Publications > LES: why ITMA members should take an interest

 
 
Introducing LES

Roman Cholij, newly appointed Chairman of the Brands Committee of LES Britain and Ireland , explains what LES is and how it could be of interest to ITMA members.
 
What is LES?
 
LES is the acronym for the ‘Licensing Executives Society’. When the society was first formed in 1965 in the United States, its purpose was to help establish licensing as a profession, allowing all those involved in commercialisation of IP to belong to a forum for networking, learning and general professional advancement . Since that time LES has evolved both constitutionally and in its mission and formal objectives. As an organisation LES exists as an international corporation (LES International) made up of 32 national and regional societies including, for example, the Andean Community, Australia & New Zealand, USA & Canada, Scandinavia, Russia, Japan, China and our own ‘Britain & Ireland’. Regional societies include Asia Pacific and Europe. Worldwide membership is around 12,000 and brings together anyone interested especially in the business side of IP – IP lawyers, patent and trade mark attorneys, technology transfer officers from universities and technology based companies, scientists, academics, government officials, and management representatives from all sized companies. At the 2009 Annual Meeting of LES USA and Canada which met in San Francisco in late October, for example, there were around 1000 delegates and the attendee list reads like a Who’s Who of the IP world from industry (Intel, Microsoft, Novartis, Merck, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble etc), academe (many of the major universities of North America), Government organisations (including the FBI!) and, of course, leading law practitioners.
 
The focus of the LES is, as its historical name indicates, to promote high professional standards among those engaged in the transfer and licensing of technology and intellectual property rights. Its role as a non-profit professional society is also – to quote from its mission statement – “to assist its members in improving their skills and techniques in licensing through self education, the conduct of special studies and research, the sponsorship of educational meetings, the publication of statistics, reports, articles and other material, and the exchange of ideas related to domestic and foreign licensing.” Although patents is the key IPR that traditionally has been the subject of licensing, trade mark licensing today is a £116 billion global industry and trade marks feature more and more in LES programmes. There is a specific LESI committee (of which the author is a member) called ‘Trademark, Design and Merchandising” (there is a separate committee for Copyright) which is involved in various interesting projects including putting together a world-wide database of trade mark case law. The external relations committee maintains relations with OHIM and WIPO among other international organisations.
 
The next LESI Annual Meeting is in Sandton, South Africa , 11-14 April 2010. In addition to trade mark- related workshops, Dr Frederick Mostert of Richmont will be speaking in a plenary session on famous and well known marks. There will also be trade mark content in the next pan-European LES meeting in Budapest, Hungary, 6-8 June 2010, as will also be the case in the subsequent annual LESI meeting taking place in London, 3-5 June 2011. These are also excellent networking events where a rare mix of professionals from different sectors and disciplines are brought together. Networking is as important to LES as is its educational activities.
 
LES in the UK and Ireland
LES Britain & Ireland, which is one of the 32 worldwide societies forming LES international, currently has a membership of around five hundred professionals and holds regular events throughout the year which are also open to non-members. Past evening meetings have included topics such as “What’s the Damage? Financial remedies for infringement of IP Rights”, “Royalty Rates,” “Socially responsible licensing”, and talks on trade mark licensing, IP valuation, design rights, and the community registered design. Events are held in London, the North West, the Midlands, Scotland, Ireland, and in other regions. Educational topics are geared to both developing the knowledge and skills of IP practitioners and to fostering awareness more generally of the numerous possibilities of deriving value from IP assets. Therefore, even if licensing is somewhat tangential to what one might be doing on a daily basis, LES offers a unique forum to learn about the commercial aspects of IP that ordinarily one would not otherwise be exposed to. A bi-monthly newsletter ‘NewsExchange’ keeps members updated on IP developments of local interest, whereas a quarterly scholarly journal from LESI (‘Les Nouvelles’) gives in-depth analyses of useful topics for practitioners internationally.
 
Apart from its annual conference, usually in June, LES Britain & Ireland organises an extremely useful and successful Fundamentals of Intellectual Asset Management residential course each year for lawyers, patent and trade mark attorneys , university and business people – and also students - where top-level industry professionals share their knowledge about the commercial aspects of exploiting IP. Negotiation skills for licensing deals are also practised in interactive workshops. The next course will be at Cranfield University 26-28 April 2010. Having been a participant at this course, I can vouch for its great value, both in terms of the very modest fees (with one year’s membership included) and of one’s own investment of time in learning new things, gaining new contacts and forming new friendships.
 
To conclude, if you are interested in areas such as royalty rate determination, how to put together a licence agreement and to negotiate on behalf of a client a licence deal, how to put a value to a trade mark, or how to get a loan from the bank on the basis of a trade mark asset, then LES is a good place to start. It is also a good place to meet new IP professionals and to expand one’s IP horizons. And each evening meeting is followed by an organised (optional) dinner. Now that’s where the business is really done...
 
For further information on activities and membership, see www.les-bi.org or contact les@northernnetworking.co.uk. For anyone wanting an excuse for a few days in Budapest, go to www.les-hungary.hu.  Other information on the expansiveness of LES: www.les-europe.org and www.lesi.org.
 
Roman Cholij
Cam Trade Marks & IP Services, camtm@camtrademarks.com
 

First published in the ITMA Review of December 2009