18 May 2008

INTA, ‘Ghost’ Brands and Trademarks

INTA, the International Trademark Association is having its Annual Conference in Berlin, starting today. All kind of interesting subjects that brand owners keep happily busy are being dealt with in workshops, break out sessions and the like.

Subjects like "How to Combat Counterfeit", "Taxes and Trademarks" and of course the CTM (Community Trademark) are on the agenda. A more frivolous subject "Why We Do What We Do?" is being offered, as the program describes it "Why it is that trademark professionals seem to enjoy their jobs in ways that practitioners in many other areas of the legal profession do not?" (never realized that we as IP consultants and patent merchant bankers do not enjoy our jobs).

So what's missing in the INTA conference that should be on the agenda, prominently, I would say?
How unused, or ghost or "dormant" brands (and the legal part of it, trademarks) could be sold and subsequently acquired by "revival" companies and prepare them for a second life. Selling trademarks out of your existing portfolios is strangely enough an anathema in trademark world.
The only subject at the INTA conference that comes close is a subject with a rather lawyerly title "Europe, possible threats Arising from Dormant Marks". Must have been drafted by lawyers, which is not surprising, as (trademark) lawyers are trained to look at risks, not at opportunities. Hence the title oppugning the viability of a practice of active selling and buying of trademarks.)
Coincidentally, at breakfast, preparing for this blog, I read in this morning's International Herald Tribune an article (from New York Times Magazine, by Rob Walker, "How ‘ghost' brands can come back to life" on "brand reanimation". A Chicago company, River West Brands seems to have found a niche market by acquiring those ‘dormant' or ‘ghost' brands and using this "brand equity" to take a fresh approach to what companies seem to struggle with: what to do with brands and trademarks that are being abandoned in the big corporate environments. Examples enough: BRIM for decaffeinated coffee from (former) General Foods (now Altria), VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE, and close to (my) home: POSTBANK a well known trademark for a post office bank part of ING Bank, which was abandoned sometime ago.
Why is there not a more active divestiture practice in trademark world? We dealt with that in an earlier blog. Last year IPEG tried to raise interest in the subject at the Annual INTA conference. Not to much avail as it seems, as this year INTA does not cover the subject at all except to see it as a "threat", not an opportunity.
Who takes up the glove and starts the discussion in the trademark community?
To be continued

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