As head of the trademarks, contractual and commercial IP department at Anand and Anand, what does effective IP leadership look like to you, and how should those at the top help to build the next generation of brand professionals?
A lawyer’s role in the current climate is no longer restricted to providing inputs only aligned around legislation. It has become imperative for them to also have knowledge of, and interface with, other business disciplines such as marketing, finance, sales and corporate governance considerations to provide a holistic opinion. I feel that the next generation of professionals must not only be mentored in the law, but also on these other facets of business that are inextricably linked with intellectual property. I try to inculcate that within my team through extensive knowledge building sessions.
What are the most important factors for foreign brand owners to consider when seeking to enforce their rights in India?
Knowledge and understanding of the local market and consumer sensibilities is vital for a foreign brand to succeed. India is a unique country with extensive diversity, which may not always be satisfied with a straight-line approach.
Since knowledge of intellectual property and innovation is often at mid-level stage in the country, I therefore sometimes advise my clients to bring an educational touch and a B2B approach to problem solving.
Of course, in the event that enforcement must be considered, it is always recommended that the client approach the issue with their full arsenal; that is, with the backing of their registrations, tangible instances of confusion, knowledge of the infringer and its financial strength, unique weaknesses of the infringer and so on.
Additionally, since India is such a diversified market, it is advisable to monitor the trademark register and markets from time to time to track misuse and act fast.
With over 25 years of experience, how have the needs of clients changed over the course of your career, and how have you adapted to this?
To create robust business solutions that promise high returns, I have redefined the role of a ‘new-age lawyer’ to generate ROLE: return on legal expenditure.
The definition of the role of a new-age lawyer is one who continuously evolves from that of a legal watchdog, to a value enhancer and brand strategist, to a collaborator who looks into the finer nuances of brand creation and perception, marketing, market capitalisation and corporate governance.
I have focused on strategy, brand valuation and evaluation, corporate governance, risk mapping and mitigation, risk to reward, and where required, innovative solutions including negotiations.
How has your IP practice changed in response to the pandemic?
First of all, one has to have an understanding of business priorities and budgets. I am happy to share that, during the pandemic, I made myself available to clients at all hours every day. Our firm had embraced working from home even before the lockdowns, with training including digitisation of files, bandwidth checks and a supportive company culture.
Practice has seen a shift from filings to strategy and innovation. As our range of services offered has increased, many clients now ask us to cater to all member areas of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, including issues from agreements, to labelling and packaging, to advertising laws. Our corporate transactional work, including due diligence, has grown during this period.
What has been one of your biggest achievements over the past year?
In the last few years, I have tried to sensitise the fashion industry in India, and have been able to establish a successful fashion law practice within the firm. This relatively young practice was recognised by the Luxury Law Alliance (London), and we won the award for the best independent practice in 2020.
In the last year, I have been concentrating my energies on developing and establishing a practice on heritage laws. India has a lot of locked wealth in its culture, textiles, architecture, food, insignia, jewellery, and so on, and I have made it my mission to make all the royal families in the country aware of their ability to monetise such treasures.
In fact, the Indian government has set up a parliamentary committee to verify and identify royal emblems and I have been selected as one of the experts on the committee.
Our practice on advertising law recently won a national award, while our monetisation practice has increased our value to clients. My biggest achievement has been recognition for innovation, and the highest number of disputes resolved to the best interest of clients.
Safir Anand is a senior partner at Anand and Anand. He is recognised as one of India’s top IP attorneys and has over 25 years of experience advising and representing clients from diverse industries. His expertise in strategy, business models and marketing gives him commercial insight, in addition to a deep understanding of IP law.