What led you to establish Inttl Advocare, and what advice would you give to someone considering setting up their own firm?
Back in 1984 when I started my career, I always envisioned building an institutionalised, diverse and professional law firm with a passion for intellectual property. The outcome is Inttl Advocare, and I am immensely happy that it is now one of India’s leading IP firms, with a team of over 100 members. My recommendation to anyone considering setting up a law firm is that one must not be averse to the idea of challenges and hurdles. Along with that, it is important to not only have a vision, but also a business plan so that the commercial focus is not lost. Additionally, an unfettered client commitment and ability to think on your feet, coupled with strong ethics. Further, it is vital to invest time and effort in people, as they are your most important support system and once you establish a practice, the impetus has to continue.
You have won acclaim as a litigator. What is your most memorable trademark case and why?
The case involved going to a remote district court in Punjab and seeking an injunction against the Milk Collectors Union, restraining them from using Nestlé as the name of their union. The challenge was that the union had indeed supplied milk collected from Punjab villages to Nestlé and therefore claimed the right to use Nestlé as the name of their union.
How have client demands evolved over the course of your career – and how have you adjusted your practice to meet these?
With the global rise of technology, it has become common for non-professionals to enter into the IP space and provide services such as patent annuities, trademark renewals, recording assignments and so on at a lower cost. IP owners have started believing that the services are templated and anyone can do them, which is not the case. They fail to understand the importance of analysis and strategy to effectively protect intellectual property, which requires years of expertise and experience acquired by litigators in court battles. So, in order to keep up to date as a law firm, we have fully embraced technology to cater to our clients’ needs. I believe that combining our IP practice with technology provides a birds-eye view of our clients’ demands and allows us to advise them holistically, with a strategy that balances their needs and requirements to protect their intellectual property.
What emerging trends and technologies (eg, blockchain) are having the biggest impact on your clients’ IP strategies right now?
The development of AI will improve and evolve intellectual property during the next decade by assessing the value of IP rights, evaluating the performance of patent prosecution with the help of algorithms, improving predictability and cutting costs for rights owners. Further, trademark registrations are at an alltime high, and acquiring effective worldwide protection is becoming increasingly difficult. Due to the possibility of not understanding previously registered marks, brand owners may face more challenges in registering their marks. As a result, in order to maximise their chances of success, practitioners must be well-versed in strategies for specific applications.
If you could change three things about the IP landscape in India, what would they be, and do you think that they are likely to happen?
India has caught up with international leaders and has the capacity to change the innovation environment, according to the Global Innovation Index 2021 report. Despite this, there is still more work to be done. Three things that could change in the IP landscape include the government of India, in collaboration with state governments, devising new ways to incentivise both old and new organisations to design IP strategies and maximise their IP portfolios. Further, there is a need for a robust dispute settlement system. If the rights cannot be enforced in time, the fundamental premise for having them is called into question. Excessive delays in the court system must be addressed as soon as possible. Another area where a lot of effort is required is IP awareness. While Indian businesses take steps to safeguard their trademarks, patents are frequently disregarded. Indian entrepreneurs should be aware of the numerous benefits of IP rights, as well as the dangers of failing to secure their technological discoveries with proper rights.