Professor (Dr.) VC Vivekanandan has been a teacher, researcher and academic administrator for three decades. Forayed and specialized in the segments of Intellectual Property Law, Internet Law, E-Governance and Business Laws. The academic career started with National Law School in Bangalore in 1990 and later worked with NALSAR University of Law and also held the IP Chair of MHRD for a decade. His administrative career highlights was that of the Dean of IIT KGP- Rajiv Gandhi School of IP laws and Founder Dean of School of Law at Bennett University.
His International exposure and contribution in the past were as the elected member of the Asia Pacific Region for At Large Committee of the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and a delegate to Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) of WIPO Geneva representing India. He had research stints at Maastricht University, Netherlands and Institute of Intellectual Property (IIP) at Tokyo and contribute as Adjunct Visiting Professor for the programmes of the Business School of University of SUNY, Buffalo. His non-law interests include music and cinema.
We recently got a chance to interview Prof. (Dr.) VC Vivekanandan:
Legal Bites: Sir, after obtaining your M.A. and M.Phil degrees in Public Administration, you chose to study law and eventually did your PhD in it from NLSIU. What inspired you to pursue legal studies?
Prof. (Dr.) VC Vivekanandan: After my B.SC. Graduation, I did try for the three-year law course but could not succeed as there was just one law college in Chennai with limited seats. But some of my contemporaries got into the three-year law programme. Later when I had the opportunity, I pursued the UG and PG programmes and then my PhD programme.
Legal Bites: You have had a distinguished career as an academic. After completing your education, you went on to become an educator rather than a practicing lawyer. What attracted you to academia and legal education?
Prof. (Dr.) VC Vivekanandan: I strongly desired to be an Academic is one reason for not pursuing practice. But there were other factors. Practice avenues were not attractive a couple of decades back and also already settling in the academic world, it was not strategic to experiment as a career. Even if I had forayed, but the guess is that I would have eventually come back to full-time academics. Nevertheless, I used to feel that I am missing some great excitement when you watch your own students excelling well in practice.
Legal Bites: Having held key positions across major law schools in India as well as abroad and now as the Vice-Chancellor of Hidayatullah National Law University (HNLU), Raipur, what is your approach towards governance and the functioning of law schools and universities?
Prof. (Dr.) VC Vivekanandan: There are some common factors for all law schools whether they are public or private and also differentiation in their ecosystem. Focus on the quality of educational delivery is a universal factor for both. In fact, it has to be more in private law schools as they are competing with each other with a higher fee structure.
On the differentiation factor, there is more flexibility and freedom on the academic output of public law schools as everything is not tied to return on investment. On the flip side, in private law schools, the decisions are swift and hiring can be done without much constraints of the complicated process as in Public law schools. Having worked on both sides of the dichotomy, it has given me better insights into combining the best practices.
Legal Bites: Sir, you were the founding Dean of the Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law – IIT Kharagpur and were also appointed as the MHRD Chair Professor of IPR from 2008-09 and again from 2010-17. Although our country has seen great advancements in the field of Intellectual Property Right in the past few years, India ranked 40 out of 53 countries in the 2019 International IP Index. As an expert on the subject, do you think that the National Intellectual Property Rights Policy requires improvement to ensure that innovation and creative rights are safeguarded in the country?
Prof. (Dr.) VC Vivekanandan: It is a complicated analysis to be enumerated in this interview. The short and central part of the IP story of India is that we are near but not there. In other words, we are a ‘technically competent nation’ but not exactly in the front line of ‘innovation’. In other words, we have the potential but it requires multiple factors to be addressed to achieve this. Innovation attitude in the education system, risk-taking attitude by entrepreneurs, public policy encouragement and so on and so forth.
The good news is that the last couple of decades, things are changing fast and this needs to be sustained and developed. My understanding of three decades of exposure on this subject is simple – to focus on the innovation ecosystem and IP ranking and practice will automatically catapult us. This task has to be borne by educationists, entrepreneurs and policy wonks.
Legal Bites: Sir, what according to you are some of the areas that Indian law universities need to focus on to be on par with international law schools? Are the research methodology and pedagogy being followed currently across law schools in India in need of an overhaul?
Prof. (Dr.) VC Vivekanandan: Indian pedagogy in my opinion is unique and has a great oral tradition and is also diverse. Where we falter is the planning and systemic execution. Most of the spaces and most of the time it is ad hoc in nature. Thus, it needs a concerted effort of planning and benchmarking. In such an overhaul, one should be cautious not to fall in the trap of ‘One size fits all’ prescription.
In the last few decades, the Indian Excellence in developed space is that of academics compared to the medical practitioners, management experts and engineers who migrated in the 50s and 60s. Hence, I am optimistic that with a concerted effort of planning the deliverables can be made. The New Education Policy of 2020 has brought in some serious issues to the table and one hopes with more deliberations it is actualized addressing certain concerns.
Legal Bites: Due to the ongoing global pandemic, students have had to adjust to new forms of teaching through online platforms. Do you see this trend as a positive one?
Prof. (Dr.) VC Vivekanandan: The ‘Internet’ generation of students are certainly adept at transforming themselves to changing deliverables with hiccups of ‘Access issues”. But the sociological phenomenon of campus life cannot be compensated by online deliverables. Hence it is positive in the limited sense that things have not come to a standstill but being managed. Opening of the campus is the optimal learning output. One positive aspect of this forced digital life is that it can complement even when opens the University spaces by listening and learning from many experts who otherwise cannot visit campus.
Legal Bites: What is your vision for HNLU, Raipur?
Prof. (Dr.) VC Vivekanandan: The vision is to bring in the ‘trust quotient’ with all stakeholders to realize their true potential. Every University in a particular space and milieu has its character. HNLU should identify such. a root of its own and importantly it should be a place of work-life balance for optimal output to meet the expectations of its supporters and well-wishers.
Legal Bites: Lastly, in view of today’s highly competitive world and the global economic slump, students are facing quite a challenging time. Sir, what would you like to tell them?
Prof. (Dr.) VC Vivekanandan: Even during the global economic upbeat, it is never easy for those who start their career except for more opportunities and a higher pay package. The current slump out of pandemic is an equalizer of many spaces. This requires a calibrated plan of taking the opportunities as they come, scale-up and move to stated goals. Getting depressed is only going to further aggravate and hence a positive attitude is a key and one needs to set the expectations for incremental progress to wait for the tide to turn around.
Legal Bites: Thank you so much for talking to us, Sir.