Naveen Varma is a practicing Patent Attorney in India. He is a qualified Mechanical Engineer and an advocate enrolled with the Bar Council of Delhi. He has extensive experience for more than sixteen years in the domain of Intellectual Property (IP) and specializes in counselling on protection, enforcement and management of IP assets. His core areas in IP include patents, designs and trademarks.
Q. Could you specify and briefly explain some India-specific problems pertaining to IPR?
IPR Adjudication: On the administrative front, delays are a major problem at the IP Offices. Be it the Patent Office, Trademark Office or the Designs Office. Some efforts have been taken up in the last few years to minimize the delays. However, I personally feel the approach is not very structured. No doubt new applications are being prosecuted quickly, however old cases in terms of pending examinations or opposition proceedings are still lying as they were.
Yet to pave way to new IPR Regimes: In the domain of Computer Related Inventions (CRIs), and specifically for inventions having software and algorithms, the space is still not clear as to how the Patent Office interprets and reacts to the protection sought. More often than not the Office bearers (Controllers) at the Patent Offices interpret the inventions in a very narrow manner and tend to drag all innovations under the realm of Section 3 (k) – grounds of non-patentability for inventions pertaining to software per se or algorithms. Meaning thereby, innovations in the domain of CRIs including Internet of Things (IoTs), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learnings (MLs), Blockchain etc. which are inevitable in the near future, will find challenges to be protected.
Narrow Interpretation of Existing Provisions under the Act:
Designs: On many occasions, the definitions under the Designs Act and specifically with respect to “article” and “design” are being interpreted and implemented to a wide range of innovations wherein such direct interpretations may not be applicable. Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) is one such area wherein the exact creativity/ innovation may not directly fit under the said definition of “article” or “design”.
Q. In the foreseeable future, there is likely to be growth in innovations in India in the field of manufacturing as well as in the tech and e-commerce spaces. Are we as a country equipped for such a future in terms of IP laws?
From the manufacturing perspective, Yes – the IP laws of India are equipped to cater to the requirement. Our Patent and Design laws have all requisite provisions to protect the innovations in the manufacturing domain.
Innovations from the E-Commerce domain have to be looked at from the perspective of Computer Related Inventions (CRIs). As already stated, we have some limitations in terms of business methods, software per se and algorithms being protected as patentable inventions in India. Innovations in the domain of E-Commerce have to be gauged minutely to understand the exact nature of invention and accordingly evaluated rather than merely applying Section 3(k) as a limitation.
Q. The world is in the midst of an Artificial Intelligence boom. What are some of the challenges that AI is posing for the IP system?
Intellectual Property (IP) is meant for protecting the rights of the innovators or creators i.e. the ownership rights being safeguarded before the same being assigned.
One important challenge that AI is posing on the IP system is with regard to inventorship. IP is designed to protect the creations of intellect of a human mind. For AI, the major issue being, the creations are possibly by computers rather than human mind. This is an interesting sphere of debate worldwide and we will have to wait and watch where it leads to in terms of interpretation.
Over and above, the limitations in many jurisdictions in terms of non-patentability of Computer Related Inventions (CRIs), is another challenge to innovations in the domain of AI.
Q. What are the practice areas of Zeus IP within the ambit of IP laws and what sets it apart from other law firms that also specialize in the same field?
At Zeus IP, we cover all areas of IP including Patents, Trademarks, Designs, Copyrights, Geographical Indications, Plant Variety, etc.. What sets us apart is the manner in which we approach each IP issue. The same cannot always be seen in isolation and every member at ZeusIP is trained to see each IP issues from multiple dimensions to develop a holistic approach and advice clients accordingly. The approach during the advisory is not merely academic but instead the solutions are practical and are customized keeping in view the client’s commercial business interests. Registrations and Grants cannot be considered as an isolated academic exercise whereas the same needs to be looked at from the perspective of future enforcement and commercialization and accordingly strategies and approaches are structured.
Q. We recently held a webinar during which the chief speaker, Honb’le Justice Prathiba Singh of the Delhi High Court, described copyright law as similar to “space”, saying that copyright law has no limitations and that its full potential has not been realised. In your opinion, in a nutshell, what are the further additions that can be made to the copyright laws in India and maybe in the international context too?
Copyright law is very vast. Yes, it may be considered that said law has not been explored to the fullest extent. More specifically, copyright being an inherent right and registration of copyright being non-mandatory, various facets of enforcements are not fully explored.
In the current era of Information Technology, the main challenge regarding copyright and the enforcement is with regard to defining creative content and pin pointing the violation. Specially, musical works, sound recording etc.. are subtle areas wherein the evaluation and interpretation has to penetrate few deeper layers while enforcement.
Q. The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way not only lawyers and judges work but the way the entire legal system works. How have you adapted to the lifestyle changes, both personally and professionally, that have been brought about by the pandemic?
Indeed, the pandemic has unveiled a new modus operandi for working. The first few days were a bit difficult to adjust, but then once the approach and the operations are structured, things fell in place. On the professional front, with the technology support that we have in the present day, the transition was seamless. Structured protocols were developed for team interactions to discuss projects, work allocations, review and communications and things settled quickly and every team member pitched in. Holding group video calls (zoom calls etc.) to connect with each member during the lockdown to keep a watch on their physical as well as mental health certainly helped to maintain the connect. Additionally, few collective activities were structured by the Office which kept the whole team engaged on specific occasions.
On the personal front, the lockdown and work from home certainly allowed for more time to be spent with family. Family time was accordingly structured to have quality involvement with family members and led to doing a lot of collective activities together.