“Come as a visitor, leave as a friend”. This was one of the many Irish sayings recounted to delegates at this year’s annual conference, which took place in Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland from 18-21 July 2008. By the final day, most if not all of those attending felt included in its warm sentiments, such was the friendly and co-operative atmosphere that prevailed at this 27th annual meeting of the Association.
Attended by over 700 members and guests in total, and marked by a most efficient local organisation, even two days of stormy weather could not dampen the spirits of the participants – indeed, as mentioned below, on one occasion, participants insisted on proceeding with the planned programme despite the heavy rain (this was Ireland, after all).
The conference proper began with Committee and Council meetings on Wednesday 18 June, although the conference hotel The Brehon kindly hosted a pre-conference party, with free refreshments and music from a light swing and jazz trio on the Tuesday night, for those arriving early. Concurrent with the Council meeting, a Workshop was held at the Gleneagle Hotel, adjacent the Conference Centre, under the title Asia, the other side of the world, which gave trade mark updates for China, Japan and Korea. Under the chairmanship of Gene Kim of Kim and Chang, KR, the speakers were Danny Chen, Unitalen Attorneys at Law, CN, Atsushi Aoki, Seiwa Patent and Law, JP, and Jay Young-June Yang, Kim and Chang, KR. Their contributions were much appreciated by their audience.
In the evening, a Welcome reception was held at the Muckross House Traditional Farms, three separate working Irish farms still in their original form, with spinning, bread-making and other traditional crafts on show. Here dinner and outstanding Irish entertainment were provided in the midst of Killarney’s National Park. In his words of welcome, the Mayor of Kerry, Michael Healy-Rae, spoke of his pride in Killarney and its beautiful landscape.
On the next day, ECTA’s Annual General Meeting took place in the morning, when the election of Krassimira Damianova. Olga Sirakova, both BG, Kristiane Brondum Vandborg, DK, Ari-Pekka Launne. FN, Nikolaos Lyberis. GR, Raluca Vasilescu, RM, and Luigi Sansone, MT, as new Council members, was confirmed. In her final President’s report, Mireia Curell, ES, reviewed a busy year and expressed ECTA’s thanks in particular to Sandrine Peters, Legal Co-ordinator, who will leave the Association in the summer to take up a new position in the USA with her husband, for her considerable contribution.
After introductory speeches from Norman MacLachlan, Chairman of the Organising Committee, IR, the President and Paul Gallagher, Ireland’s Attorney General (in a particularly fluent and complimentary address), the business sessions of the Conference began with an extended question-and-answer debate with Wubbo de Boer, President of OHIM, Oliver Varhelyi of the European Commission and Gregoire Bisson from WIPO. Many pressing questions of the day were responded to by these important officials.
The afternoon sessions concerned Global Brands, Counterfeiting and Internet issues. The speakers were Richard Hirst, AT &T, UK, Simeon Wilson, AstraZeneca, UK (under the chairmanship of Katerina Siotou, Law Office Katerina G. Siotou, GR), and Professors Jane Ginsburg, Columbia University, US, and Alain Strowel, Covington & Burling LP and Universities of Brussels (FUSL) and Liege, BE (under the chairmanship of Annick Mottet-Haugaard, Lydian, BE). Both sessions provided new insights and data on the issues under review. The dialogue format of the Internet programme received favourable comment.
In the evening, delegates had the novel experience of a “dine-around” at one of twelve eminent restaurants in the town of Killarney (the Conference Centre and hotels being a couple of kilometres out of town), which provided a convivial evening in smaller groups, ending with Irish music in the courtyard of one of the town centre hotels.
The final day of the Conference began with a well-organised session on Evidence and the use of surveys in trade mark cases, chaired by Michael Kiernan, Tomkins & Co. and President of the Irish Association of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys, IR. The speakers were Jeremy Pennant, D. Young & Co, UK, Douglas Bush,. Arent Fox, US and Ellen Gevers, Knijff & Partners, NL. In the afternoon, under the chairmanship of Mark Engelman, Barrister, Head of IP at Hardwicke Building, UK, Ulla Wennermark, Member of the First Board of Appeal, OHIM, and Vincent O’Reilly, Director of IP Policy, OHIM, addressed respectively distinctiveness and descriptiveness, and opposition and cancellation issues before OHIM.
The final session of the conference, under the chairmanship of João Pereira da Cruz, J. Pereira da Cruz SA, PT, was possibly the highlight of the professional sections of the Conference, featuring as it did three eminent lawyers, respectively a Professor of IP Law at VU University, Amsterdam, Jaap Spoor, a Lawyer of the IP Litigation Unit at OHIM, Arnaud Folliard, and a High Court Judge from the UK, Sir Robin Jacob,
who reviewed EU case law from their respective, very different, viewpoints. The subsequent debate between the speakers (on occasion involving “total disagreement” – but with a refreshingly light touch), kept the capacity audience thoroughly entertained and looking for more.
But the Centre had to be cleared for its transformation into the venue for the Gala Closing Dinner in the evening. Preceded by the presentation of certificates of Honorary Membership of the Association posthumously to Dr Robert Freitag, DE, (accepted by his son Rafael in the presence of his widow Sylvia), and to David Tatham, UK, both Past Presidents of ECTA, a fine dinner was enjoyed. Afterwards, presentations were made by and to the retiring President, Mireia Curell, to Sandrine Peters, to the members of the ECTA Organising Committee and to the Head of the most efficient local organising company Destination Killarney, Breffni Ingerton.
A dazzling display of Irish music and dancing, in “Riverdance” mode, and a swing band for dancing, ended a memorable evening and conference.
But all was not over as a significant tour had been organised for the following day, to one of Ireland’s most memorable sights, the Gap of Dunloe, in horse-drawn carriages, and by water over the Lakes of Killarney, as well as ECTA’s inaugural sports event, a Golf Tournament at the Killarney Golf Club, one of the most beautiful courses in the world.
Sadly, torrential rain greeted both groups in the morning, and the organisers offered cancellation of the mountain tour and an alternative programme, only to be greeted, as mentioned above, with the response that under no circumstances should be tour be cancelled. This confidence was rewarded by a later respite in the weather. The golfers continued also and the competition, organised by Domenico de Simone, De Simone & Partners, IT, ECTA’s newly-appointed Second Vice-President , was won by Pen Hosford, Marks & Clerk, UK, who must now defend his title in next year’s conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, from 24-27 June 2009.
ECTA Secretary General