Five Takeaways from the Pharmaceutical Trade Marks Group Autumn Conference in Dubrovnik

I recently returned from this autumn’s PTMG conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia, where I enjoyed catching up with colleagues from near and far, learning about trends in pharmaceutical industry trademark law around the world, and exploring a lovely corner of the Adriatic. Here are my top five takeaways from the meeting:

  1. Game of Thrones “Set Jetters” are everywhere. Dubrovnik, with its stunning 14th– and 15th-century city walls, has become famous in recent years as the location where many scenes from the popular HBO show Game of Thrones were filmed. The Old Town is teeming with tour companies that hire GoT extras to take visitors around to the sites of famous scenes, stores selling official licensed merchandise, and replicas of the Iron Throne, where you too can sit and look like you rule the Seven Kingdoms. While HBO is busy opposing copycat US trademark applications for marks like GAME OF HOMES, GAME OF DRONES, and GAME OF TONES, the Dubrovnik tourist industry is thriving on references to the show’s popularity, and my phone’s map app even identifies one fortress overlooking the sea, matter-of-factly, as King’s Landing.
  2. AI and big data are big news for trademark lawyers. PTMG featured the second talk I have attended in as many weeks on the topic of machine learning and big data and their potential to transform the practice of law, particularly trademark law (the other talk was at last month’s IPO Annual Meeting in Chicago). Bottom line: We are not all about to lose our jobs, but if we keep up to date and are open to the potential of AI technology, we may soon be able to do them much more effectively and efficiently.
  3. Croatian wine is quite good. I had never sampled it before, but the local wine industry is very well developed. A native grape called Plavac Mali, related to zinfandel and grown around Dubrovnik, produces a delicious, full-bodied red. Unfortunately, I fear I may have trouble finding imported bottles back home in the States; there are only three USPTO registrations owned by Croatian companies and covering wine.
  4. Marijuana is at the crossroads of cutting-edge developments in trademark law and pharmaceuticals. The hotly anticipated last talk of this autumn’s PTMG conference addressed legal issues relating to medical marijuana, including pathways to regulatory approval (the FDA recently approved its first CBD-based treatment) and trademark registration (as we have previously reported, the USPTO imposes many obstacles in this regard). Many attendees joked about their disappointment that the session did not include free samples, and had to content themselves with more excellent Plavac Mali wine.
  5. Dalmatian – it’s more than just a dog breed. In fact, the breed is named after the section of Croatian coastline where Dubrovnik is located, and where the black-and-white spotted canines originated, before migrating to fire stations and Disney movies. I overheard a fellow attendee expressing relief that dinner at a Dalmatian restaurant involved neither dog food nor dogs on the menu. Interestingly, all eight of the live USPTO registrations or applications incorporating the term DALMATIA are owned by Dalmatia Import Group, Inc., which distributes gourmet fig spreads (a popular souvenir at the Dubrovnik airport gift shop) and recently made IP headlines as the plaintiff in what was apparently the first jury verdict under the 2016 Defend Trade Secrets Act. Dalmatia had switched distributors, and its former distributor, FoodMatch, came out with a competing fig spread under the mark DIVINA. Dalmatia sued for trademark infringement, counterfeiting, and theft of the secret fig spread recipe, and won a jury verdict amounting to more than $5 million. The defendants subsequently claimed that the court had improperly instructed the jury using standards drawn from the Pennsylvania Trade Secrets Act, and the parties ultimately reached a post-verdict settlement. Thankfully, I managed to sidestep all disputes about the authenticity of fig spread by bringing the real deal home in my carry-on.

As always, PTMG was rewarding and enlightening, and I look forward to next year’s meetings in Rome and Berlin!

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