Yashvardhan Rana is an Intellectual Property Lawyer. He is also the Editor of The Trademark Reporter, International Trademark Association (INTA). Rana is an expert in the area of IP prosecution with a special focus on trademark, copyright and design laws. He was recognised as one of the Top 50 IP Professionals in the World by IPR Gorilla, 2nd Edition which was held in Dubai.
Rana is an alumnus of Symbiosis Law School, Pune where he did his B.B.A., LL.B. and the Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) where he completed his LL.M in Intellectual Property Law. He also holds a certificate in International Commercial Litigation and Arbitration from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He is based out of New Delhi and is an active member of the Bar Council of Delhi, Delhi High Court Bar Association, APAA, INTA, LAWASIA and the FICCI IP Forum.
In this interview with Legal Bites, Yashvardhan Rana talks about his experience as an international law student in addition to highlighting the prevalent scenario of IP Prosecution and Enforcement practice in India.
Legal Bites: You have been recognized as one of the Top 50 Emerging IP Professionals in the World and were awarded by IPR Gorilla, 2nd Edition in Dubai. How did you develop an interest in Intellectual Property Rights and what made you choose this area of law?
Yashvardhan Rana: The world of well-known brands and fancy logos has had a huge impact on my imagination since my childhood as I’ve seen my parents patronising various brands from multifarious departmental stores in every nook and corner all over the world and as I grew older, just by constantly staring at the ones having a unique colour combination or get-up/or style on various billboards in India and elsewhere or by having a feel of the minutest of details of every product I purchased.
Thus, I got immersed in it and it further intrigued me to delve into the world of brands like never before. On another note, I used to read my father’s files at night in our house chamber of matters pertaining to high stake trademark law matters (although he is a civil lawyer) almost twice or thrice a week in my college holidays. Since I also had an inclination to become a lawyer from my boyhood days and Intellectual Property Law was booming in India, I chose IPR as my specialisation and further wanted to create a niche for myself in this ever-intriguing field of law.
Legal Bites: You have studied at Symbiosis Law School, Pune and the Queen Mary University of London. Do you think that there is a great deal of difference in studying law at an Indian university as opposed to a foreign one? As an international student in London, were there any challenges that came across your way?
Yashvardhan Rana: All I can say is that there is world of a difference when it comes to the teaching methods adopted by law schools abroad as compared to Indian law schools – they are much more engaging and practical-based involving a Socratic way of teaching rather than imparting knowledge on theoretical based rote learning methods — which is sadly the case here in India.
There is much more emphasis on dealing with problems analytically to the situation based real-life practical world problems in foreign law schools which in turn equips the lawyer to face the legal world with much more panache and provides one with the required skill set required to flourish when he enters the legal world. Some of the law schools here in India are soon catching up but to be the front runners in this aspect of teaching, a lot has to be achieved before we compete with foreign law schools and start calling ourselves world-class institutions.
It is imperative that we inculcate the need to impart/incorporate practical real-life scenario setting/methods of teaching as a part of our syllabus so that students can face the real world with much more confidence and in turn, develop skill sets to compete globally which is beneficial in the long run.
I have had to face many challenges along the way but have overcome them by keeping the right amount of attitude, persistence, compassion and empathy, being curious every day and developing the habit of inculcating smart work in my daily life. Everyone can learn the ropes of law and work hard, however, what sets you apart is your willingness to learn and improving yourself every day, being absolutely honest to your work as well as applying and working upon your skill sets that you’ve learned in the process of becoming a lawyer.
Legal Bites: Is there anything that students should keep in mind when they are applying to law schools abroad? How to ensure that one’s application gets easily accepted by the best law schools?
Yashvardhan Rana: Applying to the best of law schools around the world can be a daunting task; however, I was fortunate enough to plan it in advance as it is important to chalk out a plan beforehand. I had always envisioned myself studying abroad after my undergraduate studies and this sense of eagerness helped me to apply early on when the application process started out — for sake of clarity, in my case, September 2014 (for entry in next year’s admission cycle, i.e., September 2015).
I was well prepared with the Letter of Recommendations, finalized my statement of purpose after two-three initial drafts, shortlisted the colleges to apply by referring to trusted sources – both online and offline and made a shortlist of tasks to be completed before I embarked on this priceless journey.
Your main focus should be on writing a solid statement of purpose which requires you to paint a vision about your future and how well you are aware on how to tread the path of endless opportunities without blinking your eye and what all you have learned and achieved in the process. Also, writing an SOP requires demonstration of a certain skill set, aptitude and coherence to be able to delineate and sell what you envision for in about 2-3 pages. In short – plan early!
Legal Bites: India ranked 40 out of 53 countries in the 2019 International Intellectual Property Index. As someone who is experienced in IP laws, do you think that the National Intellectual Property Rights Policy requires improvement to ensure that innovation and creative rights are safeguarded in the country?
Yashvardhan Rana: Of course, yes! A big one in fact! if we are to compete with the developed nations and spearhead it in the future. Factors and initiatives that can help include ease of doing business, the introduction of robust IP mechanisms including online IP enforcement and speedy disposal of select cases by the courts and varied forums using e-filing technology, a national-level dedicated task force for IP crimes, quick filing of IP applications with a world-class user interface, an online search system for classification of goods and services competing with the best and most importantly — having Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain technology-based systems in place.
Moreover, an upgraded physical and technological infrastructure and related services at all IP offices, hack-free and privacy protected robust Video conferencing systems for hearings, recognition of well-known trademark status within a stipulated time frame, regular meetings with stakeholders to address grievances and resolve procedural and technical issues, setting up of new courts/tribunals, hiring experts via lateral entry after a thorough examination, etc – are just some of the steps India can take.
There have been many steps as also mentioned above which have been introduced but in a haphazard manner; however, if you are to compete with other leading nations – we have to change our attitude in the way we function. The procrastinating mindset and the rather slow implementation of progressive laws which I still feel lack in our system in the sense in conducting regulatory compliances and bringing about awareness at the grass-roots level involving IP Law ranks us at 40 instead of in the Top 10.
We have all the facilities, resources in the world, have forums being set up to bring about awareness and contribute on policy-making processes, a decent amount of workforce that is propelling various initiatives at different levels at different forums – but, as a country which forecasts itself to be a 5 trillion dollar economy in the near future, a lot has to be done and achieved in the foreseeable future.
Mark my words — whoever leads in adopting artificial intelligence and automated systems replacing workers with smart machines wherever required as a way of life, by the next decade, will rule the world until 2100.
Legal Bites: You have written about opportunistic trademark filings such as the recent case of Patanjali’s Coronil. How has the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic impacted IP prosecution and enforcement practices in India?
Yashvardhan Rana: We always had the option of conducting virtual hearings in addition to e-filing processes on the IP prosecution front, however, the postponement of hearings from time to time have made an impact on the way we function. There will be cyber-squatters and opportunistic filings to take undue advantage of the same old system in place (not the first time as it has happened a few times before the pandemic as well), data-privacy issues, infringers and whatnot, every now and then.
Obviously, there would be a backlog of cases; however, since this a pandemic of a magnitude that occurred last in the year 1918, I am of the opinion (to look on the brighter side of things), the legal system in India (better late than never) has adopted and adjusted technologically dependant practices within a matter of few months and has faired pretty well in accommodating litigants and aggrieved persons who required urgent redressal of their problems.
However, the pure love and passion of arguing cases for litigating lawyers (since I am more of a transactional based lawyer focusing on IP prosecution since the past few years — just like the corporate practice; although I started out in Litigation for two years after graduation), the way you used to observe cases or interject with your arguments when needed is a major setback for new budding lawyers who want to make a mark in litigation.
Despite that, to make the most of their time, I would suggest to watch some of the few LIVE or recorded virtual hearings for the time being, as also introduced by the Gujarat High Court, recently, apart from the various knowledge-sharing webinars by top lawyers of the country.
Legal Bites: You are serving as the Editor of The Trademark Reporter and have also authored a book as well as several articles on law-related topics. Do you think that writing regularly can prove to be beneficial for young law students?
Yashvardhan Rana: Yes, definitely! Writing regularly will make you more inquisitive about what’s happening around you and the more you write, the more you learn in the process. Young law students should develop the habit of writing early on as it will sharpen their research skills which are very much required to be a successful lawyer. If you know how to find the path of law, you’ll become a good lawyer.
In plain terms — if you can find, research and analyse the correct proposition of law, nothing beats that! The content that is required as a part of your arguments, should be of an optimum level if you are to win a case. If you do not research, do not write — your arguments will be uptight.
I have a penchant for writing on current developments of law especially concerning the field of Intellectual Property Law. I make notes in my head, read up latest developments on hot topics, connect the dots, infuse my critical thinking with a dash of preparedness/awareness and conjoin everything together to publish a thought-provoking piece.
Legal Bites: There is often a lot of pressure on aspiring law students in India to make it into an NLU college. Have you ever felt that being from a non-NLU college has a negative effect on career prospects?
Yashvardhan Rana: No, it has not. Law students should just focus on working hard and putting in that extra effort in whatever situation whenever necessary, whether you belong to a non-NLU college or not. Just to be clear, I would say the same thing if I had been from a so-called NLU college.
Do good. Be good. Research thoroughly. Write freely with some purpose. Learn the hard way and Listen with empathy. Focus on and observe the minutest of details.
Do not show off. Be aware of what is happening around you and in the world. Be updated. Spread awareness. Share your knowledge. Have a clean inner conscience. Learn from others. Set your target and achieve. Rest, everything will fall into place.
Legal Bites: Lastly, what kind of a skill-set should budding Intellectual Property lawyers develop and is there any piece of advice that you would like to share with them?
It is advisable but not an absolute must – that you try your hand at experiencing Law and being associated/working under a lawyer first (how it’s played out in real-life scenarios) so that you can get hands-on experience in the choice of your field – so plan accordingly and gain real-world experience in district/trial courts first in the area of law you’re interested in.
Prepare and choose wisely. Decide what suits you the most – being your own boss and starting from the very scratch or working in an already organized set up as an employee. Any which way is suitable, however, it depends completely on the individual and his/her personality traits. One can switch from Litigation to a corporate practice smoothly, however, it becomes a little cumbersome the other way around as you ought to develop the skills of networking, gain visibility, learn court craft, observe cases and resort to perception building, etc. from the very start if you choose to practice before the courts.
Make it a point to research, read a case law every day, interpret and analyse, be curious, make notes, etc. Do not get in the habit of hoarding for certificates or padding your CV without learning in the process and gaining some knowledge. Merit, knowledge and your inner conscience will take you far and not shortcut learning or perception building as most young lawyers are up to these days.
Start focusing on Legal Drafting, writing research papers, articles; start a blog or something, be innovative and make the most of the time you have been presented now. Your future job recruiter will emphasize this aspect to see how committed, consistent and disciplined you are and what is setting you apart from the rest of the crowd.
Act now or be left out.