Trademarks and the Wrath of Mt. Rainier: 10 Tips for Enjoying INTA 2018 in Seattle

As most of our readers are keenly aware, the 140th INTA Annual Meeting takes place next week in the Emerald City, Seattle, where more than 10,000 trademark professionals (including a fair number of patent professionals in disguise) will gather to network, learn, have a drink or two, develop intellectual property policy, connect with old friends, dine, snap up CLE credits, and have another drink. While there are several bar and industry associations that focus on trademarks, and many more that have at least one foot in the trademark camp, INTA is the largest trademark-focused organization of its kind, and the INTA Annual Meeting is its marquee event. It’s sort of a big deal, like the MET Gala but for modestly dressed non-patent IP practitioners. It attracts the who’s who of trademark professionals; for instance, you could see J. Thomas McCarthy of McCarthy on Trademarks fame, or the TTABlogger, or well-known judges and other governmental officials from all over the world. A cruel reader might wonder why I’ll be there, to which I’d respond that I’m just the eye candy accompanying the accomplished and talented Foley Hoag trademark team.

As a Washington native and a longtime INTA Annual Meeting connoisseur, I thought it might be helpful to provide a few tips for newcomers and veterans alike. Constant readers may recall that I provided a similar list before the INTA Annual Meeting in Orlando, where I urged you to avoid the alligators. There are no gators to worry about in Seattle, but…well, you’ll see. Let’s go!

1. Network Efficiently. This one bears repeating so I’m stealing it from my earlier top-10 list. For most of us, the opportunity to network is the core value proposition of the Annual Meeting investment. But with so many demands on our limited time, it’s important to network wisely. For me, this means meeting with (a) clients; (b) foreign agents with whom I have or am cultivating a reciprocal relationship; (c) foreign agents where reciprocity is unlikely but where I’m seeking to fulfill a need or learn more about a particular area of law in a given jurisdiction; (d) vendors providing a service that I’m actively evaluating or thinking about; and of course (e) friends and colleagues that I’m only able to see at INTA and similar meetings.

Experience has taught me that INTA scheduling requires a certain degree of ruthlessness. Take a look at your schedule. If you have networking meetings lined up that don’t fall into these five categories (or, if you’re an in-house counsel or a vendor, your own similarly high-value categories), think about whether your time might be better spent doing something else!

Also: consider leaving a half-hour between meetings, unless you fancy doing a lot of running. Save that for INTA’s various morning and evening running tours, if you’re into that sort of thing.

2. Drink Water. Fun fact! Seattle doesn’t even approach the top 10 of major cities in terms of annual rainfall – New Orleans, Atlanta, Boston, Houston, DC, and New York all have it beat – but it is among the cities with the most rainy days per year. However, assuming you’re not able to drink water through your skin, you should plan on bringing a water bottle with you. You are going to be extremely busy. Despite my friendly admonition, you will be running from meeting to meeting. You will be talking a lot, and – unless you abstain – drinking both coffee and alcohol. It’s easy to become dehydrated at the Annual Meeting, even when the weather isn’t 90 degrees with 100% humidity, and where the convention center isn’t literally a mile long (*cough cough* Orlando). Trust me, your busy day will be much more bearable without a splitting headache.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say Hi. The INTA Annual Meeting, with its various crowded networking receptions and other events, can be intimidating to newcomers. The Annual Meeting can be naturally clique-y, and sometimes it seems like you’re the only person wandering around that packed ballroom alone, cocktail in one hand and small plate of ridiculous canapés in the other, wondering what the hell you’re doing. Well, I have news for you: this happens to seasoned INTA veterans as well, whether they’re naturally shy, or introverted, or if they’re just temporarily without an INTA networking “wingperson.” I can guarantee you that, especially at the big events, a large percentage of the people engaged in conversation don’t really know each other very well. Others are trapped in conversations and looking to move on. Sometimes it feels like the hardest thing in the world to do, but if you walk up and politely introduce yourself, most people are more than happy to welcome you to the group. And if you find it helpful to have a bit more structure to your networking experience, INTA offers various speed networking events during the meeting.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Say Bye. Corollary to #3. Some people like to talk. Some people talk a lot, especially when they’re nervous, or drinking, or both. And sometimes you’re just not that interested in what they’re saying. This is okay! You’re there to meet people, and beyond a brief, cordial interaction you’re not obligated to stick around. And since everybody knows that it’s a networking event, you’re not going to insult anyone by smiling and gracefully extricating yourself with a “Well, it was really great to meet you.”

5. Consider the INTA Excursions. You may have already signed up for some of these, but INTA offers a bunch of networking excursions. These can be both fun and valuable, and it’s nice to escape the endless string of hotel lobbies and convention center ballrooms. You can also use these excursion to check some Seattle tourist attractions off your list, like the Underground Tour and Pike Place Market.

6. Speaking of Excursions, Check out Dave Kluft’s Seattle Trademark History Tour. My partner Dave Kluft has put together an exhaustively researched 10-part blog series on early trademark cases related to Seattle, along with a very cool map of the landmarks featured in the series. The blog posts feature the typical riveting Kluftian prose you’ve come to know and love, and if you’re so inclined you can use the map to travel around Seattle and impress your trademark colleagues. I’ll bet you could even turn it into a pub crawl, if you are so inclined…

7. Grab the Swag! INTA Annual Meetings attract the usual crowd of vendors in the exhibition hall at the convention center – search providers, domain name registrars, IP publications, and the like – and they tend to go all-out with the exhibits, which almost always include some manner of complimentary gift, prize, or raffle opportunity. I avoid the exhibits like the plague because I’m a joyless curmudgeon (and I hate carrying stuff around from meeting to meeting), but my colleagues assure me that this is an INTA highlight that I must mention, and especially for those who head home to children (and spouses!) desiring souvenirs. Expect to be burdened with at least fifteen Space-Needle-shaped 128MB USB drives. Trademark Trivia: did you know that Space Needle Corporation, the owners of the iconic Space Needle, own over a dozen federal trademark registrations for the outline of the Space Needle and stylized variations thereof in connection with a large array of products and services?

8. Educate yourself. I’m sure this advice is unnecessary for those of you that, unlike Massachusetts bar members, have annual CLE requirements, but if you have time be sure to attend some of the many excellent educational sessions put on throughout the week. The plenary sessions offer a wide range of trademark topics (the annual U.S. Federal Case Law/TTAB review on Wednesday morning is a perennial favorite), and the Table Topics combine a very specific topic of interest with a meal and networking. Consider signing up for Julia Huston’s breakfast Table Topic, “Ethical Considerations in Conducting Pretext Investigations in the U.S.,” Wednesday, May 23 at 8:00am.

9. Get Out of Town. Seattle’s a cool place and, as an INTA Annual Meeting attendee, you’re going to get exclusive access to a bunch of venues and events, including museums, fine dining, and nightclubs. But if you’re arriving in Seattle early or leaving late, I recommend a brief road trip. Washington is stunningly beautiful, and even a mere hour’s drive out of town can bring you to some pretty incredible natural attractions. One example: you know that mountain that you’ll see standing tall over the southeastern horizon during the whole meeting? That’s Mount Rainier. At 14,411 feet, it’s the tallest mountain in the Cascades, but it’s also the third most prominent peak in the United States, and the 21st most prominent peak in the world. It is awesome in the most literal sense of that word, and you can drive to it! Barring inclement weather, at least a few of the lower hiking areas should be opening the weekend after INTA (I’ll be there!).

10. Don’t Think Too Much About Mt. Rainier. So, um, another thing about Mr. Rainier. It’s a volcano. A resting volcano, but don’t let that fool you. It’s active, on the eastern rim of the Pacific Ring of Fire, one of sixteen Decade Volcanoes, and largely considered by geologists to be the most dangerous mountain in the United States. While the most recent volcanic eruption was in the mid-nineteenth century, there is little doubt that it will erupt again. If it erupts with anywhere near the force with which Mt. St. Helens erupted back in 1980, volcanic lahars are likely to speed down the Puyallup River Valley, and there’s some possibility they would reach Seattle. One of my earliest memories is seeing the smoke plume rise from the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, and I think about volcanoes more than might be considered healthy. Don’t be like me.

Bonus: Meet the Foley Hoag Team! Seven Foley Hoag IP professionals will be in Seattle for the Annual Meeting: Julia Huston, Dave Kluft, Jenevieve Maerker, Catherine Muyl, Natasha Reed, Peter Sullivan, and myself (I’ll be the guy in the bow tie, as usual).

We’re all trademark practitioners and Trademark & Copyright Law Blog authors, and would be delighted to meet you, or see you again! As a final word of advice, we are especially receptive to compliments about our blog, and I am personally receptive to compliments about my backup dancing.

See you soon!