Please wait while the page is loading...


INTA Looks to Hong Kong

23 August 2012

INTA Looks to Hong Kong

Hong Kong is on the minds of the International Trademark Association.

The city, a Special Administrative Region of China and host to INTA’s 2014 annual meeting, was hard to miss at this month’s annual meeting in Washington, DC, where the Hong Kong Tourism Board representatives were swamped by people curious about the city: Do I need a visa? Do people speak English in Hong Kong? Is the food tasty? Will the weather be nice?

“The Hong Kong meeting will be our first Annual Meeting in Asia,” says Alan Drewsen, the association’s executive director. “It is causing a lot of interest among our members. Whenever we mention we’re going to Hong Kong, people are very enthusiastic.”

Hong Kong has been on INTA’s calendar for a number of years, Drewsen says. “We looked at various destinations in Asia once we decided we wanted to go to Asia. Hong Kong is a very convention-friendly city, and they made a particularly good presentation when we were looking for a destination.”

Best of all, Drewsen says, Hong Kong’s central location permits attendees to fan out and do business around Asia before and after the meeting.

“As companies expand their business in Asia, Hong Kong becomes a more cost-effective trip,” Drewsen says. “Hong Kong presents a great opportunity to visit China, Southeast Asia, Japan, and other countries.”

Drewsen says the meeting will also give members an opportunity to introduce new colleagues to clients. “We expect to see a range of people who don’t normally get to attend Annual Meetings in North America or Europe come to Hong Kong. The Annual Meeting in Hong Kong is a unique opportunity for both those who don’t often come to Asia but will for the meeting and those who are based in Asia and don’t often travel to meetings in North America,” he says.
Melinda Upton, a Sydney-based partner at DLA Piper, toldAsia IP that her firm is already hearing from a number of US corporates with operations in Hong Kong and mainland China that 2014 will provide an opportunity to also touch base with operations in markets such as Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. “We feel confident that the brand owners will make the most of the 2014 venue,” Upton says.

While the Annual Meeting will be INTA’s first large-scale event in Hong Kong, the city is hardly unknown to INTA members. In 2010, the association held a successful anti-counterfeiting conference in Kowloon, which was attended by members based both inside and outside of Asia.
Drewsen acknowledges that Hong Kong is a long trip for members based in North America, but says that once they arrive, they’ll find a city which is convention-friendly, tourist-friendly and business-friendly. In fact, Hong Kong was recently named the top city in Asia for meetings and conventions by industry publication CEI.

“This award is particularly encouraging as it further testifies to Hong Kong’s image as one of the best [meetings and conventions] destinations in the world,” said Anthony Lau, executive director of Hong Kong Tourism Board. Lau said Hong Kong’s meetings and conventions arrivals for the first three quarters of 2011 grew by 15% compared with the same period in 2010.

“They don’t call Hong Kong ‘New York on steroids’ for nothing,” says Dan Greif, a partner at Siam Premier International in Bangkok. “I could not be more excited about the Annual Meeting being in one of the most exciting, fast-paced, and important cultural and business centers in the world.”

LokeKhoon Tan, a Hong Kong-based partner at Baker & McKenzie, says everyone he has spoken to “can’t wait” to visit Hong Kong in 2014. “There is a Chinese saying that is akin to ‘a hundred reports does not equal a single sight’,” says Tan. “Given the attraction of China for most businesses, I cannot see why lawyers won’t be able to make a good business trip out of the Annual Meeting.”

Edward Chatterton, a foreign legal consultant with DLA Piper in Hong Kong, says there are “huge advantages” to holding the Annual Meeting in Hong Kong. “However you look at it, Asia is now a core region for all brand owners: it’s the ‘world’s workshop,’ both as a manufacturing base for genuine product but also as the major source of the world’s counterfeit goods,” says Chatterton. At the same time, he notes, domestic markets in Asia are growing rapidly as populations rapidly urbanize and have greater disposable income. “Almost all brand owners I speak to see Asia as the market where they will achieve the greatest growth over the next 10 to 20 years, particularly brand owners in the fashion, retail and luxury goods sectors,” Chatterton says. “For all of these reasons, Asia is a vital region for any brand owner. It therefore seems appropriate to hold INTA’s Annual Meeting in Asia.”

Greif says the Hong Kong Annual Meeting presents an outstanding opportunity for INTA and the trademark community worldwide. “Considering the incredible pace of trademark filings, developments in\ trademark law, and importance of trademarks to brand owners in Asia, this meeting will in many respects be the most important and exciting INTA Annual Meeting to date,” he says.

Lower Attendance? Or, Maybe Even Higher?
Will holding the Annual Meeting in Hong Kong result in fewer attendees? Probably not, says Chatterton. “I first became aware of the Hong Kong meeting [at last year’s annual meeting] in San Fransciso,” he says. “A number of people I spoke to mentioned it and even at that time there was some speculation that there might be a drop off in numbers due it being held in Hong Kong. However, such comments were no different to comments which I heard when the meeting was held in Amsterdam and Berlin.” = Drewsen says he’s not particularly worried about a drop in attendance. “In 2003, we held our Annual Meeting in Amsterdam – it was our first meeting in Europe – and we heard some of the same concerns. But it was ultimately a very successful meeting, and when we went to Berlin five years later, all of those concerns had evaporated.”

What many do expect is that the attendee mix may be a bit different than most years, with more attendees based in Asia and slightly fewer based in the Americas. Lawyers based in China, in particular, are expected to attend in droves.

Greif says he foresees huge attendance from China, South Korea, India, Japan and the ASEAN countries with speakers and attendees from those countries providing valuable insights to practioners from other parts of the world on the rapidly developing important trademark issues of Asia.

“Considering the importance of the Annual Meeting to the world trademark community and the emergence of Asia as the fastest growing economic region in the world, the meeting should be a priority for any company and law firm that wants to be an important part of the Asia century,” said Greif.

“I think there will be a mixture of attendees,” says Chatterton. “There will undoubtedly be many more people from Asia attending when the meeting is in Hong Kong and I think this will more than offset any drop off in attendance from US delegates. However, from having spoken with colleagues at DLA Piper from around the world, I think that many are excited about the prospect of visiting Asia, many of them for the first time.”

That echoes exactly the sentiments of Rebeca Herrera Dutari, founding partner of Panama-based RHD Abogados. “I am very excited about attending INTA in Hong Kong in 2014,” she says. “It will be my first visit to Asia and it will be the perfect opportunity for networking and making new connections with Asian lawyers and IP practitioners from that continent. Lawyers at other firms have told me they are also planning to travel to Hong Kong since it will be a good opportunity to visit clients or colleagues in Asia, and to network and making new connections.”

Uche Nwokocha, a partner at Lagos, Nigeria-based Aluko & Oyebode, says she will also attend the Annual Meeting in Hong Kong. “I’m excited. Asia is an emerging market and an emerging power. I have never been there before and it will be good for our IP practice. Once you’ve been bitten by the INTA bug, chances of doing it again are very high.”

Many Asia-based lawyers tell Asia IP that holding the Annual Meeting in Hong Kong will allow their firm to register additional lawyers for the meeting due to lower travel costs. “Hong Kong is much closer to Malaysia than the United States is,” says Chew Phye Keat, a partner at Raja, Darryl & Loh in Kuala Lumpur. “Iintend to bring more representatives.”

Gladys Mirandah, a partner at Patrick Mirandah Co in Singapore, says holding an INTA Annual Meeting in Hong Kong will be good for Asia – and expects that attendance will be similar to recent years, which have approached 10,000 registrants.

For many, like Zhongqi Zhou, vice president and patent attorney at Beijing-based CCPIT Patent & Trademark Law Office, not attending the Annual Meeting is not even an option, no matter where it’s held.“I plan to attend the meeting in Hong Kong simply because I believe attending INTA’s Annual Meetings is a must for trademark practitioners.”

Featuring the Region

Details are yet to be hammered out – there is a meeting in Dallas in 2013, after all – but Drewsen says he has already heard a great deal of interest from Asian governments and intellectual property offices about participating in the Hong Kong Annual Meeting.

Drewsen says 25 IP offices were represented in Washington, and he expects to see even more in Hong Kong. “They’re interested not just as exhibitors, but also as speakers, leaders of table topics, etc. This meeting should provide a greater opportunity for attendees to interact with people from the government offices they do business with,” he says.

INTA officials expect the meeting will feature much of the same programming that would be at any Annual Meeting, but that Hong Kong gives the association an opportunity to expand culturally as part of the meeting. “We hope we can absorb and feature the cultural aspects of countries in the region,” he says. “We have a great opportunity to supplement our usual meeting with information about what’s going on in the region.”


Law firms