Last week, members of the Goulston & Storrs intellectual property practice group joined over 11,000 attendees from around the world for the 141st Annual Meeting of the International Trademark Association (INTA). For us it was a hometown affair, with Boston hosting a diverse group of brand owners, legal advisors, government officials, academics, and other intellectual property professionals from over 150 countries.
INTA showcased the tremendous development activity underway in Boston’s Seaport District, where the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center is now surrounded by attractive retail, office, and residential properties, many of which had previously been surface parking lots. INTA veterans who attended the Annual Meeting in 2010, the last time it was held in Boston, marveled at the physical changes and vibrant atmosphere in the Seaport District. They also raved about the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, featuring the Trillium beer garden, the City Winery wine garden, a variety of food trucks, and numerous public art installations.
For us, a highlight of INTA was hosting the annual meeting of the Intellectual Property Practice Group of Meritas, a worldwide network of law firms in which Goulston & Storrs serves as the Boston member. This meeting enabled us to see old friends, make new connections, and hear presentations on regional developments in intellectual property law. Our featured guest speaker was Rafa Klotz of Gordon Brothers, who shared his perspectives on valuation of brands and other intellectual property and the particular challenges that arise when acquiring brands in a bankruptcy context.
Coincidentally, the day after our Meritas event, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in a case called Mission Product Holdings, Inc. v. Tempnology LLC, which is likely to impact valuations of distressed brands. Specifically, in resolving a split among federal courts, which we discussed in a previous post, the Court held that a trademark licensee may continue to use a licensed trademark despite the bankrupt debtor-licensor’s rejection of the related trademark license. Since the purchaser of a debtor’s licensed brand can no longer expect to use the threat of termination as leverage to renegotiate licenses that are unfavorable to the brand owner, this ruling is likely to result in lower valuations of trademark portfolios that are encumbered by such below market licenses (i.e., licenses that are unusually favorable to the licensee).
But there was much more to INTA 2019. In addition to hosting and attending various networking events, we and others were able to attend a wide variety of exhibits, presentations, committee meetings, and legal education sessions. Hot topics of discussion included the latest word on Brexit, updates regarding the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the rollout of a new trademark regime in Canada, and strategies to combat counterfeiting. As usual, the formal and informal discussions were lively.
Next year’s INTA Annual Meeting is scheduled for April 25-29, 2020 in Singapore.