What has been one of your biggest achievements over the past year?
Over the past 12 months, the entire world has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic. We realised early on that the outbreak of covid-19 in India would bring people’s lives to a halt and quickly implemented our work from home policies, with our IT team creating a safe setup for our attorneys and staff to work seamlessly from home. In these challenging times, the utmost concern of our firm has been to safeguard the health of all our colleagues.
How do you stay up to date on developments in evolving markets?
The markets are continuously evolving and in a constant state of flux, so staying up to date is vital. For decades we have subscribed to various trade journals and magazines published in India and internationally in order to keep abreast of industry developments. We also have a well-trained team that monitors developments and changes in the laws of different jurisdictions around the globe.
Who would you say has had the biggest impact on your career?
Rather than ‘who’, I would say ‘what’. Initial years of struggle in the profession have had the biggest impact on my career.
How do you measure success in your line of work?
I measure success through client trust.
Which recent decisions/legislative developments have had the biggest impact on IP strategy in India over the past few years?
Processes at the Indian Patent and Trademark Office have become more streamlined thanks to the digitisation of databases and encouragement of e-filing services.
How do you convince risk-averse clients that up-front costs for IP protection are worth it in the long term?
Considering that clients are very cost-conscious these days, a capped up-front fee would clearly define the scope of their IP portfolio and would allow them to work with law firms within the projected/approved budget.
Which technologies/technological tools do you rely on most for your day-to-day role?
We have our own customised data management system to monitor not only our internal database, but external data as well.
What are the biggest challenges facing clients when it comes to protecting their brands online and how can these be overcome?
As the digital world evolves, the challenge of protecting brands online is becoming more difficult. Online threats are emerging faster than they can be found and brought down. Social media, search engines, domain names and brand hijacking are just some of the new challenges facing brands in the digital age. Further, brand owners and consumers are witnessing a rise in counterfeit products available for sale online and in stores, especially considering the high market demand for personal protection and hygiene products. Recently, there have been news reports of fake sanitizer factories being raided in different parts of India. Thus, protecting brands online is becoming increasingly difficult and a robust protection strategy is vital in the digital age.
With more and more consumers turning to e-commerce, how should key stakeholders work together to protect IP rights in this environment?
It is important for key stakeholders to adopt effective mechanisms to tackle the challenges faced by the e-commerce industry, particularly the sale of counterfeit products online. There should be more – and better – cooperation and joint governance among the relevant stakeholders, as well as the sharing of data and technologies among government authorities, rights holders and e-commerce platforms. Such an approach is essential to make a real difference, to mutually benefit all parties and to ensure that e-commerce continues to thrive.
How do you envisage the brand protection landscape in India evolving in the next five years?
The Indian e-commerce market is expected to grow exponentially due to an increase in internet and smartphone penetration. I expect major events in the next five years to include the following:
- Cases relating to online counterfeiting will increase as the number of e-stores increases.
- There will be more focus on brands evolving in the pharmaceutical and medical research fields.
- In light of the current economic climate under covid-19, more clients will conduct audits of their trademark portfolios and identify those IP assets which are no longer of commercial importance to them, thereby saving costs on redundant assets.
- As many businesses have been hit hard by the economic crisis, they may be put up for sale at a much-reduced price. Thus, we anticipate a spur in M&A activity involving such companies and their brands, along with companies that have adjusted well to reduced economic activity.
Rahul Chaudhry, managing partner of leading law firm Rahul Chaudhry & Partners, is one of the most pre-eminent names in Indian IP law. He has carved a niche for himself as a leader in Indian IP practice thanks to his strong grasp of the law and extensive experience in assessing legal implications. He advises clients on an array of legal issues and transactions relating to intellectual property and non-IP matters.