Sleepless in Seattle?

March 7, 2018

Sleepless in SeattleThe International Trademark Association (INTA) hosts a party conference every year, where approximately 10,000 patent and trademark attorneys work hard swapping business cards in the hope of generating work. This year, the conference runs from 19 May 2018 to 23 May 2018.

Shavuot, or Pentecost, is the Feast of Weeks. It follows seven weeks after the first day of Pesach (Passover), and this year starts on the evening of Saturday the 19th May 2018 and finishes on the evening of Monday 21 May 2018.

10 commandmentsIn Temple times, Shavuot was primarily a Harvest Festival, celebrating the end of the wheat harvest. It was also the Feast of New Fruits. By a little calculation, it appears that the Sinaitic Revelation and the receiving of the Decalogue took place on Shavuot as well. Lacking positive commandments beyond the Temple sacrifices, Shavuot is traditionally celebrated by an all night study program.

It is tempting to be Sleepless in Seattle, and the film was one of my favorite romantic movies. However, it seems a long way to go to be able to participate only in the Tuesday program at INTA this year. I am, therefore, not attending. The small number of KIPA members (Kosher IP Attorneys) that traditionally get together for dinner one evening in INTA at the local Kosher restaurant or Chabad House, will not be meeting there this year.

On the bright side, Seattle is probably a very nice city, but unlike some of the iconic conference cities, it is not a destination I am bothered about missing.

 


INTA 2017 – the Conference

May 28, 2017

middle east and north africaI 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.

hamThe 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 anhalald 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 Zoltarmessage 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 sucksdomain 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.

beach partyThe 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.

pickpocket-381435On 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.


Picasso, Dali and Gaudi

May 28, 2017

cannabis

Barcelona has a hemp museum dedicated to marihuana and cannabis. One suspects that soft drugs are legal in Catalonia since they are not legal in other parts of Spain. That was certainly the reason why bull fighting is illegal in Barcelona. However, there may be a history of drug abuse in Barcelona as Gaudi, Picasso and Dali were probably all users as their depictions of reality are somewhat skewed.

Whilst accepting that Picasso was versatile and talented, I gave the museum a miss. It may be simply a lack of education, but I find his pictures childish and simplistic. Its like looking at a neighbor’s grandchild’s pictures.

familiaBuildings are usually solid, rectangular affairs. Gaudi’s creations are anything but.

Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia cathedral seems to have been inspired by stalagmites and stalagtites, and is a kind of melted Gothic creation that is still being constructed. To me it emphasizes the temporal nature of all things, even stone.

Gaudi Casa Batllo

Casa Batlló is apparently inspired by the sea. The ceramic covered central walls surrounding the glass banister panels of the central staircase seem to glisten. The attics are supported by whalebone-like constructions, and everything seems to ebb and flow. Air-flow is ajusted through gills, and the outside of the building is scaly.

Well worth a visit, but not somewhere I’d like to live.

Dali Menora ora HoraI did a day trip to the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres. It was Jerusalem Day, celebrating 50 years since the reunification of the Holy City, and, in addition to his better known works, the visit to the Dali museum provided a timely opportunity to view the full Aliyah series of lithographs. Dali had obviously researched the project which included Biblical scenes, Ben Gurion’s declaration of independence, the Holocaust and illegal Jewish immigration. There was meticulous attention to detail, but I think the series had a lack of passion when compared to his depiction of his muse Gala, and I suspect that though he took the commission seriously, he wasn’t personally inspired by the Return to Zion.

The Kosher IP Dinner (KIPA) at INTA

March 30, 2017

kosher restaurantsAt the INTA Conference every year, the Kashrut observing practitioners try to get together for dinner one evening in a local Kosher restaurant. It is really a way to compare pita and humus followed by entrecote & chips at Chabad houses and Kosher restaurants around the world.

This year, INTA is in Barcelona, from 20th to 24th May.

kosher dining clubSo far, via the KIPA google group, we have 10 people who have expressed an interest in attending dinner, of which 4 can meet for supper on Sunday, 8 are available on Monday and 2 can meet on Tuesday. (I am not voting).

We usually get about 25-30 participants. Next year the conference is over Shavuot, so it this will be the last INTA KIPA dinner until 2019!

Although for obvious reasons, this event seems to attract Jewish practitioners, particularly those more committed to the dietary laws, the event is open to everyone. Occasionally someone sponsors, but generally we go Dutch. It makes a change from nibbling on raw vegetables and eating peanuts at the larger receptions.

days-of-week-song-gestures Anyway, assuming that most IP professionals that would be interested in this dinner follow this blog, I invite you to email me to register. I will put you in touch with the group, and by the middle of next week, we will select the day.

However, unless there is a surge of interest for Sunday or Tuesday, it does rather look as though we’ll be meeting Monday evening.


Go to INTA & C World

June 2, 2016

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 plaOrca.jpgyful 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 attracflamingostive, 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.

 

pelican

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.

turtle.jpg

 

The inside-counsel are a little retiscent and afraid of
being eaten. They withdraw into their shells
if they feel threatened.

 

 

eagret

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. 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 Pets-Ahoy-at-SeaWorld
and do their thing.

Often first time INTA conventioneers, they have been noted attending lectures.

 

octopus

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 Exhibition

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 swag.jpgarts 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

20160524_220031Wearing 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.

20160523_204449

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.

20160523_235957

Networking…

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.

 

Upside down house.jpg

On the Tuesday, I went to a couple of parties on International Drive. One was a little rowdy, and the building was trashed.

20160525_101754 (1)

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 honeydukes.jpgen-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.

Flying Back
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.

hummus and pretzelsFor 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.scooter

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.


California Dreamin – INTA San Diego

May 12, 2015

Calefornia Dreamin

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.

Jet-lagged Australian practitioner

Jet-lagged Australian practitioner

The koalas were somewhat sedentary, but from the way that they were tree-hugging, seem to have acclimatized to California.

A gazelle on its way to becoming a zebra

A gazelle on its way to becoming a zebra

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.

Urangutan

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.

panda

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.

whack a mole

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.

henry's pub

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?

california girls

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 Phillips and his personal assistants

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.

Ghiradelli

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.

bugs bunny

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).

Midway

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.

Orlando

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.


Postscript: Mickey Mouse Kashruth Supervision as INTA

June 14, 2014

The International Trademark Association (INTA) is generally very good at providing Kosher food at their opening reception. Indeed, in Washington, a couple of years ago, not only was there a Kosher table, but the wine at the opening reception was Israeli (Barkan) and both Kosher and pasteurized.

As noted in this blog (here ) unfortunately this did not happen at INTA Hong Kong. The organizers, particularly the catering manager, Ms Hilary Cohen, were apologetic, but did try to make amends. She assured those of us who complained, that there would be kosher food at the finale in Disneyland.

Mickey Mouose Kashruth Supervision

Mickey-Mouse Kashruth Supervision

There was indeed food signposted as being Kosher at the finale. The range was impressive and it looked delicious. I was told by some colleagues that it was indeed delicious. There were some Kashruth Observant conference members who ate it, relying on INTA’s track-record and the fact that speakers and committee members had received supervised meals during the conference. It transpired however, that the food was prepared by Disney chefs and, although the meat may have been Kosher when purchased, some was prepared with butter, and all was cooked in a non-Kosher kitchen. (More details here).

Ortho-Ducks Kashruth Tribunal

Ortho-Ducks Bet-Din

 Rather than send an irate letter to the organizers, I thanked them for their efforts, and suggested that in future they ensure that in future they provide Kosher food under Rabbinical supervision, either in sealed boxes, or that an on-site Kashruth supervisor appointed by a local Beth Din. I am delighted to inform those of my readers who are concerned about such things, that INTA have taken this suggestion on board, and Kosher, supervised food will be available at future events. INTA’s letter may be found here.At smaller IP conferences I’ve attended in places as diverse as Paris, Hong Kong, Munich and Shenzhen, I’ve requested and been provided with Kosher food. In the most recent such conference, in Shenzhen, I had to inform the organizers where it could be obtained, by they made the effort and it was provided.

 I wish to take this opportunity to call on the committee members for the Israel branch of the AIPPI (who did a marvelous job providing Kosher food at their event in Tel Aviv) to work with the International committee to ensure that at future AIPPI conferences, Kosher food is available. Although I have taken the issue up with international committee members myself, I believe that as far as the AIPPI is concerned, this is an issue that the Israel committee should engage in.  This would be very much appreciated by the  not insignificant minority of Israeli members that are bothered by such things, and also by the sizeable number of Kashruth-Observant Jewish IP professionals and academics from around the world.