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IAM has moved its HQ for a few days to Washington DC. We’re here en masse to cover the INTA annual meeting, which started this weekend and is said to have attracted over 9,000 delegates.
The annual INTA meeting – the USTA meeting as was – is by far the oldest and biggest annual IP event of them all. It brings together delegates from dozens of countries and totally takes over every city in which it is held. Whatever the time of day, you will see slightly befuddled, jet-lagged people wandering the streets with INTA badges around their necks, whiling away the hours to the next law firm reception or the beginning of the day’s sessions.
Although this blog mainly focuses on the patent market place, the fact is that in terms of business trademarks are probably the most important, valuable and pervasive IP right there is. Every company has a name, many invest time and not inconsiderable amounts of money in building a brand. Central to the success of that is the ownership of a trademark. Brands, of course, are not the same thing as trademarks, but you are unlikely to have a successful brand without a collection of trademarks underpinning it. And, unlike patents (so far), trademarks are truly international: you can often get away with owning patents in just a few of the countries in which sell and/or distribute the products they underpin; you cannot do the same with trademarks – you need to own them everywhere in which you operate and if you don’t you very quickly find out why you should.
Although we have seen an explosion of patent-related deals recently, with some transactions hitting the billion dollars plus mark,brand values dwarf those of patents. The most important asset that Google owns, for example, is not its growing patent portfolio, but its name. The same applies to Apple, Microsoft and to most of the other companies currently engaged in the smartphone wars. And while the vast majority of patents are worth little or nothing to anyone, the majority of trademarks have exceptional value for their owners precisely because they protect the identities of their businesses and products. All this before you start to consider domain names, which can have entirely separate values but which, when tied in with a brand, assume huge strategic importance.
The value of trademarks has long been recognised. Big licensing deals have been a staple for years, while franchising is a business model that has trademarks at its heart. Many of the big IP-related securitisations have revolved around trademarks, while sales that involve a well-known marks have raised good money on many occasions.
None of his should come as a surprise to anyone. There is nothing more important to a business that its reputation. The way it is perceived and how those perceptions affect the attitudes and decisions not only of consumers - actual and potential - but also the financial markets, the media and even governments, is crucial to an enterprises commercial success. And reputation is encapsulated in the brand. Many types of IP and other intangible go into a brand; but almost always a trademark is at the core of everything. As an operating company, you can have all the patents in the world, but if consumers will not buy your products because they do not like/recognise/trust/rate your brand, then you do not have a business.
Thus, trademarks are the foundation on which all other IP rights can thrive. And that’s why so many people will be in Washington DC this week. If you are one of them, make sure you come to the IAM magazine and World Trademark Review stands in the exhibition hall (numbers 541 and 543). We’ll see you there.
IP management, Licensing, Brands, IA management, Patents, IP business, IP finance