What it is like organizing an event at INTA annual meeting time

The experience of booking a reception for an INTA-annual-meeting-related event is always quite odd.  I just yesterday reached closure in the arduous process of booking the venue for the Tenth Annual e-Trademarks Listserv reception (see posting).  It is quite weird dealing with the INTA annual meeting environment, as I will describe. 

A first aspect of organizing any event at the time of the INTA annual meeting is the sheer magnitude of the INTA annual meeting.  In the times before Covid, it was commonplace for an INTA annual meeting to bring fifteen thousand people to whatever city happened to have the mix of good and bad luck to have been selected as the location for the annual meeting.  It was commonplace in those days for INTA headquarters to carry out its booking and contracting activity four or five years in advance.  It was also commonplace for INTA headquarters to keep the actual location of future annual meetings a closely guarded secret, revealing the location only about a year in advance, despite the actual location having been nailed down several years earlier.  One assumes that the various convention centers and hotels and other service providers were bound by nondisclosure agreements for those long four- or five-year futures.

What that has meant, over the years, is that if you snooze, you lose.  There was always a sense that no matter when it was that you or I happened to learn the identity of the city (and country) where the INTA annual meeting was going to take place, surely there were others who had somehow learned this information sooner and were already scrambling to snag some hotel reservations and the desirable reception venues.  Regular people like you and me might find that most of the nearby hotels were already sold out for room reservations, and the only available hotel rooms were a shuttle bus ride away.  Regular people like you and me might find that nearly all of the workable reception venues had already been booked.

A second aspect of organizing any event at the time of the INTA annual meeting is that INTA somehow gets its hooks into most of the major hotels and event venues quite far in advance.  Here is an example of one of the actual email messages that I received recently when I made inquiry with about twenty hotels in Washington DC in my efforts to book a venue for the Tenth Annual e-Trademarks Listserv reception:  

Thank you for inquiring about a reception here at the [redacted] Hotel on May 3rd 2022 from 7pm to 9pm.  Per our agreement with INTA, all affiliate functions must be approved by the INTA Convention Office.

The hotel then invited me to fill out an online application with INTA.  The form on the INTA web site asked me to specify my proposed date and time, indicate the number of people that would be attending my event, identify my organization, and state the reason for wanting to hold an event.  The form explained that within five days I would learn whether or not I would receive permission from INTA to conduct my event, and if I did receive permission, then I would be free to try to book a venue at one or another of the hotels controlled by the agreements with INTA.

A third aspect of organizing any event at the time of the INTA annual meeting, and I know this will come as a surprise to the reader, is that the venues seem not to be shy about charging high prices.  I guess the word gets around that lots of law firms and trademark service providers from all over the world are trampling over each other to try to snag the most desirable event locations, and so the price might go up depending upon the perceived level of competition.  There were two venues that had each quoted to me a cost of well over ten thousand dollars (plus a twenty percent staff gratuity and other add-on costs and taxes) to provide wine and beer and appetizers for a two-hour period in an undecorated and modest sized room.

I don’t know if it made a difference, but I happen to have the highest possible frequent-stay status at several hotel chains, and I made a point of name-dropping my status level when contacting each of the various hotels in my efforts.  (The frequent-stay status comes mostly from the days before Covid, when I used to get put onto airplanes a dozen or more times a year to teach in-person classes about the Patent Cooperation Treaty.)  Anyway, I got lucky and it seems a few hotels were willing to talk with me about hosting an event even though “my papers were not in order”.  Or through some bit of luck, maybe there were a few hotels that INTA had overlooked in its locking-in efforts, and I managed to stumble upon a few of those non-locked-in hotels.  Or (it is only just now that this thought passed through my mind) maybe there were a few hotels that had been approached by INTA to sign INTA’s “lock-in” papers, and for one reason or another had declined to sign the papers!  Anyway, there were a few hotels that were willing to consider accepting my money in the old-fashioned way, despite my not having been “approved” by INTA.  Eventually a very nice regional sales manager with a hotel group worked with me to find a nice hotel in her geographic region, and found a meeting room at that hotel, and was very nice about pricing.   It all worked out much better than I could have hoped.  

Once I had my contract signed with my event hotel for my reception, I decided to go ahead and fill out the application on the INTA web site to see if they would give me permission to host my event, the Tenth Annual e-Trademarks Listserv reception(see posting).  I am delighted to be able to report that I did receive permission from INTA to proceed with my reception.  Of course it is purely a hypothetical thing to imagine, but even if I had not received such permission, I think it is conceivable that I might have proceeded with my reception anyway.

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