First published May 19, 2013.
Last year there was much Strum und Drang here about INTA — sorry, I mean The I-N-T-A!, which stands for International Trademark Association! (now there’s some INTA branding wisdom for ya) — annual meeting. In a series of blog posts (here and here and here), I asked what I thought, consonant with my characteristic self-importance, were important questions to be answered. The main one was: Is the INTA a lobbying organization or a professional organization?
You’d think the second, because almost everyone involved is a lawyer. But while the INTA may be of lawyers, it was not founded by or for lawyers:
The not-for-profit Association was founded in 1878 by 17 merchants and manufacturers who saw a need for an organization “to protect and promote the rights of trademark owners, to secure useful legislation and to give aid and encouragement to all efforts for the advancement and observance of trademark rights.”
So I didn’t even have to ask; after all, I should have known the answer to this question in the first place.
Indeed: The consensus about the quality of panel discussions is now so widespread that I don’t need to repeat it. Even the third day’s traditional can’t-miss session — the annual roundup of case law by Ted Davis and John Welch — seemed sparsely populated. Could that be because the facilities were so very Texas-sized?
But that doesn’t explain a phenomenon I observed for the first time ever, though it may have been going on longer than I, naive as I am, had realized: A lot of people who are serious trademark lawyers, including names I know well, go to INTA every year… but they don’t go to The INTA.
They come to town all right. They book a room. But they don’t register for The INTA. They skip paying four figures to attend panel discussions bearing the titles of cutting-edge issues in trademark law but at which in fact the most pat nostrums are repeated, heads nodding in unanimous agreement — or, maybe worse, mock “disagreement” among the big-firm partners and their alumni who send the big-brand legal business to the law firms that placed them.
I kid the INTA about saying “The I-N-T-A” instead of, you know, “inta” — I kid The INTA because I love it, you know? But on reflection it seems that the trick of succeeding in The INTA is perhaps in knowing what not to say — at least on the big stage.
This is just common sense if you know on which “side” (i.e., dark or light) your bread is branded.