INTA San Diego was my favorite INTA Conference yet. Unlike Hong Kong (see INTA washout) which was a sort of three day shower-cum-sauna whilst fully dressed, San Diego was dry and mild, if a little chilly at night.
I usually look at INTA as a vacation from the family. This time around, I brought my wife Miri with me to San Diego, and discovered that a vacation with the missus is just as good.
We flew in on Wednesday and went to San Diego’s famous zoo on Thursday. Some of the exhibits were temporarily unavailable and others lay there without moving, suspiciously as if they were stuffed. The collection is, nevertheless, very impressive, and zoos are a great place to people watch.
The koalas were somewhat sedentary, but from the way that they were tree-hugging, seem to have acclimatized to California.
There was an Okapi that had started life as a striped gazelle and was well on its way to becoming a zebra. This was like the Irish accented US patent attorneys, Janet de Penning who pretends to be Indian but whose Australian accent gives here away, and other relocated practitioners including me, an Israeli patent and trademark attorney with a somewhat heavy North-West Suburban London accent.
I tried networking with another
alpha male Sumatran trademark attorney. I suspect that it won’t lead to masses of work, but was nonetheless, very enjoyable.
I also met a Chinese trademark professional taking it easy whilst contemplating the week ahead.
On Friday we took a boat trip around the harbor and saw a lot of US naval vessels including a submarine in dry dock and a helicopter carrier. The trade-dress was a dismal battleship grey. We had wanted to take a whale spotting trip, but apparently had missed the season. This seemed to be an appropriate metaphor for INTA, where one goes for the promise of landing a whale of a direct client with an enormous trademark portfolio, but the in-house counsels, were, as usual, keeping a low profile. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. We did see sea lions and pelicans.
Walking down to the conference center, it was pleasant to be recognized by attorneys from around the world, despite not having a conference name tag yet. The receptions, hotels and meeting places were all close to the conference center, but San Diego is on a hill, and with 10,000 conventioneers marching up the hill to their hotels, down again to the conference center, up the hill to their meeting and down the hill to the reception, I couldn’t help recalling the Grand Old Duke of York. One shop we past sold basic survival garments and had a deal for “two tees, one pant and one shoe”. I would have though one tee and a pair of each of the other garments would be more useful.
Shabbat was spent with Lubavitch (Chabad). There was a small core of Jewish practitioners present. As the Torah scroll was put back into the Holy Ark, everyone sang Psalm 26 with gusto, but to different tunes, and the result was like the school song back at Hogwarts. Despite being a Carlebach, the Rabbi’s singing was as bad as mine. Nevertheless, the welcoming atmosphere and pluralistic congregation did have something of the holy hippilech of the House of Love and Prayer about it. Miami based IP Attorney Michael Chesal lead the morning service and Israel trademark attorney, Marc Bodner, read the Torah portion in the afternoon.
In some ways, the Rabbi reminded me of Gene Wilder in the Frisco Kid. The Rabbi’s daugher (Mushka -what else?) told me that she had a waggly tooth. I managed to refrain from suggesting that when it fell out, she could put it under her pillow and the Rebbe would come and leave a dollar.
The Kosher food at the opening reception was well wrapped in polyethylene and consisted of bits of Pretzel bagel and mushrooms which were also very well wrapped. There was a second box containing a sort of apple turnover and little containers of some sort of pickled fish, that may have been herring. The regular tables had a wide range of food that looked delicious but less than Kosher. There were some strawberries that were drizzled in chocolate that were quite delicious and also a greenish sludge called Whack-a-Mole, that turned out not to be made of mole at all, but was actually an avocado paste.
I suspect that the accompanying crackers may well have had an OU Kosher certification, but couldn’t be sure, so gave them a miss. Not much of a return for the $100 guest ticket I got my wife. It was an opportunity to introduce her to Irish colleagues, Richard and Mary-Rose O’Conner. Their firm is called Cruikshanks, but from what I could see, their legs looked straight enough. After a couple of the obligatory beers we went to the Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream parlor in the ‘village’ by the conference center. I missed the Kosher Supper on the Tuesday, but understand from Jeremy “Harley” Ben-David, that it was a mostly schnitzel and chips affair at the JCC. According to the IPKAT,
Sandy’s Ego Colb’s Kiddush was well attended and there was little in the way of left-overs.
I arranged back to back meetings from 10 AM to 4 PM. Unfortunately however, not all meetings met up. Particularly those with new associates. It turned out to be fairly easy to find a Indian IP professional at the meeting point. I was looking for someone well dressed, about 5′ 6″, dark skinned with black hair. It was trying to find the right Indian professional that proved difficult. I had a similar problem with Chinese patent attorneys, except the complexion was lighter and the general build more petite. Unfortunately, with 10,000 conference participants, even arranging to meet in a particular spot proved difficult. The
blind dates meetings were hard to accomplish as I found myself making eye to name on tag over chest contact with promising but wrong candidates, there being some three hundred or so at the same meeting area.
After a full day’s networking, I didn’t really have the energy to party into the night. I did however, go to the “Meet the Bloggers” reception at Henry’s Pub in the heart of the
red gas light district. It was nice to be approached by friends and by people I didn’t recognize, who enjoy this erudite and informative blog. It seems my comments about my wife making me throw away the shoe boxes of business cards from last year before bringing any new ones home struck a chord.
The waitresses in their short pants (using the term in the English manner) made it easy to understand why the Beach Boys sang about Californian girls, but one wonders why the Mamas and Papas didn’t ground them for going out (un)dressed like that?
To accompany the cider I was swigging, I ordered a plate of raw vegetables with hummus, as did a Sikh associate. Being very close to the Mexican border, the hummus was rather hotter than its Middle Eastern equivalent.
Professor Jeremy Phillips who got a special mention for his prolific blogging, was accompanied by various editors, marketing directors and other young ladies from Oxford University Press. He looked a little like Mother Goose, as he shepherded his
harem grand-daughters, off to bed.
There were apparently over 9650 registrants at INTA, and I suspect a further 3-4000 attorneys that came along for the receptions but didn’t register. It was impossible to meet everyone, but I did manage to chat to several hundred practitioners.
As always, Middle Eastern colleagues from Jordan, Egypt, UAE, Lebanon and Dubai were very friendly and special mention should be made of the very attractive young ladies working the Iran trademark stall. We promised to send each other work Insh’Allah once the political situation improves. Grant Thornton’s Baklava was, as always, delicious.
I will refrain from commenting on the lectures, mostly because I didn’t go to any, but also because it seems that no-one else is interested in them anyway.
Instead, here are my winners in the various swag categories, from the Exhibition Center where I shopped for souvenirs and gifts for the kids:
For younger daughters, first prize goes to Zuykov who gave away Babushka dolls. For older daughters, one firm was giving out scented soap, and there were a lot of Chinese bags, scarves and keyrings. Older sons will be delighted with Ali & Associates‘ flash memory daggers. Younger sons will enjoy the rubber band driven balsa wood model airplanes distributed by Patssy Wave.
Suitable for adults and children (i.e. less mature male IP professionals) is Burns & Levinson‘s desktop magnetic dart board. They also had a larger size interactive game, where one throws a remote control at a dartboard shown on a screen – or at least, that seemed to be the idea). For adults, Ali & Associates were giving away pen-knives and pen sets, and also magnetic compasses that were probably designed to find Mecca, but worked equally well for Jerusalem. I discovered I had been praying Westwards instead of Eastwards in my hotel room, but the Talmudic rabbis had a flat Earth cosmology, and we now know that what goes around comes around, so I don’t suppose it matters. Wives and female practitioners may be pleased with Treadstone Inc.’s insulated frozen food bag. Asia IP Exchange were giving out inflatable pillows. Grant-Thornton Lebanon distributed some nice coasters, this time showing the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Despite being a Lebanese firm, over the years, I’ve noticed that they claim IP rights to Egyptian pyramids, Phoenician culture and Israeli Hummus. Although not available from a stall, I think my own limited edition PC Teabags was perhaps the best freebie for patent attorneys.
Talking about adult give-aways, there was a company called .sucks that had a scam to try to get people to register their domains to prevent others from so-doing. Frankly, I was surprised that INTA let them rent space in the exhibition center. They had people outside the conference center too, who were giving away
latex prophylactics condominiums. These green modeling balloons have a nipple at one end which, on inflation, can be pressed back and tied into the knot to make a quite convincing apple. As one of my female colleagues pointed out, it is inadvisable to rely on such things given out for free on street corners to avoid the by-products of intimate networking.
Unsurprisingly, the conference coffee was American and foul. There was a Starbucks outside, but that served similar dish-water, with the main difference being the need to pay for it. Better Caffeine fixes were supplied by Dennemeyer and by the SMD Group who each had an expresso machine. For those preferring their Caffeine is solid form, as always, the best chocolate was to be had at the Ecuador stand, but Dennemeyer’s Dickensian chocolate was a close second. For a delicious chocolate fix, we recommend the hot chocolate at Ghiradelli.
One reception that I did attend was Rothwell Figg‘s held in the Chuck Jones Gallery, which was resplendent with Bugs Bunny and Road Runner art-work. Most of the food was not Kosher, but there was a welcome if somewhat melancholy fruit platter with strawberries and pineapple. (*yes, I know, purists will argue that Hallachically melon, strawberries and pineapple are not fruit as they don’t grow on woody perennials).
I understand that Thompson Reuters sponsored a reception on the US Midway Aircraft Carrier that is now a museum, and that dancing on the flight deck was quite something.
I am not sure how I will be able to convince the kids that INTA Orlando next year is ‘work’, but am looking forwards to going with my wife.