Continuing our series of interviews and the theme/celebration of World IP Day, we bring you a different perspective. For episode 2, we speak to Prof. (Dr.) Ghayur Alam, Senior Professor in Business Laws and IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) at National Law Institute University, Bhopal, as he elaborates on his experiences as a teacher at NLIU and at the WIPO – WTO Colloquium for teachers in addition to his views on the changing tides – both with respect to intellectual property and youth
WORLD IP DAY 2022 – QUESTIONNAIRE FOR PROF. (DR.) GHAYUR ALAM
1. You have been instrumental in introducing, designing and teaching courses in Intellectual Property Rights. How would you reflect on the changes that one may have to bring in for attracting young minds towards the IPR sector?
‘IPR Sector’ is a wide and overarching term. It includes but is not limited to - academia, industry, government, international organizations, non-profit organizations, legal profession, judiciary, management, economics, taxation, and finance. Generally, young minds may be attracted to a sector because of lucre. IPR sector is uniquely lucrative and rewarding. Some may be attracted because of happiness and satisfaction that they derive from a particular work. IPR, by definition, provides intellectual stimulus by persistently throwing new challenges, particularly the challenge to learn new things. IPR Sector, therefore, is about both happiness of pursuit and pursuit of happiness.
There is hardly any aspect of life untouched by IPR. There is no industry without IPR. Be it primary sector, or secondary sector, or tertiary sector; IPR is all encompassing. No sector, no subject and no discipline can have substantial growth without IPR.
2. Could you please tell us about your experiences from the Sixteenth WIPO-WTO Colloquium for Teachers of Intellectual Property?
WIPO-WTO Colloquium is significant in many ways. It provides an excellent opportunity to interact with IP scholars, IP practitioners and IP administrators from across the world and build academic network. One gets the opportunity to measure one’s own standing in IP scholarship. Discussion on existing and emerging issues of IP provides meaningful insight into IP jurisprudence.
Such initiatives in other branches of law will definitely help develop meaningful and holistic discourse on legal system. Financing of such initiatives is often a challenge in their launch. Existence of WIPO-WTO, cooperation between WIPO and WTO since the inception of WTO, visionary leadership at WIPO-WTO towards academics and research are some of the main reasons of the initiative called WIPO-WTO Colloquium. Other international organizations may also launch such initiatives. Such initiatives by international organizations not only promotes research but also fraternity and idea of global citizenship. Educational institutions may also launch such initiatives in different branches of law. A Colloquium on the legal systems of the world will be more meaningful to develop the dialogue and debate on the entire legal system.
Monsanto’s Bt. Cotton Patent, Indian Courts and Public Policy presents a legal and policy analysis of Indian patent law with special reference to an invented Nucleic Acid Sequence (NAS) after being inserted into a seed or plant becomes part of the seed or the plant. I would advise the readers of this piece to go through the paper which is available on the website of WTO and write a critical review of the paper demonstrating the weaknesses and loose ends therein. This is how knowledge develops and we evolve intellectually.
At the WIPO-WTO Colloquium-2019, I became aware that maximum number of abstracts that were received, in comparison to other countries, were from India. I had a sense of satisfaction. Review process at WIPO-WTO is very rigorous. After the acceptance of abstract, I was invited to participate in the Colloquium and present my paper. Around thirty papers were presented and we were told that only 12 to 15 papers will be published. I was keeping my fingers crossed. When I received the preliminary review report suggesting both formatting and substantive changes, I was relieved. I sat for 37 hours without any break, except for biological needs excluding sleep and carried out the required changes and met the deadline. After a waiting period of few months, I received the second review report for making some more improvements that I made to the best of my ability. Finally, I received a final review report suggesting some more changes. It took around 22 months from the date of submission of abstract to the publication. During the long-drawn process, I discovered myself more deeply and had the unique opportunity to estimate my standing in the world of IP scholarship.
3. This is your 24th year of teaching at NLIU. What changes do you see in the students from the first/earlier batches to the current ones? How do you perceive students can equip themselves better for industry practice, especially in the IP industry?
For the last twenty-four years that I have been at NLIU, I have been and continue to learn from my students. Students are the most effective teachers of their teachers. I owe a lot to them for keeping me younger and agile. Students do not allow their teachers to have the problem of generation gap. Every batch of students brings refreshing vibes and intellectually stimulating energies.
In the year 1998, only thirty students were admitted to the first batch of B. A. LL. B. (Hons.) Course in NLIU and twenty-five of them graduated in the year 2003. Before interacting with the first batch of students, I was not a teacher in the real sense of the term. Therefore, I always describe first batch of students as ‘my first intellectual offspring’. In the second batch there were sixty students admitted and fifty of them graduated in the year 2004 and show has been going on.
Students can equip themselves better for industry practice, especially in the IP industry by following three rules: One, reading. Two, reading. Three, reading. To be industry ready, the students must do as many internships as may be possible with law firms, corporate houses, senior lawyers, judges and the relevant industry. They must shun the idea that there is a difference in law books and legal practice. In my opinion, whatever is practiced is based out of and given in some legal material. One must have the ability to find that relevant legal material and use it for their present situation. Nonetheless, I must admit that tricks of legal profession cannot be taught during the course of study for two related reasons. One, full time law teachers are not permitted to practice law and therefore they cannot bring in the real and practical experiences to the class room. This disconnect between legal education and legal profession may be avoided by permitting the law teachers to practice as advocates. Best international practices may be utilized to bridge this gap. Two, law teachers do not know the tricks of legal profession and therefore cannot teach such things to their students.
4. What are your views on internships and engaging in extra-curriculars during college? We often hear that one must explore all areas rather than stick to one specific area of practice. Would you agree?
Moot Court exercises and internships are prescribed as a compulsory clinical course for B. A. LL. B. (Hons.) and other UG law courses. In my opinion, fifth year (final year) of law school should be earmarked for internship only. This will help students learn the culture of legal practice and will help them find pre-placement offers.
Neither moot court nor internship is either co-curricular or extra-curriculars to legal education; They are part and parcel thereof. Students’ participation in sports and cultural activities of the institution will also aid their holistic and overall development.
I am ambivalent as to whether one must explore all areas rather than stick to one specific area of practice. On one hand, I believe in the Hindi saying, “Ek Sadhe Sab Sadhey; Sab Sadhey Sab Jaye” (implying: focusing your energy on a specific discipline/area is more effective). On the other hand, a lawyer is a generalist, who has the ability to understand facts of all kinds and the ability to search the most appropriate legal category in which those facts fit in, if they fit in at all. But in all of this, my conclusion is still that internships are necessary.
5. You have been awarded Fulbright Fellowship, Cardiff Law School and British Council Scholarship, Texas Instruments Scholarship by CASRIP, University of Washington, USA and AMU Merit Scholarship in your career span till now. According to you, what key areas should a person aiming for such scholarships/ fellowships focus on before and during the application process?
In addition to these, I was also awarded WIPO-WTO Fellowship in 2019, to attend the Colloquium. My advice would be that the applicant should be clear as to why they are applying for a particular scholarship, popularly known as Statement of Purpose and Motivation Letter. The applicant should also know if their purpose that they seek to achieve fits within the scheme of the said scholarship. Preparation for such things is not an event but is a lifelong process. Either one is prepared or is not prepared.
6. Under the current Indian IPR regime, how do you perceive the growing Biotechnology sector, especially with regard to the Genetically Engineered crops?
Research and development in any sector, including biotechnology, is not necessarily determined by IPR regime. IPR is a method and not the method of promoting research and development. An encouraging IPR regime, however, is an important factor for the growth of industry. In short, the current Indian IPR regime requires one to be more open to biotechnology sector. You could refer to my paper titled Monsanto’s Bt. Cotton Patent, Indian Courts and Public Policy (2019) available on the website of World Trade Organization for a detailed and in depth understanding of this.
7. Do you think that the legal industry, specifically young lawyers from India have ample expertise to cope with global intellectual property law concerns? What broad changes, according to you, can be incorporated in our IPR regime to bring the protection at par with the world standard?
Expertise is too tall an order. A lawyer by definition is a generalist. A lawyer desirous of practicing IP law should have: (i) basic knowledge of technology involved, (ii) confidence that she can understand the technological facts involved, (iii) the ability to search for and apply the most appropriate legal category to the facts. I would emphasize that law is a discipline singularly empty of born geniuses. One must have the habit of reading, thinking, researching and marshalling the relevant knowledge for the present choice.
IP rights are territorial by definition. But in my opinion, to look at IP laws in a globalized context, firstly, we must know what IP practices are the best in the world. Secondly, we ought to juxtapose this with where we stand. Thirdly, we must evaluate and understand why we stand where we stand. Fourthly, we must determine as to what needs be done and why. Fifthly, we ought to take a closer look at how can it be done and who will do it. Finally, it must be done. The possibility of doing things ought to be the guiding force rather than the desirability thereof.
8. Given that the theme for World Intellectual Property Day 2022 was ‘IP and Youth: innovating for a Better Future’, What would be your message to the youth to stay creative and innovate and also to drive positive changes in the sector?
First and foremost, I would urge people to remain positive and never allow negativity destroy your creative spirit. Second, discover who you are – what do you like the most, what are you passionate about, what is it that you cannot live without, whether such a decision of yours is rational and reasonable, etc. Third, know whether you are deriving pleasure and happiness in doing what you are doing – are you enthusiastic about your work or you are taking it only as a burden. Fourth, work hard. Fifth, know the existing scenarios to transcend them and become creative. Finally, be happy, do not crib about the situation or circumstances you are in but try to overcome them. Give your best first to yourself & then share it with others.