I had a couple of prearranged meetings on Sunday, and also a meeting of the Middle East and Africa Committee for the INTA Bulletin, which I dutifully attended. In terms of generating or giving out work, the committee is a waste of time. Israeli companies mostly file patents and trademarks in North America, Europe, India, the Far East and Australasia and incoming work is largely from the same places.
I spent most of the day schmoozing with other practitioners. Despite it being my sixth or seventh INTA, I had made the unforgivable error of forgetting my business cards in the apartment we were renting.
The opening reception had a musician playing the Spanish guitar, with some girls dancing the flamenco. In addition to beer and wine, much of it sponsored, there were loads of carving stations where punters could get thinly sliced ham off carved from the leg. The Kosher table at the opening reception had some delicious lamb, Moroccan style spicy fish, chicken, rice and potatoes, fruit salad and apple strudel. In addition to being a magnet for the observant Jewish crowd, it was also a good place to meet Pakistani and Middle Eastern colleagues that are happy to rely on Kosher food as being in accordance with strict Halal requirements. Unfortunately, most strict Muslims seem to come from countries that do not exchange work with Israel, but the friendly banter between the lawyers and patent attorneys is a worthwhile form of low-level diplomacy that can only further mutual respect and understanding. One Iranian gentleman explained that it is only the ayatollahs who have animosity towards Israel, the Iranian people wish us no harm. I had a fascinating discussion with a Dubai attorney who showed me how often Moses and Abraham are mentioned in the Koran, in contrast with Mohammed.
The Exhibition Hall was a bit of a disappointment in that there was less swag available than in previous years, and fewer entertaining stalls. Still, as the kids get older, they are more demanding regarding presents, and I am not sure that INTA publicity junk is sufficient reward for them managing without me for a week. The book and magazine stalls were also smaller than usual, and now that the entertaining and erudite Professor Jeremy Phillips has retired, the booth representing Oxford University Press is simply not the same. Dennemeyer had very good coffee, particularly when compared with the rubbish served in the hospitality area. The Future of Brands.Com had a great booth with a wheel of fortune, an antique arcade ‘Zoltar Speaks’ fortune teller machine a la BIG, and a row of ducks to knock over with bean-bags. Their stall was manned by a magician who was quite competent and entertaining if you like card tricks, etc. Their central message was that forcing cigarette packages to show images of the likely diseases caused could spread to chocolate and soft drinks and endangered the branding industry. Regardless of whether one agrees with their message, the stall stood out and was well conceived. I was disappointed to see that the .sucks people had a stall again. Their pitch seems to be that brands should buy the brandname.sucks domain before someone else does, and this, to my mind, is trademark abuse and something that INTA could and should decide not to provide a platform for. With the tens of millions of dollars that INTA takes from registrants and sponsors, I think they could have said no to this. In addition to attractive and friendly daughters, Yaffi from Lebanon has the best baklava that I’ve ever eaten. After another round of our ritualized argument regarding which country deserved the appellation of origin for hummus, we promised to exchange work inj’Allah. One day it may happen…
For some reason meeting points 1 and 2 were a fair distance from the hospitality area, and meeting point 3 was cancelled. A lot of people complained of being stood up. The receptions were also scattered around town and were generally a distance from the conference center. It seems that pre-registration was mostly required to try to gauge numbers, as very few venues can cope with 10,000 participants. However, with the conference being tiring and everything being a schlepp, people who had pre-registered didn’t bother showing and reception organizers seemed happy to accept gate-crashers.
I had registered for and went to Achariya’s reception, but didn’t stay. I was hoping for an Indian experience, but the food, dress, ambiance and music was anything but. Next door, was a Japanese reception by Taiyo which I gate-crashed, where sushi and sake was served. I had a little raw salmon sashimi which was very good (and the only thing Kosher) and a box of sake which seemed fairly mild, but left me a little woozy.
By Tuesday night, I’d had enough, and went on a day tour with my wife.
The Gala Event was something of a disappointment after Universal Studios and Disney Land in previous INTAs. It was a beach party that consisted of a couple of adjacent restaurants somewhere on Barceloneta Beach, and though small, was more than sufficient as those that managed to find the location arrived in dribs and drabs having walked miles along the promenade looking for the venue. Some gave up and went back to their hotels and many simply didn’t bother coming. Quite by chance, the restaurant/club that I queued up to enter, had the table of Kosher food at the back. Once again, the one Kosher caterer did us proud, with beef, chicken, salmon, couscous, rice, potatoes, salads and dessert.
The alcohol flowed freely, but though less formally attired than for business meetings, people were over-dressed for a beach-party. Many of us were too tired and perhaps also too old to get into the party mood. It seems that many of the latecomers who had walked the beach for ages looking for the party, had to queue for a long time to get in, and some were turned away.
On leaving the party area, I was stopped by the police. It seems that I wasn’t their target; the person next to me was accused of being a pick-pocket. I explained that I had one wallet and one mobile phone. Although I had a pocket full of other people’s business cards, these were more or less willingly surrendered and certainly not surreptitiously lifted.
Actually, I was robbed. It happened at the airport on arrival where I stupidly changed dollars to Euros at an official cambio that didn’t take a commission, merely gave an exchange rate that was about 15% less than it should have been.
I enjoyed the break from regular work, and somehow feel recharged. The average cost per business card was less than in previous years. In addition to shaking paws with a couple of hundred colleagues that I’ve previously met, I seem to have collected 429 new business cards and email addresses at an average outlay of only $8 a card. Perhaps a better way to look at it is that one only needs to generate $3000-4000 of work per participant to make the exercise worthwhile. Who knows? Maybe the conference will bring in enough work to justify participation.