March approved the creation of a Brand Value Special Task Force. It will examine this complex topic by investigating what brand value means and the different methodologies that can be used to test it, and by identifying what role INTA can play in the conversation. 

“Companies do not talk about trademarks—they talk about brands, and we need to speak their language,” adds Mr. Sanz de Acedo. 

While CEOs are by definition protective of the brands they oversee, this does not always translate into allocating enough budget for IP teams and brand protection. 

Mr. Sanz de Acedo cautions: “It might be the case that we, as IP professionals, need to do a better job in terms of showing the value of the work we do for companies. IP departments should not be perceived as an expense, but rather as a revenue stream.”

This also links with the Association’s second pillar of reinforcing consumer trust—the Brand Value Special Task Force’s mission is to research the materials needed to explain brand value to stakeholders, professionals, and consumers.  

Beyond this, INTA’s goal is to reinforce that trademarks enable consumers to make quick, confident, and safe purchasing decisions based on factual, verifiable information. “Myths and loss of trust among consumers also feed anti-IP sentiment, and we need to refute that,” the CEO declares.

Also this year, INTA established the 2018 Presidential Task Force—Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Entrepreneurs which will focus on identifying the interests, needs, and characteristics of small and medium-sized enterprises and entrepreneurs. 

“This effort also reverts to value. SMEs need to understand the value of protecting IP early on in order to succeed later on,” Mr. Sanz de Acedo says. Next year, the Task Force will propose a set of recommendations and actions to the INTA Board. 

The CEO states: “We want to give them enough time to be deep in their analysis. It’s essential that we do something that is robust in terms of analysis and strategy.”

The Wider View

Looking to the future, Mr. Sanz de Acedo asks: “How is the world going to look five years from now? What about in 10 years? How do we see brands evolving? How will the role of IP counsel and firms evolve in the future?” 

The future outlook is keenly reflected in the Strategic Plan’s third pillar: embracing innovation and change. 

The Strategic Plan clearly states: “Brands drive innovation, and at the same time, brands must innovate in order to be relevant in the marketplace.” 

INTA plans to build a much stronger online presence and to lead discussions that link brands and innovation. 

While trademarks continue to be an extremely important part of INTA’s mission, Mr. Sanz de Acedo believes it’s time to expand the Association’s scope by talking more about the concept of “a brand” and approaching other brand professionals. 

INTA has always had a very strong platform and, over the past few years, it has gained increasing visibility and credibility around the world. 

Mr. Sanz de Acedo explains: “We’re being approached by other organizations to get our viewpoint, and this is exactly what we want. We cannot limit ourselves only to trademark registration and enforcement. We need to look at the bigger picture and interact more with policymakers.”

Involving Bipartisan Legislators

An excellent example in the United States of INTA’s work is the U.S. Congressional Trademark Caucus, which was founded in 2014 with four members of Congress; now, it has 30 members, composed of legislators from both parties. INTA works with the Caucus to educate policymakers about the value of IP and why they should pay attention to it, including how IP-intensive industries contribute to local, national, and global economies.

 Every year, the Association is invited to briefings on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to talk about IP and consumer protection. In April, INTA participated in a briefing that discussed the importance of brands within the sports industry and the effect of counterfeit goods, for example. 

Mr. Sanz de Acedo would like to see legislators in other countries adopt a similar model—a bipartisan or bicameral group dedicated to brand-related issues. Once again looking to the future, he asks how INTA can do even more to defend the IP industry globally.

The Association has been experiencing substantial membership growth outside North America, which the CEO attributes to a holistic approach. For INTA, it’s important to expand in a planned and strategic manner, he says. Two years ago, INTA opened its Asia-Pacific office, in Singapore, and last year, it opened its Latin America & the Caribbean Representative Office, in Santiago, Chile. Next, the Association will be exploring having an on-the-ground presence in Africa. 

“The scope of issues regionally and globally is continually changing and often intensifying,” Mr. Sanz de Acedo says. “Our dedicated and strong team intends to be in the forefront to advocate for IP rights for the benefit of not only brand owners, but also for society.” l

INTA, INTA 2018, trademark, trademark, Etienne Sanz de Acedo