INTA’s March 2019 Conference: The Business of Brands

Written by Ken Taylor, Director of Business Development

More than 300 legal and brand professionals from 49 countries across five continents gathered March 28 and 29 to attend INTA’s 2019 March Conference in New York.  Ken Taylor, our Director of Business Development, summarises the main discussion points.


This year at INTA, speakers took the discussion beyond trademarks, and focused on encouraging registrants to learn about brands from a business perspective.

The challenges of leveraging IP rights

Several sessions explored the challenges of legal and business partnerships to leverage intellectual property (IP) rights, while still keeping product launches, stakeholder communications, and brand reputation at the forefront. James Whymark, Associate General Counsel of Facebook, USA, shared the business team’s advice to him, saying, “If you’re not providing the answer in the first two sentences, you’re not giving good advice.”

Proposed U.S. privacy regulations

There were also cautionary tales of proposed U.S. privacy regulations and the extra-territorial reach of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation from Linda Goldstein, Partner, BakerHostetler, USA, and Heidi Wachs, Vice President, Stroz Freidberg, USA.

Today’s social media “culture of outrage”

Jeff Peters, Vice President, Licensing and Retail at HBO, raised the notion of today’s social media “culture of outrage” as a less-than-effective tool for interdepartmental problem solving. Panelists agreed that enforcing brand rights has evolved from a private matter between businesses and lawyers, to a scenario in which the whole world seems to be watching and commenting.

Managing legal issues versus business risks

Another topic discussed across the two days of the conference was how to manage legal issues versus business risks. “We used to be known as the ‘floor of no,’ said Cathy Lueders, Assistant General Counsel and Senior VP of MasterCard, USA. Rana Kardestuncer, Founder, January Communications, USA, said that, in her “former life,” marketing lived between “pushing the envelope and getting sued,” and that the mandate was “if legal says no, ignore them.” Ms. Lueders added, “business is the first line of defense, legal is the second line” and noted that it may be necessary to escalate “above junior-level execs who are sometimes only looking at the numbers.”

Both Ms. Lueders and Ms. Kardestuncer agreed that core company values should always guide decisions on risk.

The business-centric approach to issues followed through in the discussion of more traditional legal topics, such as the tax implications of IP transactions and ethics.

Overall, this year’s New York City conference highlighted the importance of members of the business and legal professions looking at issues from a different perspective, speaking the same language to build mutual trust in meeting business demands, enhancing consumer protection, and embracing change and innovation.

This article first appeared in the INTA Bulletin and was reprinted with permission from the International Trademark Association (INTA).