I am not your typical lawyer,” says J. Scott Evans, President of INTA for this year.
For a start, he was a stage actor from the age of six to 28. “So I bring a different background,” he says. “I am very comfortable talking to people and I am very passionate when I talk.”
Evans is also different from previous Presidents because of his Internet background. He is Associate General Counsel—Trademark, Copyright, Unfair Competition and Internet Law at Adobe, a role he has held since October 2013. He previously worked for Yahoo! for six years.
Evans set out two goals for the year when he took over the INTA presidency. The first was to assist and train INTA’s volunteer leaders to help grow the Association. The second was to broaden the scope of discussions around trademarks to encompass brands.
On the first goal, Evans comments: “Many people come into this organization as practitioners with a lot of energy and want to get involved. But we have 30,000 members and only 3,000 slots so it is difficult. I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about how that process works. So we are going to open it up and explain it more, and give better tools to applicants so they can self-identify their skills and interests.”
This will help the Nominating Committee allocate volunteers to where their skill sets suggest they are best suited. Evans says change is inevitable.
“The things that have gotten INTA to where it is today are not the same skills and abilities that are going to get INTA to where it wants to be in its strategic plan,” he says. “If you are a leader in an organization you need skills to help manage that change.”
Evans says he would like more focus on practical issues such as how to run a meeting, how to set an agenda, how a conference call is different from an in-person meeting, how to deal with different languages and so on. He says this method of training is also a value add for leaders’ day jobs.
On the second goal, Evans says trademarks have long served as the tool for companies to identify their brands. But the concept of brands has expanded to include all sorts of emotional and social elements.
“I think that we are no longer trademark attorneys,” says Evans. “A trademark defines a set of rights and responsibilities you have as the owner of that trademark. But a trademark is only one thing that makes up a brand. I think we are brand attorneys now.”
Social media has given consumers a lot more power to compliment or criticize brands. As a result, Evans says how you engage in protecting your brand is something to which you need to give a great deal of thought.
He adds that INTA’s Brands and Innovation Task Force is being made into a full committee. This reflects how much the world has changed over the past decade.
“The Internet, globalization, and the homogenization in some instances and cultures have made us very different now,” he says. “Brand owners are realizing that our traditional allies aren’t necessarily the people we need to be aligning with. We got knocked pretty hard when the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement wasn’t signed into law, and the reality was there was nothing controversial in it. All the provisions in ACTA were in the national laws already. But it was a spillover from some of the heartburn about copyright.
“The story we need to tell policymakers and consumer groups is that sometimes trademark owners have a very different view on some of the more traditional IP issues. While I have all the respect in the world for copyright owners and patent owners, I think we have gotten derailed sometimes because people lump us in there and don’t realize the purpose of a trademark is very different and is much more aligned with some of these consumer groups than they believe. Trademarks are more about protecting consumers, and giving consumers the tools to be economically efficient and make good choices.”
Evans has also instituted a Presidential Task Force to review INTA’s bylaws and governance structure.
“I don’t think we have done that for about 10 or 15 years,” says Evans. “INTA needs to take a holistic look at whether we are in compliance with all the laws and regulations that apply to this type of organization. What can we do to make ourselves more nimble? I would like us to have a structure where the bylaws are very light and then there is a policy manual or book that is not a bylaw that can be amended as we grow and as things change. So it will be easier to grow and change.”
Evans sees a number of pressing trademark issues around the world. An important one is integrating companies from China, India and Latin America further into the international trademark community. He says INTA has a role to play here by making these companies more engaged.
Another big issue is the transition of ICANN. Evans says there is some discomfort with the role it is playing.
“The U.S. Government had very light oversight, but they did have the golden egg, which was the IANA contract. When you take away that oversight, if ICANN makes a misstep nobody can tell you who you go to in order to rectify that and have it looked at, talked about and fixed. That’s nerve racking,” he says.
He adds: “If I walked into a boardroom and said the power grid is going to be turned over to a non-profit corporation, we really don’t know who the Board of Directors are, we don’t know how they make decisions, and we don’t know what happens if we turn off the power, would that scare you? A lot of executives are so focused on running their business that this is ubiquitous to them. It’s like air so they never think about how it works. So trying to get them to focus on it and get them to realize it’s important and they should be engaged is a challenge.”
Trademark practitioners have a challenge getting this message across.
“Trying to get people to pay attention to what is going on can be difficult,” says Evans. “It is a challenge to get the message across that the trademark lawyer knows more about it, but you should know about it too.”
Who is INTA’s 2015 President?J. Scott Evans received his undergraduate degree from Baylor University and his Juris Doctor cum laude in 1992 from the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at The University of Louisville. He first served as Corporate Counsel for Fruit of the Loom where he was responsible for managing the international intellectual property portfolios. In November 1996, Evans joined Adams Evans, where he continued to concentrate his practice in the areas of trademark, copyright, unfair competition and Internet law. In November 2007, he joined the legal team at Yahoo! where he served as a Senior Legal Director—Global Brands and Trademarks. Evans joined Adobe in October 2013 as Associate General Counsel—Trademarks, Copyright, Domains & Marketing.
Evans is President and Chair of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee at INTA. He was Chair of the Planning Committee and the Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee of the Board. He served on the five-member drafting committee that assisted the staff at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers with the drafting of the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy and the Rules of Procedure for the UDRP. He also served as a member of the Implementation Recommendation Team charged with proposing possible solutions for brand protection in new gTLDs.