With IPRs gaining currency, legal protection has assumed much significance. Therein lies the demand for professionals to take care of the IP-related problems emerging from investments and technology formation, G. KRISHNAKUMAR learns from experts.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) is opening up a world of career and research options for youngsters and professionals across the country.

From producing knowledge and protecting resources to generation of ideas and innovation in science and technology, IPRs have emerged as a legal tool to foster economic growth.

The National Knowledge Commission, in its Report to the Nation (2006-09) submitted to the Union government, recommended that the nation's future and its ability to compete in the global market depended greatly on how it generated ideas and innovated in science and technology.

“Intellectual property creation and protection are critical issues in global knowledge-based competition. Countries like China, Japan, and Korea have improved their respective IPR systems through intense capacity-building efforts, with a view to achieving greater innovation. It has become imperative for India to scale up efforts to build a world-class IPR infrastructure and ensure that IPRs are used in the best national interest for more extensive innovative research, technology transfer, wealth creation, and overall benefit of society,” it said.

The Hindu-EducationPlus caught up with leading experts in law to explore the growing relevance of IPR studies in the country.

N.R. Madhava Menon, a former member of the Law Commission of India and the founder of the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, said the function of the IPR regime was to encourage people to create fresh knowledge. “If you can provide fresh knowledge, you can convert it into wealth. Human resource really counts in a world knowledge society, where the service sector is creating wealth,” he said.

Noting that the objective of the IPR law was to encourage people to have ownership, Mr. Menon said that it had become a critical element of economic development in the 21st century.

“A carpenter can be creative. A cook can be creative. A mason can be creative. They can protect their rights. In every sphere you encourage creativity, you create a society that is wealthier,” he said.

Explaining that IPRs are an emerging area of study with the evolution of the new regime in international trade overshadowed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Trade-related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), N.K. Jayakumar, Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Advanced Legal Studies (NUALS), said that legal protection had assumed a lot of significance in the country, especially in the wake of the impact of IPRs on agriculture and pharmaceutical sectors.

Dr. Jayakumar said that it had become imperative for relevant stakeholders to be fully aware of the IPR dimensions especially in the wake of rapid developments in various key sectors of development. “We have to effectively use IPR studies to ensure innovation and overall development of the country,” he said.

N.S. Gopalakrishnan, Professor, HRD Chair on Intellectual Property Rights at the Cochin University of Science and Technology, said India was amending its intellectual property laws to make them in compliance with the mandate of TRIPS. This necessitated creation of IPR professionals to take care of the emerging problems resulting from new investments and technology formation.

Indian realities

“Given the social, cultural and economic realities of India, serious issues have emerged regarding access to intellectual property protected products. It is a hotly debated issue whether the TRIPS-based IPR laws are going to solve the domestic problems that confront India in terms of technology development and its use to large sections of her population. Thus, it is highly imperative to examine Indian and international laws and IPR policy with a view to make it serve the social needs. In the above context, IPR studies assume much significance in India,” he said.

Elaborating on the job opportunities being offered by the IPR field, Prof. Gopalakrishnan said it included creating IPR experts and professionals for providing legal advice to research and development institutions for taking appropriate legal measures for IP protection by registering the relevant IP and monitoring infringement on IPR and taking timely measures to prevent abuse.

“In India, there is a dearth of legal experts in all these fields. Since IPR education is an important prerequisite for building such expertise, a majority of the law schools in India have started IPR courses resulting in a good demand for efficient IPR teachers. Corporations that invest in research and development for generating new technology, that too in emerging areas such as biotechnology, requires IPR professionals in their legal departments for management of IPR. The law firms that are advising corporations also need IPR experts for filing IPR applications with the authorities concerned, and for litigating in infringement cases. In the context of an increasing number of applications from foreign corporations seeking IPR protection in India, quite a good number of professionals are required for this,” he said.

A challenge

Prof. Jayakumar said there was a shortage of IPR-trained professionals in the country. “This has become a challenge. The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development has launched IPR study centres in the country to step up IPR-related studies. Demand for human resource in the field is growing. The relevance of the IPR field has also gone up. Topics related to the IPRs have become a major part of the legal curriculum. We have several institutes offering postgraduate and diploma programmes in the field,” he said.

Prof. Gopalakrishnan said that some of the areas in IPR required specialised knowledge in science and technology, opening up new opportunities for science graduates with an IPR background.

“Fast economic growth invariably results in IPR infringement. In the past decade, the number of infringement cases filed before courts increased considerably demanding IPR specialised lawyers to handle the litigation. IPRs offer a well-organised profession in many developed countries and the jobs opportunities are highly competitive. Many fast growing economies require professionals with expertise in their domestic IPR legislation,” he said.

Prof. Gopalakrishnan said the formation of an IPR policy, law, and its implementation was a mixed question of law, science, economics, politics, sociology, and so on.

“This opens up innumerable issues that require extensive, multidisciplinary research. There are only a very limited number of institutions in India that facilitate serious research in the area of IPR. The Inter-University Centre for IPR Studies and the HRD Chair on IPR at the Cochin University of Science and Technology are some such institutions involved in policy-making and facilitating multidisciplinary research and teaching,” he said.

Suggesting that education should be the first step to boost the IPR field in the country, Prof. Jayakumar said that research and development should be promoted to protect traditional knowledge. “We have to protect traditional knowledge but also realise the dangers of patenting it, as it can be misused. The process of patent application filing should be simplified. IPR studies will help a lot in addressing all these issues,” he said.