I don’t know how it started, but following a rumour that ‘there was gold in them hills’ some 9,000 patent attorneys and trademark lawyers converged at INTA San Francisco looking for fame and fortune.
There may be some people looking for new service providers to give work to, but it seems that the overwhelming majority of patent and trademark professionals were hoping to make useful contacts and to grow their practices.
Instead of hitting the mother lode, most miners merely found other miners staking their claims, and spend the conference drinking beer in the saloons receptions.
According to the IP KAT, Lord Jacobs calculated that 9,000 attorneys all trading their business cards was a total of 81 million cards. He is, of course wrong. Not in squaring 9000, but in assuming that everyone sees everyone else. It is not possible. INTA is a four-day event. That is about 100 hours. No-one can network at 90 cards-an-hour around the clock. It’s not possible.
Whether you visit the exhibition hall, attend lectures, tour the parties and receptions, or run an unfocussed multi-channel campaign comprising a little of each, I don’t think it is possible to squeeze more than about 5% of the available paws. As an exhibitor I have a full list of participators. I know there were many friends and colleagues that I didn’t manage to see.
With the flights, hotel attendance and registration, it is necessary to generate at least $3000 of new work to break even. But INTA is a disruption that easily wipes off a week of work with travel and jet lag on top of the actual conference participation. This means that in addition to the cost of participating, one loses 2% of one’s annual work time.
It seems unlikely that many participants can get enough out of INTA to make participation worthwhile.
The problem is, of course, that we are like lemmings. There is peer pressure to attend. How can I be a leading practitioner if I don’t show up?
On behalf of the Kashrut observers, I’d like to thank INTA for the boxes of Kosher food at the opening reception. There was even Kosher vegetarian. This was much appreciated. We also note gratefully, that the various corporate receptions often had Ghirardelli chocolate and fruit so there was what to eat. Kudos to Michael Chesal and Andrea Rush for coordinating a Kosher get-together in Sabra – a kosher restaurant in town.
This time around we had a booth, so I spent my time in the exhibition center and didn’t attend any lectures. I will, therefore, review the swag.
Our stall gave out recycled, reusable, green swag bags in turquoise and white, that was ideal for collecting everyone else’s junk or for leaflets and magazines for the more literate amongst the profession. Using our non-prententious swag bag, I toured the booths looking for presents for the kids, but it was a little disappointing. The Association of African Countries had ebony African head key-rings. Like last year, Fasken Martineau had some cool curly pencils. Appleby had some nice regular pencils and also some reusable bags that were very eco-friendly and appropriate for San Francisco. Lehman Lee had a very attractive stall with Chinese walls, that was giving away iPad bags but no-one was giving out free iPads, though they seemed to be the most popular prizes in business card raffles.
The Korean Patent Office had neat flash memory sticks. Thompson Reuters had a USB hub which seemed very appropriate for an information company, if not particularly useful. I did pick up a couple of nice business card holders, particularly leather ones from Pham and one with a magnetic catch from MSP, which were, perhaps the most useful freebie.
For some reason, WIPO were giving out a leather folder of the type used for the bill in restaurants. I did take one, but am not sure what to do with it. Go Daddy were giving out lens cleaning cloths that worked surprisingly well. The Copyright Clearance Center had some nice Post-It arrow labels in various colors in a handy holder. Great for labeling patents, text books and decisions.
There were some nice pens. My serious 12 year old Binyamin voted the wall map of the world by Domain Names as the best free gift. The youngest, Matan, aged 8, liked the domain tools binoculars. He actually wanted Lego – as he reminded me was the main reason for my trip to the States whenever I rang home. Unfortunately, no-one seemed to be giving Lego away, not even the Danes, so I had to find a toy shop and buy the stuff.
Grant Thornton, our Lebanese friends, were giving away nice historic plaques of the Phoenicians and also rather good backlawa.
There was the usual collection of unrecognizable odds and ends of non-descript usage.
One Chinese firm was handing out packets of tea that seemed appropriate for China, and I also managed to collect a selection of decorative bookmarks. Kangxin’s was particualarly attractive.
Sanyou had some very useful suitcase straps in easy to spot rainbow stripes. I put one on my case and felt that it was too San Francisco, and not wishing to make loud statements about my sexuality and even less wanting to make loud statements about what isn’t my sexuality, decided not to walk around the San Francisco hotel lobby with rainbow straps about my case, and put the straps on for the second leg of the trip only, i.e. from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv.