Weekly take: What we learned from INTA 2024
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Weekly take: What we learned from INTA 2024


With INTA Annual Meeting over for another year, here are a few things Managing IP learned after attending IP’s biggest party

It seems hard to believe that the INTA Annual Meeting lasted just five days. Nevertheless, those five days have given us plenty to think about – both on the positive role intellectual property can play, to some of the challenges the legal community must overcome.

Managing IP lists four things we learned during our trip to Atlanta.

1)     First-time joy is a pleasure to witness

It’s always wonderful to witness the joy someone experiences when doing something for the first time that they know will become a passion.

Similar to a young sports fan attending their first live match at their favourite team’s stadium – you can tell they will be hooked for life.

The INTA Annual Meeting is the equivalent for IP professionals.

Some of the ‘first-timers’ (delegates, if they wished, could wear a ribbon labelling them as such) we encountered were students or newly qualified lawyers, others had been practising for many years.

They travelled to Atlanta from Australia to Suriname, from Latvia to South Africa, and from almost everywhere in between.

Whatever their age and level of seniority, their joy at being surrounded by so many like-minded people and businesses was plain to see.

INTA often describes itself as a ‘community’, and when you see the many thousands of professionals welcome each other like friends – even if they have only met for the first time – it’s easy to see why.

2)     IP can be a force for good

One of the highlights of the week was hearing from Bernice King, daughter of the late Martin Luther King Jr.

Luther King, born in Atlanta, was an activist, political philosopher, and prominent civil rights leader until his assassination in 1968.

Bernice, his youngest daughter, spoke about the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and explored why IP helped maintain her father’s legacy.

She noted that a 1982 ruling in a lawsuit filed by the center was responsible for establishing a post-mortem right of publicity in the state of Georgia, of which Atlanta is the capital.

The center is open to licensing its IP but wants to understand how it will be used, King said, adding that it has to protect the integrity of the brand and the words and teachings of her father.

In a world where IP is often characterised in the media as being all about monopolies and large companies bullying smaller counterparts, it was refreshing to hear about how IP can be used as a force for good.

Meanwhile, for the third year in a row, lawyers clubbed together to raise money for people in crisis.

The Brand Action fundraiser, held during the Annual Meeting, raised thousands of dollars to help fund donations to the World Central Kitchen and to help purchase an ambulance for use in Ukraine.

You could often spot delegates wearing Brand Action merchandise, t-shirts, lanyards, and wristbands, indicating that they had donated to the charity.

3)     It’s time for a culture change

This is an uncomfortable passage to write but one that needs to be written.

There are, frankly, still far too many lawyers (mainly male) who see events like these as a chance to – for want of a better phrase – ‘meet’ women.

There’s nothing wrong with two people forming a genuine attraction – we are all adults and relationships and romances occur in many different settings.

But first and foremost, the INTA Annual Meeting is a professional conference. Delegates should be able to attend without the fear that they will also, usually after the perpetrator has had a few drinks, be subjected to unwanted advances.

I have been unfortunate enough to witness what can generously be described as uncomfortably persistent and clumsy behaviour from some.

Shockingly, I have also heard, but not yet witnessed, accounts of instances where that kind of behaviour has escalated.

I’m not laying the blame on INTA for this. This is something that happens at almost all large gatherings of people when drinking and an ‘away day’ atmosphere is involved, and I’m sure the association has adequate processes in place for when a complaint is made.

But we should not assume everyone will be comfortable enough to raise a grievance, especially in cases where the perpetrator is an industry colleague.

As one lawyer explained during a panel session this year, unacceptable situations still happen regularly, including at conferences, and it’s up to all of us to call it out.

4)     Difficult decisions required for future meetings

So far, the plan is to hold next year’s INTA in San Diego, the same city that hosted the event in 2015.

The news, which had been widely expected, was announced during the opening ceremony of this year’s event.

The 2026 meeting, however, could yet prove to be a hot talking point.

In May last year, INTA announced that Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), would host the event.

However, the choice could prove problematic. There was a buzz of noise this week that some members are concerned about the pick of venue.

The severe heat and a lack of rights for the LGBTQ+ community (homosexuality is illegal in Dubai) are among the concerns.

While Dubai is not directly affected by the Israel-Gaza war and tourists are currently free to travel there, the UK’s foreign office has warned that the situation could change at short notice following the joint strikes by US and UK forces on Houthi bases in Yemen which began in January this year.

I may be reading too much into this but when San Diego was announced as the 2025 venue, there was no mention of Dubai.

A spokesperson for INTA said there were no changes to report on the choice of future venues.

But if it is to commit, it will need to ensure safety can be assured and that INTA’s LGBTQ+ community members are made to feel welcome.

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