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INTA president touts association’s return to meeting in person

05 May 2022

INTA president touts association’s return to meeting in person

“People are happy to be back,” says Zeeger Vink, 2022 president of the International Trademark Association and chair of the association’s Board of Directors.

Vink, intellectual property director at MF Brands Group in Geneva – makers of Lacoste, Gant, Aigle, Tecnifibre and The Kooples – attributed the good cheer at INTA’s Annual Meeting Live+ in Washington to the sense of community among its members.

“The people here are competitors – competitors for business, competitors in court – yet they still want to see each other,” he said at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. “People here really appreciate each other. I’m honoured that I can to contribute to that to the community feeling.”

The feeling of community comes, in part, he says, from the way IP lawyers work across national borders and across cultures. “IP lawyers are in touch with many cultures, so perhaps they have more tolerance to different backgrounds. There’s a sort of automatic diversity in the IP community,” he said.

Diversity is key among the association’s priority, and Vink notes that it manifests itself in many different ways, from the Presidential Task Force’s 2021 focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to the make-up of committees. The coronavirus pandemic was a catalyst for the topic inside the organization. A 2021 INTA Interview with Kim Reddick, senior counsel at Uber in San Francisco, revealed that the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and subsequent protests were behind the focus on DEI by the task force

“People were at home because of the pandemic, and so this huge thing that happened now had a captive audience,” Reddick said at the time. “It gave people a chance to think about it and talk about it, and I think people around the world wanted to be allies for not only people who look like George Floyd, but everyone of diverse backgrounds. That was a catalyst that caused individuals and corporations to want to do something.”

Back at the Annual Meeting Live+, Vink said that the organization wants to maintain and expand upon the DEI gains it made under former president Tiki Dare’s guidance.

But, he noted, diversity comes in many forms, and the association’s network of representative offices is important to the association’s international focus. “We have representative offices in Santiago, Brussels, Singapore and Washington. That’s a sign that we want to be close to those markets,” he said.

Asia has been a focus of the association for many years, he said, while noting that the focus has shifted. “Asia has always been a source of counterfeits, and so a source of concern for brand owners,” he said. “The association has been working to improve the IP systems, and has had quite a lot of success. We’re quite proud of our role in the increasing sophistication of IP laws, authorities and enforcement throughout many parts of Asia.”

The association has provided comments on legislation and other elements of IP regimes around Asia.

More recently, Vink said, the view of Asia has changed. “Asian companies now need international organizations for their own purposes,” he said. “Asian companies are increasingly using and exporting their brands overseas, and they also need IP protection.”

The association’s diversity, though, comes through its members, rather than through a top-down edict.

“We have 35 to 40 committees, all populated by members from companies and law firms. Those committees are very diverse and balanced. And those committees, they’re the ones who make the comments on legislation and enforcement and local authorities. And more people from Asia are joining those committees, and that, in turn, is encouraging more people from Asia to join INTA,” he said.

INTA will hold its 2023 Annual Meeting Live+ at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. The meeting’s location was announced at the opening ceremonies of the 2022 meeting in Washington.

“We need to focus on Asia, and want to see more Asian participation,” Vink told Asia IP. “We recognize that there is sometimes a language barrier, but speaking English well is not the key factor to joining an INTA committee. We’re looking at your experience and your IP knowledge first and foremost.”

Vink said that at the Board of Directors, the association is evaluating its future with virtual tools developed during the pandemic, such as Zoom. Committees which used to meet by telephone now meet by video call, for instance, and, after two years of the Annual Meeting being held exclusively online, the 2022 meeting was a hybrid of in-person and virtual attendance, as the 2023 meeting will be.

Vink said he had received “overwhelmingly positive” reaction from the 2022 event. “People hadn’t seen each other for a long time,” he said. “But virtual tools will remain with us in some capacity, because there will always be people who aren’t able to join us in person.”


Gregory Glass

Law firms