V.C. Mathews is a Managing Associate – Trademarks, Copyright & Designs Prosecution at Inttl Advocare Intellectual Property Consultants & Attorneys. He handles matters related to trademark prosecution, copyright prosecution and design prosecution. Mathews was also an adjunct professor for Intellectual Property laws at Symbiosis Law School, Noida and is a speaker with CIPAM and FICCI IP Cell.
Q. During the COVID-19 pandemic situation, there are some essential innovations taking place across the world in the tech and medical spaces to provide much-needed relief to populations. Do you think IPR can be a hindrance to more and more people getting access to such essential products?
Though each company is spending a lot on R& D to develop a vaccine to combat Covid-19, I do not believe that IPR would be a hinderance. The IP laws provide the owner of the vaccine a level of protection, however, Covid-19 has reached levels unparalleled as far as deaths and those affected are concerned. Additionally, IP laws of numerous countries do have provisions to ensure that such an essential vaccine’s process are regulated to allow its reach to the masses. I believe, it is the IP laws that will spurn researchers on to find the cure to help millions across the world.
Q. We are in the midst of an Artificial Intelligence boom. What are some of the challenges that AI is posing for the IP system?
AI is a very interesting technology. It has far reaching consequences and there does not seem to be a limit to its technological development.
There have been numerous articles on how AI will replace the role of lawyers, para legals and so on and so forth. However, I believe that AI will act as a tool to help lawyers, law firms and the like to increase their efficiency and provide much superior services. If one goes back in time, at the advent of the internet, similar skepticism was there. The same proved to be there for 3D printing as well. AI is the future and its here to stay. WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) recently launched an initiative to bring forth an AI-based tool to analyze the distinctiveness of a trademark. Now that is a very useful tool indeed. Imagine, the kind of results that we would be able to generate when advising clients as to trademarks if AI was used as a first layer of analysis.
As it is relatively new, the laws of various countries are proving to be redundant to find a mechanism to be able to accept and protect the AI technology. This seems to be the biggest challenge that we are facing. IP laws across the world need to be relooked at to incorporate the use of AI as a tool and as a protectable IP. If we are able to do this, we will be able to overcome the challenge posed by the incorporation and use of AI in our day to day working.
Q. You have been a member of the sub-committee on Middle East, Africa and South Asia, and became the sub-committee chair and are currently a member of the Trade Marks Office Practice Sub-Committee. Tell us about your role here and the workings/ importance of these sub-committees.
The INTA sub-committees have proved to be a wonderful experience. Having joined the Middle East, Africa and South Asia sub-committee of the MEASA sub-committee as it is commonly known helped me understand the nuances of Non-Traditional Trademarks across the region. This greatly helped enhance my knowledge which I was able to use when I looked at such marks in the Indian scenario. Being a sub-committee chair taught me how to interact virtually and coordinate successfully with professionals across the world, many of whom were much older to me.
With the Trade Mark Office Practice sub-committee or the TOPC committee, the work is more India centric with the work being focused to the problems and challenges being faced in India. This too has proved to be a wonderful experience as I have been involved in more policy related work and a deeper examination of the laws to tackle or address the various challenges.
The INTA sub committees were something to be honest that I did not know much about till one of my mentors encouraged me to become a part of it. However, today, I would encourage and urge others to take part and play an active role in it. If you are active, you will indeed learn much from your participation in these sub committees.
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 realized. 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?
She is quite right in her assessment. Today, we are breaching topics like art law, sports law, AI and its impact and so on. Each of these will prove to test the copyright law and jurisprudence regarding it in the years to come. Copyright law is still in its infancy, I would say and there is much more especially in India that can be realized as far as the law regarding to copyrights are concerned.
Q. You were also an adjunct professor for IP laws at your alma mater. What has changed today in terms of legal education pertaining to IP laws since the time you were pursuing your degree there? And what kind of improvements would you recommend to law schools in India in terms of infrastructure or curriculum?
I am what one calls an accidental professor. I never intended to take it up at all but was encouraged do so by one of my erstwhile professors, Dr. Chandrasekar Rawandale, the current Director of Symbiosis Law School, Noida.
Legal education has changed a lot since I stepped foot into law school many years ago. I still can recollect how we used to take turns to be able to access Manupatra or even SCC online which were the only two softwares available at that time. Today, I see the students so well versed with the manner of use of these softwares and how technology has impacted the sphere of legal education. IP laws during my time in Law School was not a sought after field of law at all. I was only one of four students who took it up during the year I passed out. Everyone wanted to go into litigation practice or the corporate practice. This basically meant that I had to fend for myself as far as getting a job was concerned which to be honest I did get finally. It was not easy as many things did not work out as I would have wanted to at that time. Today, I see so many taking IPR as their field of practice that it amazes me how a field of law that no one wanted many years ago is now front and center as one of the most sought after fields. This shows the evolution of both the mindset as well as the value that IP laws has currently.
Indian law firms have come a long way in terms of both infrastructure as well as curriculum. However, the one area where I feel we need to improve on is the practical learning which requires to be imparted at the college level for each of the laws that a student learns. To enable this, the bringing in of practicing attorneys to impart their learning to the students will greatly help prepare them for the practical working of the law.
Q. On a personal level, how are you adapting to the changes in professional environments brought about by the pandemic and the lockdown? What do you like to do when you are not working?
Well the lockdown has been tough and working from home is indeed a new thing. I did do a bit of work from home prior to the lockdown but not on a daily basis.
Being tech savvy has helped me to seamlessly manage with my colleagues and we have adapted quite well to the new forms of working. Though, each day throws up new challenges.
When I am not working, playing my guitar is something that I do. I do love playing outdoor sports and games. So, that did take a hit in the initial days. Though, I have found new ways to stay fit as well as go for my long runs. Cycling is something I have taken up again now with lesser vehicles on the roads. So, all in all, though conditions are tough, I have managed professionally with some great colleagues supporting me.