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2013 Spring

Report from AIPLA's President

2012-13 AIPLA President Jeffrey I.D. Lewis

Our AIPLA meeting in Seattle started on May 1, fresh on the heels of World IP Day.  World IP Day celebrates intellectual property around the globe, and commemorates the 1970 Convention that created the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  Since 2001, WIPO has celebrated April 26 as a day to recognize intellectual property and its contributions.  This year’s theme was “Creativity: The Next Generation.”

Until this year, however, the United States World IP Day commemorations were principally in Washington, DC – at the Patent and Trademark Office, Copyright Office and Congress.  In many ways, however, this was “Preaching to the Choir” since most of the attendees already knew about intellectual property rights and valued IP highly.  So this year, AIPLA partnered with various organizations to celebrate World IP Day across the country.  Those celebrations, of course, still included Washington, DC, but they also took place in Charlotte, NC; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; Detroit, MI; San Jose, CA; and New York, NY.  I was able to attend several of them. 

Because of the dictates of the calendar, World IP Day was celebrated both on Capitol Hill and at the Copyright Office on April 24.  The Copyright Office program, held at the Library of Congress’s Jefferson Building, opened with a presentation by Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announcing that the committee will hold hearings on possible revisions of US Copyright Law.  Two former AIPLA presidents then spoke, Jim Pooley, who is now Deputy Director General of the Innovation and Technology sector of WIPO, and Teresa Stanek Rea, Acting Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO.  This was followed by three singer-songwriters, Brett James, Jesse Alexander and Lee Thomas Miller, who performed their hit songs and also introduced each song by talking about the struggles of new and established songwriters and the value of IP protection in that struggle. 

The Copyright Office program ended with two video-related presentations.  In the first, a mother and daughter team, Gail Mooney and Erin Kelly, introduced their 2011 documentary Opening Our Eyes, the story of nine ordinary people making a difference around the world.  This was followed by Zachary Maxwell, an 11-year old, award-winning filmmaker who presented the trailer for his documentary, “Yuk: A Fourth Grader’s Short Documentary About School Lunch.”  Zachary also received his copyright registration certificate directly from Register Maria Pallante, and when asked about how it felt to have a registration, he said he looked forward to cuddling with it because the registration shows his ownership and that no one can use his work without his permission. 

It was then a short walk to the Rayburn Office Building for the Congressional celebration.  That event focused on STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math Education – the foundation for developing a new generation of innovators in creativity.  Once again presentations were made by Chairman Goodlatte, Deputy Director Pooley and Acting Director Rea, and I spoke as well.  I also participated in a panel discussing STEAM efforts, which included representatives from Adobe Education, NBC Learn and the USPTO.  There were many displays by sponsors and inventors showing their innovations, but it was particularly wonderful to see new inventions by young inventors. 

On April 26 I participated in New York’s World IP Day event at the Fashion Law Institute, co-hosted by the New York Intellectual Property Law Association.  After I opened the session and introduced a video message from WIPO Director General Francis Gurry, there was a panel discussion about IP protection in the fashion industry that included John Moringer on behalf of NYIPLA, Fordham Law Professor Susan Scafidi from the Fashion Law Institute, Heather Thomson of Yummie, Rekait Layo Gbadamosi of Jovani Fashions, and practitioner Amanda Agati.  Their presentations focused on a variety of issues including the role of intellectual property in fashion protection, knock-off/imitations, trademark law, and importations.  Dozens of designers also exhibited their creations at the event, and several discussed their inspirations for designs.

But as I mentioned, New York was not the only US venue celebrating IP that day.  In Dallas, AIPLA cooperated with several local Chambers of Commerce to host a program for non-attorney audiences, particularly entrepreneurs and smaller businesses, on how the IP system supports and encourages creativity and innovation.  The Denver event, co-hosted with the Colorado Bar Association IP Section, was timed to coincide with Senator Bennet’s Beyond Colorado Innovation Workshop and included presentations by the ProBoPat program and the Da Vinci Institute.  Jazz and automobiles were the focus in Detroit, where the Alan Parker Jazz Band performed, followed by a number of presentations including by 12-year old patent holder Alyssa Reiter, creator of hamster bowling, and also the Manager of Tech Shop, “A Tool Geek’s Garden of Eden.”  Silicon Valley’s celebration was done in cooperation with the City of San Jose, and included a performance by a string quartet as well as a Creativity in Bloom reception.  (Creativity in Bloom is part of AIPLA’s educational initiative, see CreativityinBloom.org.)  The Licensing Executives Society was our partner in Charlotte, North Carolina, when the talks focused on opportunities for inventors and IP professionals. 

World IP Day, however, is worldwide not just in the USA, and AIPLA’s involvement was not limited to the US either.  The Association’s IP Practice in the Far East Committee timed its trip to help celebrate World IP Day both in conjunction with the Intellectual Property Association of Ho Chi Min City in Vietnam, and with the United States Embassy and American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand. 

But the question remains, why is AIPLA doing all this?  The answer simply can be found in the editorial pages of any newspaper and even the news sections.  Intellectual property is not popular these days.  One recent blogger commented that he did not understand the reason for copyrights and an article in a respected technology magazine said patents are abused and stifle innovation.  Why are they saying these things?  In large part this is a view by some because the public dialog has focused on perceived misuse of intellectual property and not how it actually benefits everyday businesses and consumers.  We as an Association need to get the word out – to preach IP to the people, to explain that the occasional misuse does not overwhelm the day-to-day benefits that IP actually delivers to businesses and individuals.  That’s why I made expansion of World IP Day one of the centerpieces of my Presidency.  I am excited that we were able to do so and go beyond the Washington beltway this year, and look forward to celebrating it in even more cities next year.

I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t note the significant work that went into the expansion of World IP Day by AIPLA’s Education Public Committee.  That Committee, headed by Sal Anastasi and Michael Rader, did a lot of work, but significant burdens also fell on AIPLA’s staff.  Meghan Donohoe, AIPLA’s Chief Operating Officer, and her wonderful team had to fill a void at the last minute.  Throughout the planning stages for World IP Day, AIPLA had been set to partner with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  At the last minute, however, budget sequestration went into effect, and AIPLA’s staff was left to shoulder many of the logistical steps that the USPTO had committed to handling but no longer could.  AIPLA’s staff always does a superb job, but this time they outdid themselves coordinating programs in many cities and finding volunteers to fill in for USPTO professional assistance. 

So that, in a nutshell, was World IP Day 2013.  (More details can be found on the Education Committee’s Page on AIPLA’s website.)  But how about next year?  I’d like to invite all of you to participate in World IP Day 2014.  Mark your calendars now for April 26, and let’s see if we can’t find a few more people to learn about intellectual property in your hometown.