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The Confucian ideal of turning crisis into opportunity is not as easy as it sounds, but the CEO of the International Trademark Association, Etienne Sanz de Acedo, has done just that. Here he talks to Asia Business Law Journal about his reinvention of the global flagship INTA Annual Meeting with a bold move to the virtual sphere in this pandemic year.
This year, this annus horribilis (to borrow an expression from Queen Elizabeth II), has, as trying times do, brought out the best and on occasion the worst in us. Those who lead can define their legacy in such times with decisions that in so-called normal days would not even be contemplated.
The Confucian ideal of turning crisis into opportunity is not as easy as it sounds, but there are some who make it look easy. Etienne Sanz de Acedo, CEO of the International Trademark Association (INTA), is such a person who, in more contemporary parlance, makes lemonade when given nothing but lemons.
If you are an intellectual property (IP) attorney worth your salt, or associated with the IP legal and wider business community, and have not attended an INTA Annual Meeting – well, perhaps you should have. The diverse locations each year attract thousands of registrants in a who’s who of the IP community – thought leaders, policymakers, academics, in-house counsel, hundreds of firms, top gun practitioners and up-and-coming associates all gather for a week of intellectual stimulation woven in with relaxed networking, catching up on the very latest developments from around the world, re-establishing old ties and creating new ones.
“It’s an enormous project, one easily dismissed as the week’s events fly by,” Sanz de Acedo says of the event. “I think, you know, the members do not necessarily realize how much effort goes behind the scenes in terms of putting together an Annual Meeting. It’s around 10-12,000 registrants from all over the world, so it implies, you know, hundreds of contacts with the convention centre, with the hotels, with the different venues.
“And we have a very serious due diligence exercise when we think of the [chosen event] city, we need to negotiate all the contracts. And even when you start doing something different, you need to review your programming and you might need to change that. And the credit goes to INTA staff, I think they’re phenomenal in what they do.”