Road Humps and Sidewalks by Dr. Kalyan Kankanala is a fast-paced legal thriller depicting the veritable battle between generic and patented life-saving drugs

A blind lawyer, a virus outbreak, a dog that dreams and a patent infringement case. Dr. Kalyan Kankanala’s debut fiction, Road Humps and Sidewalks: The Path less travelled is an engrossing fast-paced legal thriller depicting the veritable battle between generic and patented life-saving drugs. Dr Kalyan, co- founder of an intellectual property service firm and visiting faculty at National Law School of India University, Bangalore, has previously written several non-fiction books on IP law. So what was the inspiration to write fiction? He says the reason for writing the book was two–fold: to help the lay person understand the nuances of IP laws and to emphasise that the visually impaired, who are often not taken seriously in professional fields, are also quite capable.

The title ‘Road Humps and Sidewalks’ is a reference to the aids that visually impaired people use to get around while the sub title - The Path Less Travelled is “obviously inspired by Robert Frost’s, The Road Not Taken. The phrase is inspired by the altruistic character of the protagonist, which is not so common among patent attorneys. This is compounded by his representation of the weaker party in what most people would consider a losing battle”.

The story follows the adventures of a conscientious blind lawyer, Arjun, guided by his faithful dog as he takes on a powerful Pharmaceutical company with a mission to deliver justice and save lives. Asked to comment on his unusual and larger than life characters, Dr. Kalyan says the challenges of growing up visually impaired himself spurred the portrayal of the protagonist as one with a strong conscience who relates well to the underprivileged.

He also wanted to bring out the good side of doctors. In the book, a dedicated team of doctors working to curb the outbreak of the life-threatening virus serendipitously discover that a patented drug approved for another disease can successfully treat the virus and thereby end up on the wrong side of a patent infringement case. Arjun then comes to their rescue taking the case against the pharmaceutical company in support of the use of the drug.

As a patent attorney in real life, whose job is to help companies acquire patents, why did he pen a story that debates the use of patents? He replies, “Besides being a patent attorney, I’m also an academic, and work for generics as well. Also coming from a family of doctors, I often observed that many people could not afford drugs for critical illnesses.”

Asked if there is a way for patented drugs to reach the needy, he says there should be some kind of relationship between nature of disease and drug, drugs for life threatening diseases should be put under price control regulation. The companies can offset the price with patents on non-critical drugs such as for hair loss. When it comes to life-saving drugs, the balance tilts in favour of generic.

His opinion on the recent SC judgement rejecting Novartis’s patent plea, “With respect to the Novartis decision, I believe that the Supreme Court arrived at the right conclusion, holding Glivec not patentable, reading public health, access to medicines and other important policy considerations into patentability analysis.”

With interludes of romance, humour and courtroom battles, the book highlights the issues of intellectual property rights in a lucid and comprehensible manner. While reviewers have referred to him as the John Grisham of India, he begs to differ, “Because it’s a legal thriller, people are comparing my book to his, but he is not my inspiration. James Herriot, Alistair Mclean and Jeffrey Archer are some of my favourite authors.” So can we expect more fiction from him? “I’ve already started on my next book, another legal theme on the issue of copyright.” says the talented lawyer-turned-author, who also consults for United Nations Industrial Development Organisation.

‘Road Humps and Sidewalks’ is published by JUFIC books