Please tell us about yourself
Prity Khastgir is a techno-savvy patent attorney in India with 12 yrs of experience working with clients across the globe. Her areas of expertise are IP portfolio research, cross-border technology transactions, licensing agreements, product clearance, freedom-to-operate, patent infringement & invalidity analysis, research & opinions. Currently, she helps startups to raise funds, assists foreign companies to find right business partners in India. She also assists enterprises to enter and find the right angels, and VCs in Malaysia, Singapore, US, UK, Japan and India. Here, she answers questions about IP career prospects in India, in her Face-to-face interaction with Reetu Mehta.
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Is Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) a good career option in India?
Before answering this question, I ask myself why I do what I do every morning. Am I passionate about my day? IPR is a fascinating field and apt for people who wants answers to questions related to what, why, when and how. IPR is a field of law protecting creations of mind in form of ideas, inventions, brands, trademarks, copyrights, software codes, industrial design registration and trade secrets. However, if research is not your cup of tea then please do not enter this field. You have to passionate about innovations. Many people enter this field because it is a high paying job in the long run compared to normal 9-5 jobs in India. However, not everyone will be able to sustain in this field in the long run. Therefore, be wise before entering this field. You should be fascinated by technologies around you, have a problem solving approach, and be compassionate towards your peers.
How can a life science PhD begin with career in IPR?
Life science is study of life processes. The scope of PhD in IPR is better as the person is familiar with research. The best way to move forward is to do online IPR courses and get an overview of IPR. One should have interest and passion to solve the queries related to the intellectual creations of mind. One should have problem solving approach as client is looking for solutions.
What are the required skill sets?
First and foremost, the person should have technology and legal acumen to understand innovations and have a research capability to work at least for 10-12 hours. Thinking out of the box to solve a research project is the key to assisting inventors to protect their inventions.
How does a career in IP evolve/grow in India?
The individuals I have come across are passionate about protecting innovations. To evolve in this field you have to be technology savvy. The Intellectual Property law has evolved a lot in last 10 years. Now a trademark can be registered in less than one month in India with proper documentation. The Indian government is giving a number of grants to startups in India to grow by leap and bounds.
What is the kind of work one is expected to do and what are the skill sets one can acquire over the course?
Reviewing and researching similar technologies filed across global patent websites. IPR rights are territorial in nature, which means if a patent is protected in India and not in US then anybody is free to use the technology in the US. A patent is granted to a technology that is new, non-obvious to an expert in the same field, and have industrial applicability. Right from patent filing before the patent office to patent grant, a number of steps are executed by a number of patent associates. Apart from this, a patent expert can research and work on a number of projects related to foreign patent litigation cases, which is an excellent knowledge process outsourcing model thriving in India.
How was your journey in IPR? What is required for a fulfilling and enjoyable IP career?.
My career has been a roller coaster. I always wanted to do something different in life. I am passionate about everything, which comes my way. Everyday is an opportunity to learn something new. I strongly believe that knowledge is power and to be a successful human being one has to update knowledge on a regular basis. So many innovations are happening on a daily basis. It is next to impossible to learn everything but I make it a point to read at least ten granted patents in different domains. I personally believe that there is so much to learn from every person. I graduated in Applied Science (Food & Chemical technology, honours) from Delhi University followed by MS Biotechnology, Medical Devices, Pharmaceutical & Medicinal Chemistry (University of Rajasthan). I also did my LLB in Corporate Laws, Cyber Laws, Technology Laws, Food Laws, IPR, Patent, Design and Trademark laws from University of Rajasthan. I was fortunate to learn from the best teachers in Delhi University and they are like family to me. I cleared the Patent Agent Examination at the age of 21 years. I am a 10K Goldman Sachs scholar from ISB, Hyderabad and legal counsel at BIMTECH, Greater Noida, India. The last 12 years has been a memorable experience and I have worked more than 30,000 hours and the learning has been memorable and incredible. The learning curve in intellectual property domain is exponential and with every project I learn so much about what kind of research is happening in any technology domain across the globe.
Where do you think your future will be in 5, 10 years from now?
Well I believe in short-term and long-term goals. My short-term goal is to start an incubation centre focusing on developing untapped intellectual property portfolio from domestic and foreign startups in India. We have already started one centre in Aerocity, New Delhi, India. On a personal front, I intend to join politics and work in developing a holistic intellectual property ecosystem in India, which will help India to become a developed country. 10 years from now, I see India as a developed country and of course I would be part of the Indian Government.
What is the profile of people who practice IP In India, for example, Engineers, Science grads, and Law degree holders? How do they like it? What made them come to IPR?
The current profile is very diverse. The well-known and top IP firms are run by lawyers who don’t have a technical background as the patent law was introduced in India in 1970. Post 2005, the law was amended and a science degree became compulsory to sit for the examination. There is a gap in the industry that needs to be fulfilled. Lawyers are not very sound with technical understanding of patents and science graduates and post-graduates are not conversant with legal law practice. The field is very lucrative as the demand of good skilled professionals is the need of the hour.
To bridge this gap we are starting with autonomous patent law and practice course for individuals in near future. The job prospect in the current scenario is very different as compared to early 2000’s. To cater to the future need of IP based companies in India, we will need techno-legal patent professionals.
Does the growth trajectories differ based on the basic qualification? For example, in the US, a PhD is almost a must, how is it in India?
We can’t compare US patent law with Indian patent practice. India is at least 50 years backward when we compare with the US patent law. I have personally worked on more than 500+ different technologies in my career span of 12 years for US-based business entities. Those technologies will not even enter India before 2050. Having said that, we don’t need PhD as the basic requisite for working in IP field. Of course having a PhD degree is advantageous for companies who are focusing on two to three verticals. The most important point to be considered for working in patent domain is the passion to understand technologies and do research which might be boring for a PhD who is more inclined to wet laboratory research.
For an IP assignment whom all do you interact with and what are the kind of clients do you get to work with? How do they pay and sustain their funding? How does that affect your growth? For example in the US, patent agents can end as partners.
On a personal front I am an entrepreneur at heart. We have association with more than 100+ law firm partners across the globe. The best part of working with IP professionals across the globe is you are never out of work. For example, year-end is holiday season in USA. However, the Chinese market is still working in those months. Chinese New Year is in the month February. So we work with clients across all domains. Sometimes US companies engage us for patent litigation research work. We are one stop solution provider for providing customized patent research work according to clients need. Therefore, we work with Fortune 100 companies at one end and on the other end we work with startups and individual inventors.
We generally take upfront payments for all our projects. Our growth path is exponential and we believe in innovating from ground level. Thinking out of the box is the key to sustain with the big patent law firms in India. We don’t compete with any firm or KPO unit in India. We believe in creating our own path by identifying weak points existing in the current ecosystem.
Where is Indian IPR with respect to the rest of the world? Where does it plan to go? How does it fare with respect to other countries (for example BRIC)? Can Indian IPR folks work for Universities, Equity firms, Market analysts etc.?
Of course, the Indian IPR folks can work for Universities, Equity firms, and as Market Analysts for domestic and global companies. I personally think Indian Patent Law and enforcement is very weak in India. We don’t have IP experts in government organizations. A lot has to be changed as far as government polls are concerned and that is my reason of joining politics in near future. India needs to sign different treaties to expedite the patent grant processes in India. India should learn from neighbouring countries like Singapore and Malaysia where patent prosecution highway is on the rise and friendly for foreign companies at the same time. When India is compared with BRIC countries, India has to sign more treaties and hire more patent examiners to take care of the backlog of the patent applications at the Indian Patent Office.