ECTA: Now and in the near future
A busy year has seen the European Communities Trade Mark Association guide its members during a period of legislative reform in the EU, and much more. Max Oker-Blom, secretary general of ECTA, reports

Ruta Olmane, a trademark lawyer from Riga, Latvia, was by the end of June elected as the new president of the European Communities Trade Mark Association (ECTA). Before that she had been a member of the management committee, first as second vice and then as first vice president. She replaced Peter Müller from Munich, whose term came to an end at the ECTA Annual Conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

The management committee

In addition to Olmane becoming the new president, Sozos-Christos Theodoulou from Cyprus was chosen to become first vice president, while Anette Rasmussen from Denmark became second vice president. The management committee also consists of myself (from Finland) as secretary general and treasurer László Bérczes from Hungary. The committee is the executive body of the ECTA council, which meets biannually and has one or several representatives from each EU member state.

The ECTA Annual Conference

This year, the ECTA Annual Conference was held in Dubrovnik, Croatia. It was very well attended, with 857 attendees coming from all over Europe, but also from the US, South America and Asia. The conference was preceded by a workshop on 22 June on damages in trademark cases, with perspectives both from the US and Europe. On 23 to 24 June, nine sessions were held covering the trademark reform package, enforcement issues, copyright, prior right agreements, the recent trademark reform in China, the World IP Organization (WIPO) and a well-received case law update, which was chaired by proffessor Alexander von Muhlendahl. Justice Richard Arnold, who is a judge of the High Court of England and Wales, also appeared as a speaker in this session.

For the first time, parallel sessions were arranged on the morning of 24 June. These seemed to be very much appreciated, at least judged on the number of participants and discussions taking place. This gives of course the participants a welcome possibility to acquaint themselves with a wider range of topics. A daily magazine with interviews and interesting information was also published during the conference in addition to the high quality ECTA Bulletin, which comprises interviews, brief articles and case reviews.

Next year, the ECTA Annual Conference will take place in Budapest, Hungary, on 28 June to 1 July. The preparations for the arrangements have started already, including the reserving of venues and hotels, and preparing the professional and social programmes, which promise to be as attractive as this year. In 2018, the ECTA Annual Conference will be held in Athens, Greece. The ECTA council meeting will be held in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Seminars and workshops

In addition to the annual conference, ECTA is arranging a number of seminars and workshops throughout the year. In early December last year, a seminar on the European trademark reform package and its implementation was organised in Munich.

It was attended by some 100 IP lawyers. It was also streamed live on the web so more than 400 saw it online.

January of this year saw an ECTA Expert Exchange on Designs take place in Brussels, Belgium. This was followed by a geographical indications seminar in February in Alicante and another on the implementation of the trademark reform package and IP as it relates to the internet of things in March, again in Brussels.

In September, also in Brussels, a workshop will discuss the implementation of the trademark reform package and the possible effects of the UK vote to leave the EU, also known as Brexit, which took place on 23 June.

This occasion will be filmed and made available to ECTA members. On 21 October, ECTA will hold a roundtable in Bordeaux on geographical indications, particularly wines, and Court of Justice of the EU decisions referred to by national courts.

The roundtable will take place in connection with the ECTA council meeting, which is estimated to attract some 150 participants. Last year, the council meeting took place in Lisbon, Portugal.

A council meeting is also arranged in connection with the ECTA Annual Conference.

Participation in various meetings

ECTA was represented as an observer at the EU IP Office (EUIPO) management board and budget committee meetings in late November 2015 and early June this year, by its president and EUIPO link committee chair respectively. The management committee visited various European Commission departments last September and again in March this year. Similar bilateral meetings are taking place this September.

In addition, a number of meetings and conferences arranged by other associations have been on the agenda and attended by ECTA representatives. In mid April, for instance, a meeting among the various European IP associations took place in Milan, Italy.

Position papers

Between June 2015 and June this year, ECTA has, with the active assistance of its committees, issued several position papers. Among others, ECTA has commented on the proposals for amending the EU Trademark Implementing Regulation, the draft guidelines work package, IP Key´s third annual action plan, the draft communication on Article 28 (8) of the EU Trademark Regulation, and the European cooperation projects and proposals by EU member states concerning plain packaging legislation.

All of the events listed above and the position papers made take place on a European level, but both the management committee and council members as well as committee and ECTA members are of course active on a national level and voicing ECTA positions to local authorities. This is naturally of particular importance with the new EU Trademark Directive being implemented in member states over the next three years.

ECTA will, with the help of its excellent staff in Brussels and its active media strategy, continue to be an active and important force under the new presidency in the EU IP community.

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