INTA preview – What do you call a room full of 9,000 lawyers?

Stuart Fuller

It’s that time of the year again when the who’s who of the intellectual property world gather in one place for four days of discussions about patents, trademarks, domain names and IP protection. This year, over 9,000 trademark professionals will descend on Orlando in the Sunshine State of Florida, in what promises to be the biggest event in the conference’s long history.

The core themes under discussion do not vary from year to year, venue to venue. Intellectual property infringement may have gone hi-tech with the adoption of the Internet in the past 15 years, but issues of counterfeiting, piracy and fraud are as old as the city of Orlando itself. The fact that the annual conference is in its 138th year tells a story in itself. Back in 1878, when a group of 17 merchants got together in New York City, the hot topics would have included Thomas Edison’s patent of the phonograph and the age-old battle against forgers. If Edison was alive today, his fight would have no doubt been against the same issues of IP infringement, albeit in the virtual and physical worlds.

The keynote address this year will be from Diane Nelson, President of DC Entertainment (the rights owners for Batman and Superman) and Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment, where she will no doubt focus on the trademark infringement and digital piracy issues that exist within the movie industry.

Many conversations will be focused on issues relating to enforcing IP in emerging economies such as India and Mexico, as well as China, where the biggest global online marketplaces are located. A number of sessions will look at ways to collaborate rather than battle with the online marketplaces where infringements still cause brand owners the biggest headaches, giving IP rights holders some ideas on how to approach issues from a different angle. In fact, for the first time ever, there will be a dedicated Anti-Counterfeiting Day (Saturday 21st May) where the topics of discussion will focus solely on the issues caused by this thorn in the side of brand holders.

The conference has in recent years attracted more interest from the domain name community, and with hot topics such as the launch of adult-oriented negative sentiment TLDs and the robustness of rights protection mechanisms available today, that trend is set to continue.

With the chatter among brand holders and the IP community at large starting to focus on when, not if, there’ll be a second round of the gTLD program, NetNames will be launching its white paper: ‘Ding ding, Round 2’ at the conference, with author Stuart Fuller, Director of Commercial Operations, hosting a round table on the subject of a second wave of applications. Drawing on experience from the first round – examining what went well and what needs to change – the white paper will give any brand holders thinking about an application food for thought and is available to download here should you not be able to enjoy the Florida sunshine in person.

Brand protection strategies will once again be top of many attendees’ agendas. The issue of forging, discussed at that first meeting back in 1878, has metamorphosed into the world of counterfeiting as we know it – a problem that costs global economies billions of dollars and thousands of lives every year. Most brand holders now have strategies in place to monitor their marketplaces; detecting and countering rogue activity – so we look forward to lively debate on the topic.