The plain truthWe sat down and soon one hundred cigarette packs were passed around the audience. That was the unusual start to today’s talks at the MARQUES Conference in Monte Carlo. Speaker Marion Heathcote from Davies Collison Cave had brought the (empty) packets all the way from Australia to illustrate the “pretty offensive pictures” and the “ugliest colour in the world” that are required under the country’s plain packaging legislation. Marion considers the law to be an attack on free speech; I know many others disagree. Here is probably not the place for that debate, but I expect many on both sides will agree with her when she says that plain packaging will soon be coming to other products in other countries. Beware!
A donut breakJonathon Nevett of Donuts (remember, the guys who bid for over 300 new gTLDs) was here today to take part in the session on new gTLDs. He gave a welcome and clear explanation of Donuts’ business, which I think many brand owners still struggle to understand, and also explained the enhanced protection for trade marks that Donuts will offer in all the TLDs it successfully applies for (which will probably be about 200). This is known as the Domain Protected Marks List. What I didn’t hear him say is how much it will cost. My hunch is that trade mark owners, while grateful for any extra protection available, are worried about the mounting and sometimes opaque price of simply notregisteringtheir marks in the new gTLDs. The Trademark Clearing House which, as moderator Nick Wood of Com Laude said, is more a cost-management measure than a rights-protection mechanism is just one example of that. No wonder rights owners have not been queuing up to use it.
Brand buildingThe same session also featured speakers from SCA and Wolters Kluwer explaining why they have applied to run new gTLDs. It was good to hear two brand owners actually being enthusiastic about the potential a gTLD offers, the business and management benefits it can bring and why they are excited to be pioneers. It’s not easy to find people in the trade mark world who are positive on this subject, and it’s notable that about 70 of the original brand-owner applicants have already withdrawn their gTLD bids. As both speakers stressed, though, this is a long-term project and they don’t necessarily expect to see the benefits within five years. In the meantime, the best prediction is: confusion will reign.
The price of networkingA (small) beer in the aptly named Billionaire bar at the Fairmont Hotel costs €15. Admittedly, no one comes to Monte Carlo expecting drinks to be cheap, and the pool does provide a very relaxed atmosphere, but you do wonder if that is a bit steep. Or, in other words: is €15 a reasonable price to pay for poolside networking? The answer, I suppose, depends on whom you are networking with and how much work results from it.
Records broken in the sunshineThere are some 750 people from 70 countries here this week, including more than 100 first-timers (recognisable by their white ribbons), making it the biggest MARQUES conference ever. Is this a sign that the dreaded downturn is over or merely a testament to the charms of Monte Carlo? I’m reminded of the famous (in the UK) question that chat show host Mrs Merton asked guest Debbie McGee: “So, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?” You might ask: “What persuaded you to attend a conference in the scenic Mediterranean resort of Monaco?” Next year’s conference is in Copenhagen, so we’ll reserve judgement until we see the numbers there.
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