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Academic Day: From classroom to courtroom

In a world of silos and ivory towers, INTA’s Academic Day aims to bridge the gap between professors and practitioners, providing both with plenty of opportunities to learn from each other. Emma Barraclough reports.

Tomorrow sees a packed day of sessions that range from high-level discussions of cutting-edge legal research to low-downs on networking and landing a job in trademarks.

This year's professor track kicks off with a session entitled Exploring the Outer Limits of Trademark Law. "In previous years professors have talked about the limits on trademarks where, for example, trademarks come up against free speech concerns," says David C. Berry, a professor at Thomas C. Cooley Law School and vice-chair of the Academic Committee. "The idea here was to look at areas where trademark law is actually expanding. The panelists will be talking about how rights are being recognized in new areas, such as the growth of nontraditional marks."

Megan M. Carpenter of the Texas Wesleyan School of Law will chair the session. She says the three panelists will also consider the future of trademark rights in a variety of contexts. Rebecca Tushnet of Georgetown University Law Center will discuss the materiality of assumptions about sponsorship and affiliation to consumer purchasing claims. Robert Burrell of the TC Beirne School of Law at the University of Queensland will talk about the impact of decisions by the Court of Justice of the EU to extend trademark protection in cases such as L'Oréal. Christine Farley of American University, Washington College of Law, will address the expansion of trademark law in subject matter, such as trademark protection for concepts, and the expansion of content.

Putting law into practice

After a morning of trademark law theory, academics will get a chance to hear how the law is applied in practice during the professor luncheon. This year's speakers are António Campinos, President of OHIM, and Deborah Cohn, USPTO Commissioner for Trademarks. "In the past we have had talks from in-house counsel—which have been wonderful because they have given the academics a real insight into commercial trademark concerns, but we couldn't miss the opportunity of having government speakers while the Annual Meeting is in Washington DC," says Karina Dimidjian-Lecomte of Casalonga Avocats, Chair of the Academic Committee. She adds that it is the part of the day she is looking forward to the most. "I expect great speeches and great interplay between the speakers and the professors." The afternoon sees academics present papers on trademark law to university peers and to practitioners on topics including the likelihood of confusion and trademark strength to trademarks and the first amendment. "It's my favorite part of the day," says Berry, one of the driving forces behind the introduction of the symposium into the Annual Meeting's schedule. "It is interesting to have people who have done research come and have trademark lawyers point out things they have seen in practice. It is amazing how much their feedback can help focus and improve the research. I don't think there is another forum like this."

Finally, the professors get to wind down at a Happy Hour drinks reception where they can swap notes with adjunct professors, young practitioners and students. It will also give student members of INTA who have spent the day honing their career-building strategies a chance to put their new networking skills to the test.

Student expansion

INTA has seen its student ranks swell in recent years: now standing at 199. The challenging job market might be responsible for some of the rise, but Dimidjian-Lecomte says it also reflects the way that the Association has become more responsive to students' needs and how it has reached out to would-be trademark specialists at law schools. Two years ago the Association launched an ambassador program, asking for volunteers from law schools to help promote INTA's services to students, and to feed information about what students are looking for from the Association back to INTA. The program also helps forge strong links between INTA and the IP firms that the student ambassadors ultimately join. "We hope that they will say to their new colleagues 'hey, there's a great trademark organisation you should consider getting involved with'," says Dimidjian-Lecomte.

Careers advice

One of the issues that its ambassadors have told INTA that students want help with is finding more information about how to launch their trademark law careers. The Association has responded by developing a series of talks about networking, resume writing and career opportunities during the Academic Day. "We all went to law school. We know what it's like and how it doesn't teach you how to get a job at the end of it or ways of enhancing your career," says Dimidjian-Lecomte. A session on networking will see experienced members of the Academic Committee offer some dos and don'ts for expanding students' professional networks. One of the speakers, Susan Brady Blasco of Birch, Stewart, Kolasch & Birch, says that the session will give students plenty of practical advice and is based on a workshop she and fellow speakers Karina Dimidjian-Lecomte and Kelly McCarthy of Sideman & Bancroft developed for an INTA event in Brussels last year for European students and young practitioners. "It really was one of the most rewarding things I have done," she says. "We took a shy group of people who were barely speaking to each other through a series of exercises on meeting people and afterwards we had a cocktail party. They were networking like crazy!"

Blasco will advise the students to set goals before they attend networking events to ensure that they remain focused. "Tell yourself that you want to meet two new people, or five," she says. They should also widen their definition of networking. "Every time you meet new people or catch up with friends is an opportunity to network." But she says that people need to know their audience to avoid being too salesy in inappropriate situations. The session will also consider what makes a bad networker. "Avoid the pitfalls," says Blasco. "Avoid discussing personal misfortunes, don't get into one-upmanship and don't gossip about people at the event!"

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