Tish Berard tells Managing IP her main goal as INTA president this year is to implement the recently published 2018-2021 Strategic Plan. Its aims are to:
1) promote the value of trade marks and brands
2) reinforce consumer trust
3) and embrace innovation and change
The plan states: “INTA will follow these strategic directions through global advocacy, communication, education and networking opportunities via its offices” around the world.
Berard describes the goals as “broader in scope” than the previous three-year plan.
INTA seeks to grow its global membership, which currently includes more than 3,000 volunteers on 37 committees around the world. Each committee will take the common goals and develop context-dependent trade mark advocacy programmes in each region.
Berard describes how INTA will implement its goals and influence the international trade mark world with both a bottom-up and a top-down approach.
The bottom-up approach begins this year by creating a global task force to raise IP awareness with small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Berard explains the importance of reaching this audience: “They're often so busy focusing on developing their products and getting their businesses up and running … Intellectual property is not at the forefront of their thoughts.”
Former INTA board member Shwetasree Majumder and trade mark consultant Larisa Colton will be chair and co-chair of the task force, respectively. Each member of the still-forming team has experience working with SMEs.
The purpose of the task force is to “take a look at the opportunities and challenges that entrepreneurs and small companies face with respect to IP”, Berard explains.
“They’ll look for opportunities for INTA to step in and provide education and additional resources such as tool kits – to understand what IP is, why it's important to them, and why they should be looking at it at the beginning of the process – so that individual entrepreneurs and SMEs are more successful.”
The task force will present its findings and suggested strategies to reach SMEs to INTA’s board of directors by the end of this year. Action steps “will probably come in 2019,” says Berard.
Another awareness initiative is the Unreal campaign, which promotes teens’ understanding of counterfeiting and its potential hazards.
INTA’s top-down approach consists of “supporting international treaties as well as other forms of legislation, regulation, and harmonization of rules and practices allowing easier and better access to trademark and IP rights protection”, reveals the strategic plan.
Berard explains: “One of the main goals of INTA is the harmonisation of IP laws. We go into various countries and advocate for changes in their IP laws that will bring those laws in line with the world standard.”
Implying how the standard is determined, Berard says: “There are countries whose enforcement systems are not as developed … The US and Europe have more robust systems system of intellectual property laws.”
Berard identifies enforcement mechanisms as the most important variables that INTA seeks to harmonise. “The world is getting smaller, and companies are typically selling globally and online. They want to know that if you're in this country, you're going to have the same protection mechanisms in every country.”
INTA aims to advocate for minimal disruption of trade and maximum retention of rights. One example was a position paper INTA published in October setting out its position on Brexit. (You can read our comparison of the various position papers on Brexit here).
Berard identifies innovationand the emergence of new technologies such as 3D printing, artificial intelligence, or blockchain as an important phenomenon to watch. “The world is constantly changing, and as a brand you need to be on top of that,” she says.
“If your consumer is embracing a new technology and you're not aware of it or gearing your products toward that, it can put you behind your competition. Being aware of what those innovations are, how they can impact your brand, and how to respond to those new innovations are some of the challenges that brands face.”
"It's about ensuring the rights that brand holders need in order to enforce and protect their trade marks and protect consumers; then consumers can make smart purchasing decisions"
Brand restrictions, such as plain packaging on tobacco products, is another hot topic Berard names. Asked if restricted packaging could expand beyond tobacco, Berard says: "Everything is possible … We want to ensure that any governments considering such legislation are taking into account the importance of trade marks, because that's the way consumers make smart and informed purchasing decisions.”
Asked if INTA is anti-brand restriction, Berard responded: "INTA is pro-trade mark and intellectual property. It's about educating, and ensuring that all the information is put before any government considering such legislation."
She also identifies internet governanceas “a huge issue that needs to be monitored.” Since the internet has become a “self-governing entity, there are governance issues about rights protections.
“It's about ensuring the rights that brand holders need in order to enforce and protect their trade marks and protect consumers; then consumers can make smart purchasing decisions,” she says.
Separately, Berard highlights several upcoming INTA events.
In February, she will travel to Singapore to judge the finals of the very first Asia-Pacific moot court competition in the region.
Then in March, an INTA delegation will visit India, where it will meet with government officials and host a workshop to address how brands can adapt to changing social and technological landscapes.
A conference on brands and innovation in New York will follow, focusing on how technological innovation impacts brands and how to take advantage of IP rights in that environment.
Berard is formerly vice-president and general counsel for Boston-based Hearts On Fire Company. She has served on INTA’s board since 2011.
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