by Jeremy M. Ben-David
The 2022 INTA meeting in Washington, DC will be remembered by many. For some, this was their first meeting, while for others this was the meeting which in some ways resembled a school reunion rather than the usual frenetic meetings that have taken place for over 140 years (although for most of the time INTA was actually the USTA). Others yet will remember this meeting as the one that they could have attended, but decided not to, due to concerns about either catching Covid-19 or facing quarantine restrictions when going home.
Before I share my own thoughts as to how this year’s INTA meeting stood out (and stand out it did!), a word about “quarantine”. It’s a word that we bandy about so much that it has become synonymous with “isolation”; but that is not entirely accurate. Before you rush to Google the word – don’t worry – I’ve done it for you. As explained on the CDC webpage History of Quarantine | Quarantine | CDC, “the practice of quarantine, as we know it, began during the 14th century in an effort to protect coastal cities from plague epidemics. Ships arriving in Venice from infected ports were required to sit at anchor for 40 days before landing. This practice, called quarantine, was derived from the Italian words quaranta giorni which mean 40 days.” So as you see, the use of the word “isolation” is more accurate, unless the isolation is 40 days…
But I digress…
The specter of Covid hung over us all, but we were determined to decide that it was just that, a specter, with no real substance, and that if you couldn’t touch, feel or hear it; well, it simply wasn’t there. More fool us, and more fool me…. After the hotel receptionist’s advice (on seeing me sporting my trendy Sonovia mask as I arrived to check in) that “you don’t need to wear a mask” reverberated in my ears, I soon came to act as if that was true. And while I made it through the conference feeling generally ok, my slight feeling of being unwell on the last day subsequently became 11 days of isolation. And if 40 days of isolation is quarantine, then my own isolation would be undici giorni or undicine…. So much for the very real specter of the very real Covid.
However, none of that could cast a pall over the real joy of meeting old friends for the first time in several years, and meeting new ones. I surprised myself by picking up a “25 years attendee” ribbon to attach to my paper-only-no-plastic attendee badge; if you count the years from 1998 to 2022 inclusive, this was indeed my 25th year. Twenty five years since that very, very wet meeting in Boston, and I had become the one walking around with the white hair and beard giving advice based on years of experience in the profession (since 1985). However, with a young face and a skip in my step, any advice was always given with a smile in my eyes – at least, I hope it was.
Multi-generational practice became a theme of my meetings during those few days in Washington. I should start by saying that I had the merit and honor of working with my father, Dr. Stanley J. Davis, in private practice for over 20 years, of which 14 were after I founded this firm, my father joining me soon after. My father had been an examiner in the UK Patent Office for about 25 years, from about 1959 to 1984, when he came to Israel.
We hadn’t planned on working together… indeed, obtaining a degree in civil engineering, obtained during several rewarding years at South Bank University, and then taking up residence on Kibbutz Alumim in the south of Israel, I had nary an inkling that in 1985 I would be entering the world of patents, working alongside Dad for a number of years. I certainly could not have guessed that in 1996 we would become partners in our fledgling practice that I had set up only the previous year. While the rest, as they say, is history, it’s actually much, much more than that. Those 14 years during which we worked alongside each other, gave me a tremendous sense of professional ethics, and a special, IP-based language through which we communicated, which added a wonderful extra layer to our relationship.
I realized how special this was, when I found myself observing several father-son/daughter relationships through people that I chatted to at INTA. I found myself sharing my background with a highly accomplished attorney from Brazil who had had a similar professional and working relationship with his own father. I reconnected with an old friend, also from Brazil, who was proudly showing his daughter the ropes, during her first INTA conference. I also bumped into an old acquaintance from Pakistan whose son was with him. In both of these last two chance meetings, I recommended to the daughter/son that they treasure the time working with their respective fathers; and to the fathers, I advised that they would do well to engender self-belief in their children, just as my own father had done for me.
The meeting with the attorneys from Pakistan brings to mind yet another theme, that of believing in people, and relating to them as such, way beyond the consideration of working together. I’ll explain. Pakistan and Israel do not have diplomatic ties, so we cannot exchange work. But that reminds me of both INTA and AIPPI 2019, during the course of which I had a number of very warm meetings with attorneys from the United Arab Emirates. We found much to talk and smile about, even though, at the end of the day, we were totally unable to exchange any business.
Until the Abraham Accords came along at the end of 2020 and changed, well, virtually everything.
After those historic accords were signed, a relationship came about between Israel and the UAE which looked like a reunion of old friends who had so much catching up to do that they wanted to do everything all at once(!) The speed at which this relationship has developed is quite dazzling! From commercial cooperation to projects in agriculture, and from shared medical research to joint defense exercises… and that list is only partial(!)
And at INTA 2022… well, what a difference three years can make. All of a sudden we had graduated from the slightly hopeful sighs and smiles, intimating that “maybe, who knows, someday, we’ll be able to travel to each other’s country and exchange business…”
In Washington, every time we met with someone from the UAE, it was like greeting a long lost family member. And even in the sometimes seemingly fossilized atmosphere of IP law, our clients are slowly starting to take an interest in registering rights in the UAE. So never stop hoping… Ultimately, it is all about the people.
There are many other stories that could be told, whether about the almost palpably relaxed atmosphere that pervaded every corner of the conference; or my wonderment in meeting a polyglot whose native tongue is Portuguese, but speaks about 7 or 8 languages, having self-taught himself Japanese and who is now working on learning Hebrew; or indeed encountering the delightful and interesting in house counsel for a European cosmetics company, as he lay, almost prostrated on the carpet, while trying to obtain (successfully I might add) an unusual shot of the meter high three-dimensional red lettering declaring “INTA”, at the entrance to the INTA meeting hall.
In short, despite all of the challenges, INTA 2022 did not only live up to its reputation, but, in my humble opinion, and maybe because of the challenges, it surpassed expectations.
There is an expression in French “L’appétit vient en mangeant”. Loosely translated, this means that once you start eating, you will develop an appetite. After missing out on two years, and then having a truly wonderful conference this year, all I can say is “SINGAPORE 2023 here I come!”
I can hardly wait!