Over the past decade, I have travelled to the United States and am discovering this fascinating continent, State by State, conference city by conference city with INTA. I’ve visited Boston (2010), San Francisco (2011), Washington (2012), San Diego (2015) and now Orlando.
I needed a holiday from the family, to have energy for a family holiday this summer. INTA is ideal. I got to catch up on half a dozen movies on the airplanes, and spent a few days partying with 10,000 other IP practitioners. For a total outlay of maybe $3500 including registration, hotel and flights, I collected over 700 different business cards. That’s a mere $5 per
card networking opportunity.
I flew British Airways via London, with 3 hours 5 minutes to leave Heathrow, transfer to Gatwick, pass through the ridiculous UK security and make a connection. It was an opportunity to catch up on British films, and saw suffragette, The Lady in the Van, Eddy the Eagle and the new James Bond film, Spectre. Also saw Dad’s Army, the movie. This was disappointing. The original television series was one of the best sit-coms the BBC ever produced, and was 30 minutes of belly-laugh-a-minute comedy. The film just didn’t do it for me.
I arrived on Thursday, and spent the Friday at Sea World. IP Practitioners come in all shapes and sizes.
The orcas are playful attorneys that seem to be permanently grinning. Aware of their position as big firm lawyers, they are strict about wearing black suits and white shirts. These apex preditors will drag you down and drown you without notice.
The flamingoes are very attractive, colourful lawyers with high hemlines and long legs. Coming from the Caribbean and Latin America, they are exotic and mostly female. It is delightful fun socializing with them, but is unlikely to bring incoming work as they don’t have any patents or trademark filings in Israel.
The pelican is easily spotted in the exhibition hall. Armed with his or her carrier bag, this conference attendee is intent on collecting every bit of swag going.
He or she will collect magazines and directories, only to leave these in the hotel room to keep within baggage allowance.
The inside-counsel are a little retiscent and afraid of
being eaten. They withdraw into their shells
if they feel threatened.
The eagrets and herons don’t bother registering. They are not officially part of the show. They come for the party and help themselves to fish when the keeper’s back is turned.
And me? I think I am a manatee.
Spending all day at his desk, the manatee
is severely overweight. He is to be seen nibbling on raw vegetables at INTA receptions due to Kosher food restrictions.
Pet’s ahoy! the trained cats and dogs come along
and do their thing.
Often first time INTA conventioneers, they have been noted attending lectures.
There are the wheeler dealers who are not actually patent attorneys or lawyers. They seem to have a finger in every pie.
I spent Shabbat with Chabad in Orlando. The usual INTA suspects were there. Mark Bodner wore a straw trilby and looked remarkably like Leonard Cohen. I met a long-haired, bearded Jesus like Israeli who turned out to be a grandson and son of two of Israel’s less observant IP practitioners. Apparently he went to Australia to bum about surfing and discovered religion. Go figure!
The food Friday night was different. Mushroom, avocado and cranberry salad – with the flavours neither complementing or clashing, followed by sweet, Galician style gefilte fish served hot for some reason. This was followed by honey glazed chicken, sweet potato, and rice with cranberries. The ice-cream and brownies for dessert were the least sweet part of the meal. Shabbat lunch consisted of cold baked salmon, smoked salmon, chopped liver, salami and salads followed by quite the worst cholent I’ve ever had. The Rabbi seemed to specialize in citing well-known readings and offering counter-intuitive and non-convincing Hassidic and/or Kabbalistic interpretations. Led by the Australian trademark contingent, Psalm 126 was sang to the tune of Walzing Matilda.
The conference exhibition seemed larger than usual. The usual culprits were in evidence, except for Lehmann Lee who usually have a large, attractive booth giving out good swag, and this time were inviting attorneys to visit them in the headquarters hotel.
Cleverly disguised as a selfie-stick, Sugimura were giving out an origami folding martial arts weapon, that was essentially a Kubotan that telescoped into a taikondo pole and then snapped in half to form nunchaku. Whilst certainly being an appropriate give-away for a Japanese firm, this type of freebie is likely to be confiscated by 10-15 year old kids and won’t find its way to the practitioner’s desk.
Thompson Reuters was also giving away selfie-sticks. Personally, I’ve never had a problem finding someone at INTA to take my camera and press the button. In my experience, people are looking for an excuse to start a conversation with other practitioners. Who needs a selfie-stick?
Both Dennemeyer and Corsearch were giving out reasonable coffee on their stalls. Corsearch were using proper coffee cups with their name on, and giving these out to the participants. This is not a bad way to get one’s name on attorneys’ desks, or at least in their kitchenettes and is one of the reasons behind IPFactor’s exclusive PCTeabags. However, other firms have given out mugs, and the PCTea bags are not elligible for this competition as we did not have a stand that was giving them out, although I did give away a couple of cartons of these.
Oxford University Press gave me a copy of a long-awaited book “Copyright from Maimonides to Microsoft” by Neil Netanel (with some chapters by David Nimmer. Weston Anson have me a copy of his book “IP Valuation and Management”. Certainly these were the most valuable free gifts I received, but these were copies for review purposes and most people were expected to pay for them.
Iran TM was giving out a felt-tipped hamsa – a lucky hand where each finger was a different coloured marker.
There were a lot of nice pens, plenty of chocolate and some squeezy balls. Much of the swag was left-overs from previous INTAs and wasn’t very exciting. InternetX was giving away rubber gavels, but these did not make the right sound on impact. Septotex were giving out piggy banks, and Bloomberg Law were giving away fold up sunglasses that my 13-year-old, who is an expert in such matters, considered really cool. He was also impressed with the Patrix bluetooth WIFI speaker and Bufete Meija’s screwdriver-spirit level combo.
Novagraaf was giving away a pedometer that calculates the number of steps taken per business card collected. However, after a lot of thought, I have decided to award the best swag prize to Luzzatto and Luzzatto, an Israeli competitor who had a stand. Their freebie was a two-dimensional tree stamped out (or lazer cut) from steel sheet and provided with parrot shaped plastic retainers with magnetic cores. The name of the firm, and their currently claimed founding date were printed on the trunk. This bonsai piece of
junk sculpture holds photos, business cards, notes, and the like and is designed to grow on a desk. I do not lightly make this award to a competitor, but this piece of swag was different and is likely to find itself on practitioners’ desks.
Receptions and Parties
Wearing a straw hat courtesy of Darts IP, I added more and more ribbons throughout the conference. Several people thought I looked like a Russian general. Three separate attorneys noted a similarity to Peter Ustinov…
The Kosher table at the Opening Reception had two plates of nibbles, one hot and one cold. Neither where much good, but one included salmon and the other meat. There was also a table with tortilla chips, raw vegetables and various flavours of hummous, all labeled vegan friendly. Hummous with wassabi was different, but not unpleasant.
Domain 101 sponsored a party at the Howl of the Moon, a nightclub with dueling grand pianos. The performers were versatile, the music, selected by the audience, was eclectic. The beer was on the house and a good time was had by all.
On Monday there was a reception for Middle Eastern practitioners, and, being generally gauche, decided to go and network. The Arab attorneys were generally very friendly and a number told me that they received and enjoyed my monthly newsletters. Tiffany Hess, from Colb’s office was there as well.I was not surprised to see that the food was not Kosher, but think that many of the invitees would have preferred Hallal and a number were not eating for that reason. Kosher food, is, of course, also Hallal. Had the food been kosher, everyone could have participated. Without mentioning names, a fair number of my Middle Eastern colleagues were less than rigorous in avoiding alcohol and the barman was quite busy. We promised each other work and swapped business cards, vowing to visit when the political situation improved. I suspect that the good wishes were genuine. We’d all gain from normalized trade. Surprisingly, I did actually meet a client there – a firm of attorneys from Mauritius that we are handling a trademark opposition for.
My main reason for attending INTA this year was because I am on the Bulletin Committee. The time, date and location of the meeting were sent by email and entered into my calendar. It turned out that there was a bug in the system and I went along at the time given, and arrived six hours late. Google was entering things using Israel local time. This was a great way to ensure that everyone joined conference calls at the right time, no matter where they were based, but was a disaster as far as the conference was concerned. This was the only piece of programming that I intended attending.
From the Middle East reception, I went on to the KIPA (Kosher Intellectual Property Attorneys’ dinner, which is an informal event held in a local restaurant at each INTA. This time, we had a crowd of some 25 attorneys from the US, Australia, Holland, Ukraine, US, Canada, Switzerland and France, and as one of the US attorneys was saying Kaddish, we fitted in both afternoon and evening services. I enjoyed the event. It was also nice having a proper meal for a change.
I meant to go on to the Meet the Bloggers Reception and went back to the right stretch of International Drive, saw a queue of INTA people which I joined, and found myself in a high-powered party sponsored by Corsearch where I discussed the America Invents Act with President Obama and was interviewed by Ofra Winfrey courtesy of Madamme Toussaud.
The Chief Legal Counsel at Penthouse asked me to photograph her with her tongue in the ear of a waxwork pop-star who was less than adequately dressed. I found this odd, since for a modest fee, I am sure that the model-singer would have willingly cooperated.
On the Tuesday, I went to a couple of parties on International Drive. One was a little rowdy, and the building was trashed.
On the Wednesday, Florida trademark attorneys Michael Chesal and Mark Stein took a group of INTA conventioneers kayaking. I found myself about 8 feet away from an 8 foot alligator! The alligators are not aggressive. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the whomping willows and devil’s snare that attacked my kayak and caused me to capsize. If only I’d used the free watertight bag for mobile phones I’d picked up at the exhibition hall….
There were a lot of turtles and a fair number of birds including both white and white-headed ibises, various herons, an osprey, a white hawk with a swallow-tail that I later discovered was creatively called a white swallow-tailed hawk, red cardinals, and several eagles and buzzards that I didn’t recognize, as the American birds are different from their Eurasian cousins.
I usually tan easily so didn’t put sun-screen on my legs. I got second degree burns, and have discovered why skin is called tissue; as it peels off, it is remarkably like tissue paper. I’ve also discovered that Silversol, prescribed by the doctor for sunburn, is dispensed in white tubes that are confusingly similar to toothpaste when you fumble about at night for something to smear on agonizing legs. It is a good thing that I use sensodyne, which is a desensitiser. Not intended for sunburn, but not bad.
I was staying at a cheap hotel which wasn’t an official INTA hotel and thus wasn’t connected to the floo-network. I tried to flush myself in to the final reception from the en-suite bathroom, but that didn’t work either. After changing out of my damp shoes and socks, and not being a fan of uberation, feeling totally splitched after the kayaking, I took the muggle transport known as the i-trolley. This stops every few hundred meters along Universal Drive and took me to the conference headquarters where I caught the knight bus to Universal Studios.
It took a while to find where the Kosher food was, and I got there just after they had stopped serving which was very annoying, as there were steaks, they just weren’t giving them out. Luckily, an Australian attorney called Jonathan went into the kitchen and brought me a couple of bowls of salad, and, feeling virtuous, then had a couple of desserts as well.
The Hogwarts’ Express took me back to a highschool where I studied briefly. The lecturers were gowns. The pupils were jackets and ties, the weather was appalling and inter-house competitions were taken far too seriously. I wanted a nice quiet ride, and the staff told me that the flight of the hypogriff was considered family friendly. I don’t think we understood each other. It seemed to be a fast and bumpy roller-coaster. I have that when I drive. I wanted something slow and flat like the roller-coaster at Orlando Airport, that collects people from the baggage control and sets them down near the exit. I enjoyed the shop window displays with their wand control features, but went on to Jurassic Park. I can’t understand all the fuss made about the Sea World Orcas. Their paddling pool is fairly large. Here dinosaurs were kept in shocking conditions with electric fences. Dangerous and inhumane if you ask me. I went back to Dr Suisse. Much more my type of thing.
I flew back via American Airlines through Philadelphia.
I was severely overweight,
no not me, well, yes me, but I mean the case. I took out everything heavy, such as books, business cards, and the like, and loaded them into the backpack. I took out a tee-shirt, a sweater and a jacket and got over dressed. I changed my sandals into socks and formal suits and looking more overweight than ever, managed to check the suitcase through.
For some reason the Kosher food I had ordered hadn’t arrived. Very annoying. I could have bought some Sabra hummus with pretzels at Orlando airport. I have an ongoing friendly dispute with my friend at Alyafi (a Lebanese IP firm that gives out phenomenal baklava at their stall in INTA), as to where hummus was invented, Israel or Lebanon. What is clear, is that regardless of cultural approbation, Israel, with a population of immigrants from around the world has created incredible fusion foods, and hummus and pretzels could not have been coupled together anywhere else. Jews brought fried fish to the UK and bagels to New York. They have always cross-cultivated cuisines.
In Philadelphia we should have had to change disembark from one plane and for reembarkation on another, miles away. We couldn’t get off the plane due to processing pressures. When I finally did manage to disembark, I had very little time. I followed the signs into the bathroom and considered trying to flush myself in. However, as it wasn’t successful the first time, I put in a couple of dollars and took a scooter. The wheels went all over the place. Completely uncontrollable.
So there I was, overweight and overdressed, with the weight of full combat gear on my back, trying to race along kilometers of corridor; I recalled the beret march at the end of basic military training.
Luckily a golf cart was collecting a family and I persuaded them to take me as well. it was wonderful. We whizzed along, and I doffed my hat and waved regally at all my
subjects fellow passengers, as we passed them.
A week later, still jet-lagged, I’ve just about caught up with the backlog. This was the most enjoyable INTA yet. Whether or not it will bring in sufficient work to cover costs and the lost-time that could have been spent doing billable work is anyone’s guess.