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Can it really be that time of year again?! The 141st edition of the INTA Annual Meeting has officially started, with the great and the good from across the IP industry congregating in Boston, Massachusetts for what is already shaping up to be a fascinating five days.

A highly positive result of the increasing awareness of intellectual property, which has been driven in no small part by events such as INTA, is that IP is moving ever higher up the food chain in terms of value recognition. There is more work to do – as we reflected on in our blog earlier this month – but the direction of travel is clear: for many organisations now, intangibles (including IP) outweigh tangibles (such as goods and machinery) in terms of commercial value and impact as well as contributing to goodwill and reputation. IP requires strategic management and defence as a key business asset.

One strategy which companies are increasingly turning to is combining various legal protections for multiple elements of a single product – as part of a strategy to consolidate market share of an existing product or to launch something brand new to customers. Michael Flannery, Senior Vice President, IP Solutions, at CPA Global, discussed this with INTA attendees during one of the weekend Table Topic sessions here in Boston. This strategy is not new, with Michael pointing to the example of Coca-Cola, which has successfully combined its fluted bottle shape (patented in 1915, becoming a trademark in 2002), its logo and script design protected by copyright law, and the famous recipe itself which is a trade secret. The message is clear: it’s all very well protecting the essence of a product itself – i.e. the Coca-Cola recipe, or the software inherent in a new piece of technology, but other IP protections including trademarks can be equally, if not more, important in determining the uniqueness of a product through multiple other ways – including branding.

Harnessing technology to manage IP

While the Coca-Cola example shows that there are still lessons to be learned from the past, if there’s one thing we love about the IP industry it’s that time never stands still. We work in a space driven by innovation and invention, and that also means that no two INTAs are ever quite the same!

But if there is one key factor which continues to drive debate, and has been doing so already in the first two days here in Boston, it is the rising tide of digital disruption which is simultaneously presenting both opportunities and challenges; importantly, both to brand owners in terms of their innovation, and IP professionals in how innovation is harnessed and protected. This focus on automation has very much been reflected in the conversations we’ve had on the ground at INTA and in the interest we’ve received in products such as File.

It was with this in mind that Jon-James Kirtland, Product manager here at CPA Global, led an INTA Table Topic session on Saturday exploring how blockchain can be used to enhance the management of trademarks. Blockchain technology is itself not new of course, having made its public debut in 2008 and going on to enter into common parlance with the growth of cryptocurrencies (particularly Bitcoin). However, there are many other uses for blockchain technology beyond crypto, from real estate transactions to tracking the provenance of wine. This includes intellectual property, with the secure, distributed ledger technology potentially enabling a new approach to trademark authentication, making filings across multiple jurisdictions smoother and more efficient, as well as more secure. Watch this space!

Today (Monday, 20 May) Jayne Durden, Senior Vice President Strategy, Law Firms, at CPA Global will be delving into the broader topic of managing IP in a new age of technology when she chairs the panel discussion: The Big Promise of Big Data: Perspectives on Possibilities and Risks, Today and Tomorrow.

By Melanie Fitzpatrick, Chief People & Marketing Officer at CPA Global

If you are attending INTA this week, make sure to come along to the session or visit the team at stand 501.

All law firms visiting the stand can benefit from a complementary Filing Analytics report, which brings together billions of global filing data points on client lists, filing trends, agent networks and reciprocity, making it easier to discover business opportunities that will transform and grow your law firm.