Along with some 8000 fellow practitioners, I flew into Washington at the beginning of May for the 133rd meeting of the International Trademark Association.
I changed flights at London’s Heathrow Airport, arriving in from Israel to terminal 1 by El Al, and changing to terminal 3, for American Airways, where, due to it being the first anniversary of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination, the security was extra-tight, and everyone was taking their shoes and belts off. Delays were encountered, and it took quite a while to get through, get dressed, and to reach the American Airways desk to learn that the flight was shared with British Airways and would be departing from terminal 5. Another coach ride, queue, X-Ray, unpacking and pat-down later, I settled down for a four-hour wait.
Washington was lovely. The city is dignified and elegant and reeks power and influence from its Grecian and Romanesque temples and monuments to democracy and the Federal government. The streets are clean and wide and laid out on a grid system. Provided one is sufficiently awake to remember the sequencial order of numbers and of the letters of the English alphabet, one can easily find one’s way around. Unlike San Francisco, the city is also flat, so the grid system makes sense. Most receptions and hotels were in easy walking distance of each other and of the conference center.
The INTA organizers, as always, thoughtfully provided a table of Kosher food at the opening reception. However, for some silly reason it was situated by the main entrance, rather than tucked into a corner. Consequently, large number of conventioneers from all nationalities and religions descended on the burekas and salads on the kosher food table, oblivious of the fact that the offerings on the regular tables appeared to be rather more appetizing. Some late-comers who kept strictly Kosher, missed out on getting anything to eat. However, this was more than compensated for by the bar providing both Chardonnay and Merlot Israeli wines from the Kosher Barkan winery.
On the first day, I sat in on both the INTA bulletin and Non-traditional trade-mark sub-committees for the Middle East and Africa, doing my bit to put Israel on the map. Socializing with representatives from neighboring states in the Middle East was pleasant as always, but unlikely to bring in much work.
For a fun networking experience, that is totally fruitless, I doubt anything beats speed-networking. In an hour consisting of 20 three-minute slots I met attractive ladies from the Phillipines and the Dominician Republic, and delightful professionals from the Iran and Saudi Arabia. We promised each other all our work to our respective jurisdictions and I threatened to arrange a regional IP conference for them to speak at. I also met a USPTO examiner in the speed-working session. I told him that I hated the prices and the service, but would continue using the USPTO, and wasn’t expecting any reciprocal work at all.
Once again, the Caribbean IP stall was the most colorful. The Phoenician knickknacks from Lebanese firm Grant Thornton were amongst the nicest give-aways, and the Baklawa given out by the firm headed up by Dr. Mowafak Al Yaffi was, as always, truly delicious. Furthermore, the Grant Thornton stall was cleverly positioned near Markeur who had a coffee machine that made a reasonable expresso, so the combination was good for a coffee and sugar infusion – welcome after late night partying with jetlag.
Everyone was raffling I-Padiae indicating that IP attorneys are interested in Apple technology. With superb misfiring, the Smithsonian are hosting a Steve Jobs exhibition with displayed articles including various Mackintosh and Apple junk. Ironically, the exhibition opens today, after INTA finishes. See here for more details.
The zoo, art galleries and museums of the Smithsonian are free. I spent two days before the conference and the final afternoon taking advantage of the quality collections. It is difficult not to compare Washington with London, which also has many free museums and galleries. The collections of both countries are superb and many ways complement each other. The Smithsonian Air and Space museum, gave appropriate weight to the US aircraft carriers in the Pacific theatre, and emphasizing American fighter aces, with the RAF museum emphasizing the British contribution. The exhibitions on the Wright brothers and on Amelia Earhart were particularly well done. The bling in the National History Museum was ostentatious to a level exceeded only by the Crown Jewels in London, with a fine collection of enormous diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and rubies.
Free access to a zoo is a rare thing. Due to the emphasis on comfort of the inmates, and an attempt to display them in their natural surroundings, it was not easy to spot the animals, many of which were simply sleeping. With rare ecological forethought, however, it seems that the exhibits get recycled and are subsequently displayed for posterity in the national History Museum where they are more easily viewed. Unlike the other cats, the pandas and most of the other exhibits which simply slept, the cheetas did stalked about, with a grace and elegance not easily captured by the taxidermist.
In addition to housing an impressive collection including works by Gainsborough, Turner and Constable, by Rubens and Rembrandt, Renoir and Matisse, the gallery was notable for a painting by Samuel Morse, from which I learned that the telegraph pioneer was also an accomplished painter, and for a Picasso exhibition showing work from over his entire career, which demonstrated that he understood perspective and could paint and draw, and helped put expressionism into some sort of perspective.
INTA is great for meeting up with associates. The parties and receptions were fun. Finnegan’s was probably the best party in town, with great music and a great venue.
In terms of the number of paws pressed and business cards collected, the conference was a roaring success. One meets great people from all over the world. The challenge, as always, is one of how to convert contacts into clients.
Bizsolutions were giving out butterflies that glow in the dark that my 9 year old thought was cool, and all the kids enjoyed Envoy’s chocolate sunflowers and Avantiq’s sunglasses. Nevertheless, the swag was generally dissapointing. I felt obliged to buy real presents.
Brandshelter’s darts that stick to a computer monitor were probably the most fun of the various giveaways. In the useful category, there was an abundance of flash memory sticks, pens and pads. Oppendahl were giving out pocket multimeters for some reason.
On the way back my brother showed me an article about the underwear bomber and explained that new regulations required taking off one’s underclothes to allow sniffer dogs to check for explosives. I felt a bit sheepish when getting dressed again after holding up other passengers, and realizing that he wasn’t serious.
The strike in Heathrow Airport was an inconvenience, but providing my suitcase does indeed arrive over the next couple of days, won’t be a long-term disruption. It also reminded me of why I emigrated from the UK!
I’ll have to dig out my eighties’ shoulder pads and ten-galleon hat for Dallas next year.