Department Spotlight: Europe Representative Office
On September 19, 2016, INTA’s Europe Office will celebrate its tenth anniversary. The Europe Office has experienced remarkable growth since its establishment in terms of scope, responsibility, and resources. Until recently, the office was formed by three INTA staff: Christina Sleszynska, Milesh Gordhandas, and Hélène Nicora. This month, they have welcomed their newest member to the team, Nikos Perris.
Together with INTA’s External Offices in China, Singapore and Washington, D.C., INTA’s Representative Office in Brussels plays a fundamental role in achieving the Association’s strategic goals. Among other duties, its representatives support the committees they have been entrusted with, offer support to current and future members, encourage membership among brand owners in Europe, and play an important role in advocating to European policy-makers INTA’s views on EU policy issues and legislation of relevance to the membership. INTA’s Europe Office also serves as a model in its ability to work in effective cooperation with the Association’s headquarters and INTA’s other representative offices to the full benefit of its members.
Christina Sleszynska joined INTA’s Europe representative office ten years ago, soon after its establishment. Born in the United States, Christina, who holds dual French-American citizenship, was its first employee. Following her extensive education in Politics and Public Affairs and European Integration in the United States, Christina moved to Europe in 1988. She held different positions in European organizations in the areas of cultural and audiovisual policy development and transnational cultural cooperation in Paris, Amsterdam, and Brussels. Before joining INTA, she ran a trade association representing the European private and commercial radio industry before the Institutions of the EU. As Chief Representative Officer, Christina is part of the Association’s executive staff, working closely with her colleagues at INTA headquarters in New York and contributing to the overall strategic vision of the Association.
Upon joining the Association, Christina was entrusted with advocating and lobbying the EU Institutions, developing relationships with relevant EU and national officials, and liaising with IP and trade associations on EU policy issues of relevance to INTA. These have included the EU Customs Regulation, the Anticounterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and the EU Trademark Reform. Her responsibilities grew consistently within the Europe Office, as Christina is now also involved in management, marketing, communication, and committee responsibilities. She currently acts as staff liaison to the Brands and Innovation Committee and the Global Advisory Council – Europe. During her time in the Association, Christina has particularly enjoyed enhancing the Association’s visibility in Europe, currently a key player in the so-called Brussels Bubble—as illustrated by the highly technical EU Trademark Reform and the lessons learned from the vigorous response from the general public about ACTA. Some of her fondest memories within the Europe Office were the meetings and interesting conversations with INTA staff and members, which included helpful advice from Chehrazade Chemcham (Colgate Palmolive, United States) when still an INTA staff member and an interesting discussion on 3D printing with member Mladen Vukmir (Vukmir & Associates, Croatia) before that term was even known among practitioners.
In her spare time, Christina enjoys discovering new places and people, yoga, and cycling. Equally passionate about food and sustainability, Christina and her husband enjoy entertaining friends with their delicious cooking. They also like taking family trips, specifically the one they took five years ago when they embarked on a six-week train trip across Europe with their now teenaged children. Christina’s passion for discovering new places also relates to trademarks. Apart from APPLE, a trademark she considers appealing and innovative, she particularly enjoys BRUSSELS BEER PROJECT, a local brand in Brussels that promotes the collaborative creation of craft beer.
Not long after Christina, Milesh Gordhandas joined INTA’s Europe Office in 2007. Born in Portugual, Milesh moved to Brussels from London, where he completed his education on International Relations and European Studies and worked in a non-IP trade association in a marketing and membership role.
Given the nature of his role at INTA, which includes marketing, communication, and EU policy responsibilities, Milesh enjoys dynamic day-to-day activities including numerous phone calls, meetings, and drafting EU policy updates. Additionally, he also works with some INTA committees (Building Bridges, and the Europe and Central Asia Subcommittees of Nontraditional Marks and Famous and Well-Known Marks), and serves as point of contact for the Association’s European members.
Milesh particularly enjoys traveling to international meetings and promoting the Association at these events. Among his most treasured memories within INTA, Milesh recalls setting up the INTA booth (whose banner has been flown from Madrid to Moscow) at the European Parliament with a display of real and counterfeit products. It was precisely at this INTA exhibition that he had the opportunity to meet the then European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Michel Barnier. His fondest memory so far, and one of his most challenging experiences working with INTA, was representing INTA at the 2012 Antikontrafakt Conference in Moscow.
When not working for INTA, Milesh enjoys playing football (soccer to Americans), practicing indoor five-a-side and outdoor eleven-a-side with friends. He is also the treasurer of the 11-a-side group (part of an amateur soccer league) in Brussels and enjoys exploring Brussels’ culture through its many craft beers. His favorite trademark—as a true nostalgist—is SUPER BOCK, which he associates with soccer matches and home.
Three years ago, Hélène Nicora joined INTA’s Europe Office in Brussels. With eight years of cross-industry experience in public affairs, she was originally focused on the EU Trademark Reform and plain packaging legislation. In her role as Representative Officer, she drafts and implements advocacy strategies in Europe in full coordination with other INTA staff and committees. Additionally, Hélène handles several advocacy committees, such as the Geographical Indications and the Designs Committees, and other European subcommittees. Hélène’s day-to-day role involves interacting with EU policymakers, from the Commission, Council and European Parliament, representing INTA at different meetings, supporting members preparing comments on a draft legislation or EUIPO Strategic Plan.
Close to the Association’s strategic vision, Hélène is deeply involved in ensuring that members are fulfilled, as she loves seeing the potential in every individual. Her fondest memory of the last few years with the Association has been observing the positive effect volunteering for the Association has had both personally and professionally for its members. As an example, she recalls the views of one member who was actively involved in the EU Trademark Reform and was explaining how she could see her work reflected into legislation and would be able to tell her grandchildren about it. Hélène is interested in brands which hold strong messages and are forward-thinking. She feels attached to both the WELEDA (a 90-year-old sustainable cosmetic brand) and the ABSOLUT trademarks. When not advocating for trademarks rights in Europe, Hélène loves traveling, spending time with her friends and family, and volunteering for causes close to her heart, such as children, animal welfare, and the environment.
Nikos Perris joined INTA on September 1 as Advisor, Europe Office. He has significant experience with Public Affairs through his work with industry-specific associations in Brussels and while working on the political staff of a Greek candidate for political office. Nikos has a B.A. in Political Science from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece) and an MSc in International Public Management and Policy from Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands. He will primarily work on developing INTA’s advocacy efforts at the national level in Europe and will also follow the EU’s Digital Agenda.
Without a doubt, the representatives of INTA’s Europe Office have many reasons to celebrate their growth and accomplishments during the past ten years, making INTA’s Europe Office a strong player in EU policymaking, to the benefit of the global trademark community. While awaiting the upcoming Strategic Plan 2018‒2021 to serve as guidance for the next ten years, INTA’s Europe Office will continue its policy advocacy and EU policy efforts at a national and European level, possibly increasing its areas of reach to those that are not trademark related. The Europe Office also looks forward to welcoming everyone to Brussels this December for INTA’s Digital World Conference. Moreover, in 2017, Europe Office will take part in the return of the Annual Meeting in Europe, which will be held in Barcelona next May.