Ashwin Julka

How is Remfry & Sagar different from other IP firms?

Remfry & Sagar stands out because of its unique culture, which has helped the firm maintain a leadership position since its inception in 1827. Excellence, professional ethics, diversity, innovation and agility, mentorship, teamwork and a healthy work-life balance form the foundations of our philosophy. Clients respect our organisation because of these elements, and Remfry has become the industry benchmark for consistently providing exceptional legal services in intellectual property and relevant laws. As managing partner, I am conscious of this legacy and strive to enhance the firm’s commitment to its core values, distinguishing us from competitors.

What are the biggest challenges facing firms of your size and your line of practice in India?

The legal industry is in flux, with technology and competitive pressures driving change. Remfry & Sagar is no exception. The biggest challenge is recognising these forces of change, responding to them and converting them into opportunities.

Firms must employ top-of-the-line technological tools and digital solutions to support their core legal services.

The plethora of lawyers and non-traditional legal service providers (eg, consultancies) have commodified legal work. Consequently, law firms must differentiate from competitors of all sizes and position themselves as thought leaders.

Cost-related pressures are here to stay – particularly with regard to lower-value work. The traditional billing methods – by the hour or at a fixed rate – are quickly evaporating. In their place, firms and clients will increasingly utilise alternative billing models (eg, fixed, flat, blended or capped fees) to foster long-term relationships.

It is also important to mention that India’s overall demand for legal services is rising. So, despite cost and competition pressures, law firms have a lot of opportunity to expand services and clientele.

Last year, the metaverse and NFTs were headline news when it came to brand protection. Twelve months on, how has the conversation on these topics shifted, and what action should brand owners be taking?

With regard to IP rights in the digital world, the next phase will be led by the likes of Web 3.0, the metaverse, NFTs and cryptocurrency. Brands are recognising opportunities to expand branding and business in these domains - several Indian celebrities dropped NFT collectables last year. Rights owners are also cognisant of third-party usurpation, and we have been seeing an increase in trademark applications filed in India covering digital brand activity.

The overlap with other new-age rights is also interesting. In April, the Delhi High Court, for the first time, examined NFT digital player cards and the connected right of personality of cricket celebrities. New data protection legislation is also in the offing, and the government has indicated that it might regulate cryptocurrency.

Considering the evolving ecosystem, I advise brand owners to keep an ear to the ground (rather, eye to the screen!), analyse business interests and future visions and proceed accordingly.

How have your clients’ needs evolved in response to India’s rapid economic growth in recent years, and how have you adapted your strategy to manage these?

Rapid economic change has expanded opportunities for businesses. Simultaneously, there is a heightened awareness of intellectual property’s importance to business strategy. The result of both is an uptick in IP protection; per WIPO’s 2022 report, India is fifth worldwide in trademark filings and sixth in patent filings at its IP office. Also, as more domestic and international businesses invest in India, they require a holistic approach to their IP assets. This results in demand for comprehensive IP portfolio management, including registration, enforcement, licensing and commercialisation.

Meanwhile, technology is rapidly transforming Indian retail, manufacturing, entertainment and marketing models and the law needs time to fully catch up. Clients need specialised IP advice to develop strong vigilance frameworks and new litigation strategies to safeguard rights. Ensuring effective IP strategies requires conquering the learning curves of the metaverse, NFTs and AI.

While clients have always demanded quality advice, they now expect faster turnaround times, compelling firms to be ready with solutions on short notice.

Remfry has the experience and expertise to help clients meet their transformative goals. Our team of knowledgeable IP experts comprises specialists in IP law and emergent areas, such as data protection and fashion law. Also, the firm has embraced technological advancements, harnessing cutting-edge tools and platforms to streamline processes, enhance efficiency and improve client communication.

Further, we maintain strong relationships with stakeholders – including enforcement agencies, customs authorities and industry associations – to ensure our clients’ IP strategies are in sync with the law and emerging policy.

Ashwin Julka

Managing Partner
[email protected]

Ashwin Julka is managing partner at Remfry & Sagar, one of India’s oldest and largest IP firms, leading a team of nearly 300 employees, including 130 attorneys. His expertise ranges across the full spectrum of intellectual property, particularly trademark law and patent policy. Mr Julka is active in various IP organisations and is a well-known name on the global IP circuit.

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