A career in intellectual property rights is fast gaining momentum as individuals realise the importance of ingenuity and the need to patent it. Anjana Mohan gives crucial insights.
Human intellect is the most important resource and intellectual property rights seek to protect innovation. “The object of intellectual property law is to confer protection to the products of human creativity that meets the three-fold test of innovation, non-obviousness and usefulness. Hence, intellectual property rights (IPR) are rights that ensure that the inventor or author reserves the rights of the utility of his/ her product. The term IPR broadly includes patents, which confer rights over an invention, copyright that pertains to rights over an original literary work, and trademark that regulates the distinctive indicator unique to an organisation or an individual in business. Industrial design that caters to protection of any innovative design, semiconductor integrated circuits and layout design, protection of plant varieties and farmer’s rights and trade secrets which are protected by judicial decisions for the lack of a statutory provision too come under the purview of IPR,” says Krishna Kedia, an advocate who’s worked in the field of IPR.
AN ASSORTMENT OF ALTERNATIVES
The field offers diverse career options to interested candidates. Subsequent to the opening up of the IPR regime, followed by the amendments to the legislation in 2000, litigation in the field has increased manifold. Consequently, a legal career in IPR is now a lucrative alternative. Manoj Menda, an intellectual property lawyer, provides insights into a legal career in IPR, “One can broadly choose from three options in the legal field concerning IPR, viz working in a law firm, a legal process outsourcing firm or a corporate house. Since the deliverable product is client-specific, the work is specialised and the clientele is concentrated to a particular aspect of IPR, such as the pharmaceuticals, software or entertainment industry. However, the nature of work undertaken within specialised IP might vary. For instance, in a law firm or a corporate house one could explore litigation pertaining to IPR with an LPO. The work is most often restricted to drafting, prior art search, document review or litigation review.”
Another option available to graduates, which is being increasingly explored, is to start off with the government as a patent or trademark agent. Contrary to popular perception, the pay packet of an agent is quite high. After gaining some experience as an agent, one may shift to a corporate house. Says Anuradha Maheshwari, Director, NMIMS Institute of Intellectual Property Studies, Mumbai, “Consultancy in IPR can be pursued by professionals with a technological or scientific background so far as patents are concerned. For non-technical IPR such as copyright and trademark a graduate degree in any field with an understanding of the law is sufficient. The scope of the work of an IPR agent broadly covers drafting, filing of patent, establishing novelty, countering oppositions on non-obviousness and usefulness, etc. One not only requires being adept at the scientific nuances of the invention, but also needs to be proficient at IPR management and cater to the commercial requirements of his/ her clientele.” Tulsidas Nair, Administrative Head, Krislaw Consultants, a leading IPR firm elaborates on the work done by a consultancy firm. “A firm dealing in IPR generally deals with a host of rights rather than specialising in a single one. By and large, all of them handle registration of trademarks, copyrights, patents, designs, geographical indications and amendments, and renewals of the same and initiation of litigation in the event of an infringement. The protection of intellectual property law deals with innovation and a professional in this field gets the opportunity to interact with a wide range of clients from small business owners to the top management of law corporations and from garage inventors to prize winning scientists! This vocation is best suited for those who can understand the nature of invention, the nuances of the rights pertaining to the intellectual property and its effects on the client’s business. An IPR agent earns anywhere between Rs 15,000- 30,000 per month. This figure varies depending upon the area of expertise and the range of work undertaken.”
The requisite qualifications for a trademark agent are prescribed in the Trademarks Act 1999 and the Trademark Rules 2002. Advocates and company secretaries are entitled to represent their clients before the Trademarks Registry without the need for appearing in the Trademark Agent examination. However, any graduate may qualify in the examination in trademark law conducted by the registry and be registered as a trademark agent. In the case of an Indian patent agent, on the other hand, a degree in science, engineering or technology from any university in India is a pre-requisite. The IP pertaining to design caters to a clientele of fashion designers, interior designers, architects, automobile designers and the like. Since unlike a patent application which is technical, a design is an aesthetic product, and hence, any agent can file a design application. “Although, being a graduate would technically suffice for being registered as an agent, an in-depth knowledge of IPR would make a huge difference in terms of employment quotient, especially for a fresher. Today, there are dedicated courses in IPR and hence professionals who’ve pursued a specialisation or a super-specialisation have an edge over those without this qualification. Courses in IPR give a holistic view of the field covering a gamut of proficiencies ranging from hands-on training in drafting and filing applications, oppositions, commercial and management aspects of patenting and a thorough insight into technology transfer and patent licensing by mock-registry sessions and similar simulations,” adds Maheshwari.
A lesser explored aspect of IPR in India is the open source and the creative commons arena. “Unlike the traditional conception of reserving all and sundry rights over the IP, a Creative Commons (CC) license would give an option to reserve some rights while granting some freedom to the users,” opines Dr Shishir Kumar Jha, Project Lead of Creative Commons. “This is the age of digital economy which is based on sharing. A CC license gives the laxity to the author to decide the scope of the use of his work for third parties. Thus, it has introduced a different perspective to the traditional restrictive IPR drafting leading to client specific drafting of licenses; it has mandated that lawyers look at these issues from an open perspective, particularly since worldwide CC litigation has caught up. It has also collaterally impacted the economy by enabling professionals who’ve just entered the profession and who’re looking at projecting their work to increase their visibility.” Akin to it, although geographical indicator is an IP that has been long recognised, it is one of the few that is not explored as much. The authenticity of the product is a driving force for the demand in the market and this ensures that registration of geographical indicators is sought after by communities. Being a community IP, it’s a matter of national pride and hence, the scope of career for a person specialising in geographical indications is mostly in the international market.
New developments in the intellectual property law such as in trade mark law, copyright law, patents law, industrial designs law, information and communication technology law and the various convention agreements like Berne’s and TRIPS, have increased the demand for legal practitioners and consultants in this field of law. “The potential for IP is enormous because of the extensive R&D being undertaken in India, especially down south. At the end of the day, one must remember that the field is economy oriented and so long as there is a positive growth in the market the industries are open to explore and invest in IPR and consequently the demand is created. But there are certain inherent limitations on certain rights, like in case of software patenting, where although software industry is a major contributor to the Indian economy, Indian law doesn’t permit software patenting unlike the US, unless it is linked to a hardware,” quips Menda.
The revenue amassed by IPR is tremendous. Rs 2,26,63,01,039 in 2008-09 out of which patents alone had generated Rs 1,56,14,63,824 and this figure has progressively grown. A career in IPR is not just a buzz word but an exciting prospect that has immense capacity, yet to be explored and is monetarily rewarding.