Vink, Tang urge INTA attendees to seek out innovation

02 May 2022

Vink, Tang urge INTA attendees to seek out innovation

Brands are always big business at the International Trademark Association’s Annual Meeting Live+, so it was no surprise when much of the meeting’s open ceremonies were devoted to what brands can do in today’s world.

“We’re back!” INTA CEO Etienne Sanz de Acedo said to an approving audience of trademark lawyers at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.

Sanz de Acedo said the Annual Meeting usually takes association staff and volunteers 12 months to put together the annual meeting, but that this year’s Annual Meeting Live+ – complete with a virtual element for those unable to travel – was completed in just four months.

“We’re all vaccinated – we had to be to get our badges – and those vaccinations would not be possible without intellectual property,” he said.

Some 6,700 people registered for this year’s annual meeting.

Zeeger Vink, the association’s 2022 president and intellectual property director at MF Brands Group, the Swiss group that owns the fashion and lifestyle brands Lacoste, Gant, Aigle, Tecnifibre and The Kooples, spoke of the importance of brands to the global economy.

“[There is a] huge potential of economic growth that can be unlocked by promoting trademarks for business communities, but also by developing the national trademark systems – what we do all the time at INTA,” he said.

Innovation has long been a cornerstone of intellectual property, Vink told the audience, but cautioned them against thinking that only technical innovation is valuable. “It is not just patents, but also brand innovation,” he said. “Author Peter Fisk says that brand innovation is perhaps the most important capacity in business today. If your brand is your core essence, then innovation is about how you evolve or leverage this essence with changing markets.”

Innovation is about retaining profits, retaining a competitive advantage, boosting revenue and earning market share, he said. “In short, the ability to innovate is an essential driver of brand value,” he said.

Daren Tang, director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization, also addressed the opening ceremonies, explaining how the role of WIPO is being reimagined.

“We have a vision where the world is a place where we can work together where innovation and creativity from anywhere is supported by IP. We want IP to be a powerful tool that allows innovators and creators to be able to bring ideas to the market, to grow their businesses,” Tang said.

Tang explained how WIPO had gone on the ground in Uganda to support a small detergent making business owned by a mother of four, helping her gain a trademark for her product, and ultimately improve life for her and her family.

“You want to do this in a way that is practical and brings it to life. In the past, what WIPO would have done is a seminar. We fly in, spend three or four days, and do a seminar on trademarks. But the question we asked ourselves was what impact that created, so we decided to change the way we do things. We went to Uganda and stayed with them for six months to understand their business journey. [Now] they know that IP is not just a mysterious, technical, intimidating issue they have no connection with, but part of their business journey,” he said.

Tang urged lawyers to work together to use brands and IP to make the world a better place. “IP is no longer of interest just to certain countries, but globally as well,” he said. “It is part of the economy that is getting more and more attention. Together, let us shape the global IP system and really make it a system where great ideas from anywhere in the world can be used to change lives.”


Gregory Glass

Law firms

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