INTA chief: transparency will guide my EUIPO campaign
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INTA chief: transparency will guide my EUIPO campaign

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INTA CEO Etienne Sanz de Acedo shares his plans if he were to win the EUIPO leadership race and says his application does not affect his INTA role

Now that he has wrapped up INTA’s annual meeting in Singapore, Etienne Sanz de Acedo, CEO of the organisation, is gearing up for his next big challenge – the EUIPO leadership race.

Managing IP revealed in February that Sanz de Acedo was among the candidates looking to snag the role of EUIPO executive director.

The EUIPO’s management board will meet on June 6 to nominate a candidate for the post after it decided in November last year not to renew current executive director Christian Archambeau’s mandate.

On Friday, May 19, Sanz de Acedo sat down with Managing IP to outline his plans and vision for the role.

He says he is ready for either outcome, whether that be a new challenge at the EUIPO, or continuing at INTA.

“In general, I’m extremely pleased leading INTA, and there are still many things that can be done. I'll be happy with whatever happens.

“That said, I like new challenges, and the possibility of [leading] EUIPO is one.”

Lead with transparency

Of course, flying across the Atlantic to Alicante and the EUIPO won’t be a huge leap into the unknown for Sanz de Acedo. He worked at the EUIPO from 1997 to 2013.

Before being drawn on the role, should he get it, Sanz de Acedo says the EUIPO must first make sure it is open about the selection process.

“The only thing I expect is the process to be as transparent as possible where all candidates get equal chances,” he says.

Sanz de Acedo also acknowledges concerns about alleged interference from the EPO, which were raised by the French government and reported on by Managing IP this week.

He says: “The EPO and the EUIPO are different organisations – the EPO is an international body, and the EUIPO is an agency of the EU. It’s extremely important that they work together and cooperate.

“But it is equally important that there is no interference from one into the other, and I really hope that will be the case.”

There are two other confirmed candidates, Andrea Di Carlo, EUIPO deputy executive director, and João Negrão, president of the EUIPO’s Boards of Appeal.

Sanz de Acedo says he is somewhat differently placed compared to those two.

“I’m considered an outsider because I’m not at the EUIPO anymore, even though I spent 15 years there, and I know the house pretty well.”

He adds: “I have a real part of my heart that belongs to that organisation. So, that’s, of course, a motivation.

“Both the other candidates are very highly skilled and respectful, and I hold both in the highest esteem.

“The process is political, so we will just have to wait and see what will happen.”

Sanz de Acedo says he would draw on his time at INTA if he were to get the EUIPO job.

He says he has led INTA with transparency and expects to do the same at the EUIPO if he were to return.

“I’m all for transparency – it’s how I’ve led INTA since my first day of joining, and that’s something I’d like to bring to the EUIPO if that were to be the case.”

The CEO stresses, however, that he has no concerns about the EUIPO’s management or a lack of transparency at the office.

He notes that integrity is very important.

“Through integrity, you can gain the respect of everyone, and by doing so, you can make everybody sit around the table and work together. I think that’s what we need to do at the EUIPO.”

"It’s also important to be honest, transparent, and respectful in your interactions with the board of directors, manager, and staff," he adds.

He notes that he had been transparent with INTA’s board of directors about his candidacy from the moment he was formally endorsed by the French government and has been grateful for their understanding and support.

Future focus

While his past association with the EUIPO was one of the main motivations behind Sanz de Acedo’s application, he says he was also drawn by the fact that the EUIPO has been a big success.

“It is one of the leading IP offices of the world, and the fact it operates slightly differently in that it needs to work very closely with member state intellectual property offices in the EU is very appealing to me.”

He notes that IP offices should realise that they are not purely registries anymore.

“IP offices have a bigger role to play – contributing to awareness, encouraging better and more efficient use of IP, and thinking about what’s next when we talk about IP.”

According to Sanz de Acedo, the EU also needs stronger measures to boost its IP regime if it is to keep pace with the rest of the world.

“If you look at the situation today, 70% of [worldwide] patent and trademark filings are from Asia, and IP is also very strong in North America,” he notes.

He adds: “Still, only 9% of the SMEs in Europe are relying on trademarks and patents. I see an opportunity there and I’d love to contribute to it.”

If he manages to secure the position, Sanz de Acedo says one of his priorities will be focussing on the office’s core duties.

These comprise serving users and ensuring consistency, timeliness, and predictability for EU trademark and design registrations.

Cooperation with member states, another core duty, will also be high on his priority list.

“From there, of course, I’ll look into the full set of other things, such as building potential new competencies and serving SMEs.”

He says he will focus too on teamwork to lead the EUIPO to more success.

“No organisation is successful just because of one person. One person can perhaps provide a vision and set where the organisation should go but the full leadership team must come together to make a change.”

INTA impact

Of course, for all his grand plans, Sanz de Acedo still has his work at INTA to contend with.

He says although he is looking forward to the outcome of the EUIPO leadership race his application will not affect his INTA role.

“My commitment and dedication to INTA remains the same and will remain the same until my very last day at the organisation. Whether that be if I potentially get the role at the EUIPO or five years from now remains to be seen.”

For now, Sanz de Acedo is busy helping INTA prepare for the future.

That includes providing the best possible service to members, maintaining the organisation’s influence with governments and officials, and better protecting brand owners and consumers.

“We also pay importance to the future of IP – how it will evolve and look at the risks to brand owners.”

He adds that INTA will also increase focus on how brands can contribute to a better society through women's leadership, diversity and inclusion (D&I), and green initiatives.

However, the organisation is still unsure how much it wants to embrace patents, even though INTA had previously said it wanted to woo more patent lawyers.

Patent practitioners recently told Managing IP that INTA’s annual meeting added limited value to them.

Sanz de Acedo says: “We always have a reception for patent attorneys who come to the annual meeting, and there are more patent attorneys than one could expect who like coming to the INTA.”

He says the body is incrementally increasing its patent-based offerings, but there were no concrete plans to be more patent-focused.

“Even though we are a trademark association by name, I’d say that we do all IP work – perhaps except for patents, but there is always a little something that is patent-related.

“How much that might be increasing in the future has yet to be decided.”

He adds: “More importantly, I think when you go to these conferences, you can learn a lot from another sector. Also, many of our initiatives such as D&I and women leadership apply to all IP businesses.”

This, he hopes, will continue to add value to patent attorneys as well as its usual trademark delegates.

For now, Sanz de Acedo is keeping his feet on the ground and preparing INTA to navigate the uncertain economy as he awaits next month’s EUIPO leadership race results.

He adds: “If you have a passion for IP and are professionally dedicated to it, you should be able to enhance the value of IP from any position, irrespective of whether you do it at the INTA, the EUIPO, or anywhere else.”

On June 6 we should know whether Sanz de Acedo will be proclaiming his passion for IP from Alicante or New York.

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