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Etienne Sanz de Acedo: “We will be looking at the IP rights of the future”
We interview the CEO of the International Trademark Association (INTA) about what attendees can expect from the upcoming INTA Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., how the organization has fared with virtual Meetings for two years, and how it plans to implement hybrid events in future.
Leaders League: How successful were the digital iterations of the various INTA summits since the pandemic began?
Etienne Sanz de Acedo: They were pretty successful. We had two consecutive years that were not in-person: 2020 was fully virtual, while in 2021 we had “Virtual+”: a primarily virtual offering but with three mini-conferences in Berlin, New York City, and LA, with a Hong Kong one planned that had to be cancelled due to COVID-19.
Our 2020 Meeting saw 3,100 registrants, with an 84% participation rate. Last year we had 3,000 registrants with an 82% participation rate; the mini-conferences were attended in-person by 800 people in total.
To what extent were the drawbacks of online-only summits felt? What have been the main consequences of them being virtual, other than the obvious direct consequence of people not meeting (and partying!) in person?
When we shifted to virtual, there was lower attendance, which was expected. There has been some tech fatigue among our members: spending over eight hours a day for two years in front of a screen, organizing meetings and networking via videoconference, not to mention time-zone differences. Not everyone took to it equally well.
But there were positives too. Many of our members really adjusted well to the new environment and the new technology. Everyone is now on a more equal footing: no matter how new you were to IP, you were all embracing the same tech, which was a leveler. It has brought efficiency to meetings, too: moving virtually from one meeting or session to another eliminated long corridors and increased timeliness. And through videoconferencing technology, you can interact with people from all over the world with whom you might never have interacted before.
So, in 2022 we’re doing “Live+”: combining the positives of in-person and virtual conferences for our Annual Meeting. So far, 4,500 people [as of March 12] in total have registered for the in-person event, and we’re seeing significant registration for the virtual part. There will also be significant participation from officials and corporate members; at least 350 corporates will be attending.
In what specific ways do you think the events will be hybrid from now on?
Live+ will continue into the future – we want to grab the opportunities afforded by blending in-person and virtual.
In terms of this year’s educational programming, the live event will feature seven different tracks; three of these tracks will also exist in the virtual space, and we will also live stream some of the live sessions. We’ll have regional updates covering developments in case law in Europe, the USA and China, but we’ll also cover legislative developments and initiatives in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.
In all, the in-person educational program includes 38 educational sessions and six capsule keynotes on top of the opening ceremonies. Since it will be both in-person and virtual, content can also be digested at your leisure, until the beginning of August.
On the plus side, having the events virtually has been a significant boon for the environment – thousands fewer international flights. Do you have any thoughts on this perspective?
We have over 4,500 in-person registrants and counting. Individuals always travel, for business and leisure; this will not change. Regarding the impact on the environment, most impact is not from travel but from other things in our daily life. But travel does have an impact, so we do have a carbon offset campaign and a Green Swag award, where we encourage our exhibitors and sponsors to bring eco-friendly merchandise. We’re also addressing food waste at the Meeting: every day, all leftover food and beverages will be donated to local charities.
When we select the venues for our Meetings, we look at eco-friendly convention centers. The Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., where the 2022 Meeting will be held, is one such center.
This is the first in-person INTA Meeting in three years. Do you have anything special planned for the attendees?
Many special things. The programme is very robust; we’ll be looking at all the hot topics that corporates are thinking about. There will also be a full set of table topics and networking excursions to facilitate the business development of our members.
We are also working on the future of IP. This concerns not only the metaverse, blockchain and NFTs, but the IP rights of the future, and the challenges for IP offices, law firms and in-house. We’ll be projecting ourselves into the future to help our members understand the challenges and opportunities in the coming years.
Finally, we will be looking closely at health and safety rules, to ensure everyone feels comfortable. We will also continue to pay attention to initiatives and projects that are becoming core to the INTA, including diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and The Women’s LeadershIP Initiative, and what these mean within the global IP ecosystem.
This year’s INTA Annual Meeting will be taking place in person from Saturday 30 April to Wednesday 4 May at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., with additional virtual elements online.
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