A diverse panel of International Trademark Association (INTA) members met with Office of Harmonization for the Internal Market (OHIM) officials, OHIM examiners and representatives from the national offices in Alicante, Spain, for the 2015 INTA/OHIM Industry Training Seminars organized by INTA’s Government Officials Education and Training Committee. The training took place on October 5 in OHIM’s offices. The theme of this year’s meeting was “Trademarks in Regulated Industries.” The overall premise of the morning session was to acknowledge that there are agencies other than trademark offices involved in the companies’ decisions regarding the selection and use of trademarks.
Representing the alcoholic beverage industry was Jose Ramon Fernandez, Director of European Corporate Affairs for Pernod Ricard. The banking industry was represented by Carrie Hefte, Senior Vice President for Wells Fargo & Company. The pharmaceutical industry was represented by Maria Fernandez-Marquez, Senior European Corporate Counsel for Pfizer GmbH. The tobacco industry was represented by Ronald van Tuijl, Director of Intellectual Property for JT International, SA. The panel was moderated by Frances Jagla of Lane Powell PC.
The morning session was opened by H.M. Bello, Director of the OHIM Academy, and Ronald van Tuijl, President-elect of INTA. The session was attended by Senior OHIM representatives, OHIM examiners, and examiners and representatives from multiple national offices. In addition, over 50 attendees participated via webinar. After introducing their respective companies and responding to specific OHIM questions ranging from the importance of 3D marks to acquired distinctiveness to an overall “how is the office doing,” the panelists described the regulatory realities for their industries. These regulatory discussions helped to provide the examiners with a framework to identify specific challenges to companies doing business in regulated industries. Included in the discussion was the impact of geographical indications in the alcoholic beverage industry; the advent of the e-cigarette and “vaping “ products, and their classification in the tobacco industry; the relevant public degree of attention to products in the banking industry; as well as “why are so many trademarks for pharmaceuticals unpronounceable and impossible?” (such characterization was vehemently disputed by Ms. Fernandez-Marquez).
After a networking lunch among the panelists, INTA representatives and Senior Examiners, the afternoon sessions involved breakouts for each industry. The sessions gave the panelists one-on-one time with OHIM to provide additional information regarding their industries, including the challenges faced at OHIM and the national offices. This also gave OHIM the opportunity to ask questions of the panelists and to help define where they can improve upon or add new services to an industry.