5 May 2022TrademarksMuireann Bolger

INTA 2022: Vidal promises to tackle counterfeits

The International Trademark Association’s (INTA) Annual Meeting concluded at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, yesterday, marking the end of the association’s first in-person meeting in two years.

During the event held between April 30 and May 4, US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) director Kathi Vidal spoke of her focus on tackling bad actors and the backlog at the trademark registry.

INTA’s Annual Meeting will take place in Singapore next year, from May 16 to May 20. Its format will consist of in-person and virtual offerings. Pre-registration opened on May 2.

Counterfeits problem

Speaking to delegates on Tuesday, the former managing partner of Winston & Strawn said she was concerned by an increase in counterfeits. It was “astonishing” that it kept happening, said the USPTO director, highlighting its impact on small to medium-sized businesses.

“I faced this myself by representing companies where another company would rip off their patents,” said Vidal. “You can't have access to the innovation ecosystem when the playing field isn't fair.”

The director, who has been tackling speculation over the Biden Administration’s attitude toward IP, said she wanted to “make very clear” that the office believes in strong IP rights.

Vidal highlighted that 2021 trademark filings had jumped 27.5% on the previous year. This had led to a backlog of 544,000 unexamined classes, a first action pendency of about 7.8 months, and a disposal pendency of 12.8 months.

She said that the office has hired 32 additional examiners and is deploying new technologies to “make it easier for examiners to make sure that the trademarks that they are registering are the ones that should be registered.”

Sitting alongside Vidal, USPTO commissioner for trademarks David Gooder said the issue was “going to take some time” to resolve.

Vidal also drew attention to the “shocking” Abtach scam, where con artists in Pakistan stole the identities of trademark examiners that entices people into paying for fake trademark applications.

The office sent a strongly-worded show cause order to the company in November 2021, accusing it of violating the USPTO’s codes of practice.

“We are trying to stop this action in the first place in addition to sanctioning it,” Vidal said.

WIPO’s Tang: global resilience of IP

Also speaking at the conference, special guest speaker Daren Tang, director general of WIPO said IP, innovation and the creative parts of the global economy have remained resilient despite the challenges of the pandemic.

“IP filings before WIPO as well as before the national IP offices have been going up over the past few years,” said Tang, who drew comparisons between the drop in filings seen after the economic crises of the dot com bubble and the financial crisis of 2008.

This success has been due to digital technologies, he explained.

“As a result of the pandemic, more and more of your clients and the corporations you represent have been shifting their business strategies to digital, the metaverse trends that started before the pandemic but have accelerated as a result of the pandemic,” said Tang.

He added over the past decade, a more diverse picture of IP growth had emerged. Countries like Brazil, Mexico, India, and Indonesia are seeing double-digit growth in IP filings year-on-year, he said.2

WIPR published the INTA Daily News throughout the event on behalf of the association.

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