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Ahead of the INTA 2016 annual meeting, WIPR caught up with president Ronald van Tuijl on his plans for the year, as well as the challenges he expects to face.
There is a busy year in prospect for the new president of the International Trademark Association (INTA), Ronald van Tuijl (pictured below), but he has firm plans for his time at the helm.
“I was very well prepared because of the support I’ve been getting, especially as last year I served as president-elect,” explains van Tuijl, who was elected president in January 2016. “Overall it’s been a very positive experience.”
Van Tuijl is also IP trademarks director at JT International in Geneva, Switzerland and credits the management of his combined workload to efficiency and being based in Europe.
“What works for me is the fact that I’m in Europe, while INTA is headquartered in New York. Various INTA-related calls, with the executive committees or even the chief executive officer (CEO), mostly happen at the end of my business day in Switzerland.”
His career at the global association began in November 2010 when he was nominated to the board of directors. He rapidly moved up the ranks from secretary to president-elect to president.
“I worked very closely with J. Scott Evans (INTA’s 2015 president) so I’ve seen his approach from up close and have observed other presidents’ approaches from more of a distance,” says van Tuijl. “Their approaches are dictated by what happens in the year they serve as president, but overall the style is very similar. We are here to serve the organisation.”
The new president will be putting his own stamp on things as he focuses on a taskforce aimed at discovering the role and position of in-house trademark professionals.
“I’ve been in-house my entire career and I’ve seen changes as to how the work is done, what work is done in-house or outsourced and organisational changes that impacted those teams,” explains van Tuijl.
The next step for the taskforce is to develop a set of objectives about what INTA can do to support these practitioners in furthering their careers and increasing their influence.
Given his background in a diverse range of industries and his great depth of experience in in-house roles (which includes spells at big brands Unilever and Philips), he seems to be the right man for the job.
“By doing different jobs at different companies and dealing with different portfolios, you become more effective in taking on responsibilities.
“I appreciate that there are diverse agendas in industries and I’ve also seen the same issues handled slightly differently across companies. As a president I’m representing a company and the broad background I have has helped me to protect the interests of all INTA members.”
In-house support is not all that van Tuijl will focus on during his presidency term given the number of changes that have occurred recently across the association.
Last year, a governance review established a new set of by-laws. These by-laws, which van Tuijl refers to as very important work, were accepted in March this year.
“In addition to this, INTA has established a number of different committees which allow an expanded scope and provide more opportunities for member volunteers to participate,” he says.
INTA has also made a number of strides with an abundance of international activities.
“I’m confident that the opening of our Asia-Pacific office in Singapore will be successful. We will also have our first conference in Africa since the 1990s and our board meeting will take place in Beijing, the first board meeting in Asia.”
All these developments fit well into the general theme for the year: members and membership satisfaction. With more than 9,000 organisations in INTA, it’s no wonder that this area has received such an intense focus.
“At the beginning of the year we released a membership survey,” explains van Tuijl. “The findings have been very positive in terms of the offerings INTA provides and how they’re perceived by the members.”
The newly elected president is not content to rest on his laurels and plans to look at the feedback to discover opportunities for improving.
“Communication is definitely a topic where there’s a willingness to improve. Overall I know from speaking to others that not everyone knows what resources are available for members. INTA has made so many advances in this—we’ve implemented new ideas such as a bulletin and a blog.”
Reaching out to consumers
One of the committees that was recently established is the PR committee. It will engage with the media and the non-IP audience.
“People experience IP throughout their daily lives so it’s vital to speak to consumers. We’re constantly trying to improve, and the results of the survey and the formation of the new committees will help us do this.”
As president, van Tuijl has overall responsibility for the organisation, as well as serving as chairman of the board. He works very closely with the current CEO, Etienne Sanz de Acedo, who has responsibility for the day-to-day management of the INTA office and staff.
Unlike the CEO, the president will serve only one year which means van Tuijl is currently working on issues that have been agreed with previous presidents in previous years.
“I think the period of one year works for INTA. Its overall structure with committees, staff and executive management is combined with a long-term agenda. Although one could argue that you become more efficient if you do it for a longer period of time, I honestly don’t think it helps.”
When asked about major challenges for trademark owners he responds with “counterfeiting, internet governance and plain packaging, none of which is new”.
“All of these topics are increasing in scope and importance and they’re here to stay. INTA is heavily involved with the overall governance of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and the transition of internet governance,” he says.
“On the subject of plain packaging, a number of countries have challenged Australia’s plain packaging measures on tobacco products. We can’t answer with 100% certainty but it could be found to be breaching the TRIPS Agreement.”
Overall, it looks to be a busy year for the new president as he implements INTA’s new initiatives.
INTA, Ronald van Tuijl, IP, patent, trademark, copyright, INTA 2016,