You have been key in the achievement of many firm ‘firsts’, including the first colour, sound and shape trademark registrations. What changes would you like to see to the registration process in India, and do you think they are likely to happen?
The Indian trademark and patent offices are addressing the issue of speed in the registration process. The courts have also been instrumental in bringing about this change. While the progress is ongoing, I believe that technology is the answer, and its deployment in all aspects of the process must be intensified.
As an author on an INTA publication and a member of the Presidential Task Force, how has INTA contributed to your professional development?
I have had a fruitful journey with INTA. I am serving on many committees, including the Commercialisation of Brands committee and the Gender Research Study, among many others. It has been extremely rewarding to see INTA’s growth from a trademark-oriented body to one that focuses on the scope of brands interspersed with the financial industry and fast-paced global innovation.
You are celebrated for your work with a wide range of industries in your practice. What new strategies are you developing to handle the growing rise in online counterfeiting and the post-pandemic bounce-back of offline counterfeiting – and how do these differ from previous approaches?
On-the-ground and legal approaches will always be instrumental, but they must work in tandem with educating the ecosystem. I have been working to bring about an innovation ecosystem in the fashion industry, educating businesses on how to have one running through their companies. This ensures that all associated employees, artists and digital artists are also educated in the process. I am a board member of the Fashion Design Council of India, which could become a docketing body for many designers – this would have evidentiary value too. I also believe that an additional tax must be levied on counterfeiters, more than court-imposed damages.
What are the biggest challenges your clients in India are currently facing, and what steps are you taking to help them overcome these?
The primary challenge is that many clients perceive legal services as an expense and only resort to them when in trouble. Legal advice needs to be proactive; lawyers should be their clients’ friends, helping scale up their businesses instead of simply getting them out of trouble.
The pursuit of solutions has to be multidimensional. Clients juggle several factors, such as finance, marketing, deadlines, risk to reward and cultural and corporate issues. The solution has to fit in and still be legally acceptable. When formulating a strategy, lawyers must understand the business and be optimistic. Since the risks cannot be taught, they have to anticipate them from a strategic perspective.
Today, the main challenge is becoming industry-specific. The knowledge required to cater to pharmaceutical clients and understand chemical compounds and brand derivatives contrasts fast-moving consumer companies where marketing and customer experience are paramount. The experience is completely different for start-ups that want protection but are cash strapped and for the fashion or entertainment industries, which are IP heavy but lack strong measures for protection.
To address the increasing need for robust business solutions that promise high returns, I have conceptualised ROLE – Return on Legal Expenditure. I have redefined the role of the modern lawyer, from a legal watchdog to a value enhancer and brand strategist to a collaborator that looks into the nuances of brand creation, market capitalisation and corporate governance.
You are involved in using IP rights to protect Indian culture and are working with government bodies to revive India’s lost heritage. Can you tell us more about this work?
I was recently appointed to a parliamentary group whose purpose is to locate and identify key emblems in the country to protect India’s intangible heritage. I also serve on a parliamentary committee for the One State One Product project, which provides a framework for value chain development and alignment of supportive infrastructure. Finally, I have also contributed to the recently launched G20 research on “India’s Creative Economy” by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations.
Senior partner Safir Anand is recognised as one of India’s top IP attorneys. He has over 25 years of experience advising and representing clients from diverse industries such as pharmaceuticals, software, social media, food, sports, entertainment, fashion and government. Mr Anand provides input on strategy, business models, marketing and commercial insights, which he blends with an astute understanding of IP law, particularly protection, enforcement, licensing, franchising, monetisation and due diligence.