Patents unleash the power of technology in the real world by allowing organizations to not only reap the benefits of R&D but also positively impact society through innovation !

Mugdha Bakshi, our next pathbreaker, works as Search and Analysis specialist for a Danish corporate firm associated with microbe based products in food and nutrition, providing analytical services to patent attorneys based in Denmark with respect to patentability.

Mugdha talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about the need for IPR to be well integrated with basic and applied sciences, as a critical component of research and development.

For students, the field of IP is neither well known nor explored in our society. But, for technology to thrive, we need a robust legal/IP infrastructure !

Mugdha, what were your initial years like?

I grew up in Mumbai with a keen interest in biological science. My mother being a medical practitioner, I was exposed to the world of medicine right from early childhood. But looking at the amount of sacrifice and dedication that goes into following a medical practice, I had my reservations about entering into the field. My drive towards biological sciences made me pursue graduation and post graduation in biotechnology. 

I was raised in a family that devoured books. I grew up watching all my family members right from my grandparents to my siblings, with a book in their hands. So reading became my second habit. Further during my postgraduate studies, I also developed an inclination towards writing. I would pen down my thoughts, experiences and opinions in a diary. 

This grew into a habit of finding solace through writing down my ideas and opinions. And I gradually understood that, I would love to get into an opinionated expression as a career.

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I had a keen interest in biological science, hence pursued it after my school and junior college. I graduated in zoology and biotechnology from University of Mumbai. After developing my inclination in the field of biotechnology, I decided to further pursue my post graduation in biotechnology. The field of biotechnology was in its nascent stage at University of Mumbai, hence I looked for a standard postgraduate course out of Mumbai. Bangalore was a complete setup for biotechnology with a number of big corporations in the field. Hence, I decided to shift to Bangalore for my postgraduate course. This was a very good decision, as it allowed me to explore independence and improve my personality in addition to the skill sets gained in the course.

What were some of the influences that led you to such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?

The post-graduate course introduced me to the field of Intellectual Property Rights. And the idea of creating a patent or a trademark for a product or a process looked very exciting. I was fascinated by the field of IPR, as understanding technology to determine the patentability of any idea was something that triggered my intellectual capacities. Soon after my post-graduation, I got a chance to work as a research trainee at Piramal industries (Goregaon, Mumbai). 

During the traineeship, I got to know a number of stalwarts in the field and had discussions with them on future avenues in research. I was keen to pursue a doctorate (PhD) to have a deeper understanding of science. And as I had decided to pursue a PhD internationally, I was looking for fellowships in the west in the field of biotechnology.   

I was fortunate enough to get a fellowship at University of Mainz, Germany under Prof. W.E.G. Mueller to pursue my PhD in the field of natural sciences.

After my doctoral studies, I decided to return back to  India to be close to my family. I took up an academic position as an Associate Professor at Indian universities. During this course of my career, I again had the privilege to interact with people from a number of interdisciplinary fields. And in one such meet, I got introduced to professionals from the field of IPR during my visit tp CSIR-URDIP (Unit For Research & Development of Information Products) at Pune. This rekindled my motivation to explore the field of patent analytics and drafting.

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

I had a fellowship for pursuing my PhD in the field of biotechnology and molecular biology from University of Mainz. My area of research was determining the metazoan-microbial interactions, and understanding its action on biochemical pathways in animals. The core focus of my study was to determine the role of microbes in mineral formation in marine sponges. After completing my PhD, I took up an academic position in Bangalore University for a period of two years and later at Pune University for a period of four years. At Pune, owing to its very strong academic background, I got a chance to visit various research centers and faculties, thanks to my academic position. During one such interaction, I happened to know about CSIR-URDIP (Unit For Research & Development of Information Products) at Pune and their outreach.

Dr. Sangeeta Telang, a project scientist at URDIP provided me guidance and direction to approach the field of IPR. I decided to pursue a PG Diploma in Patent Law at NALSAR university. After successfully completing the degree, I tried for internship positions at different patent attorney’s offices. I worked with Adv. Vishal Kataria as an IP trainee for a period of six months where I got hands-on training on approaching a patent application. 

How did you get your first break? 

Post my internship, I searched for suitable job positions in Pune. Based on my qualification and experience, I got an opportunity to work as a patent analyst at RK Dewan and associates for a period of 4 years.  

Patents are techno-legal documents that explain a new idea or a concept to the community. And a patent right prevents others from utilizing the idea for commercial purposes and hence is called as a negative right. Working at the firm exposed me to use of different databases for carrying out background searches on ideas that could be patentable. For any idea to be patentable, it needs to be demonstrated to be novel and non-obvious to a person skilled in the art. Hence, there is always a need to carry out background search on the idea to determine the key factors. Further, filing a patent application involves a number of legal steps. As the patent right needs to be verified and justified in the court of law, prosecution of a patent application before and after patent grant is a very big area of work. 

Dr. Mohan Dewan is a renowned patent and trademark attorney based in Pune. His firm handles both national and international patent applications for clients from the field of life sciences, chemical science, mechanical science and computer science. Working at the firm helped me to get a better understanding of patent analytics, drafting patent applications, and handling prosecutions. I was groomed in handling patent searches for a number of clients in the field of life sciences, pharmacy and medicine. Patent applications need to be monitored for their prosecution, by replying back to the examiner’s queries on the need and nature of work. I was trained to understand and provide technical reasoning when responding to the examiner’s queries as a report. All this changed my outlook in utilizing my scientific technical skills for understanding and utilizing IPR.

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

My work experience in an academic background put forward a few challenges for me during my work in the field of patents. The primary challenge was developing skills to convey the subject information in the right way. 

Although my research and academic career helped to develop my analytical reasoning, I had to train my brain to look at all aspects from the perspective of business development for the client.

I learnt to address all of the shortcomings during my stint at the law firm the hard way. But looking back, I feel proud to think that I could handle all the learning under pressure and yet come out unscathed.

Where do you work now? What problems do you solve?

I am presently associated with Chr. Hansen as a Search and Analysis specialist, on their global IPR and Licensing team. Chr Hansen is a Danish corporate firm associated with microbe based products in food and nutrition.

My experience of handling patent searches and  analytics at R.K Dewan along with my research experience on microorganisms during my PhD helped me secure the position at Chr. Hansen. Having an in-depth understanding of microbiology is what is essential for addressing the projects at Chr. Hansen. Patent searching and surveillance of use of microbes in food and nutrition is the need for business development and strategy. And my skills and understanding of patent law and microbiology help me to address the IP problems.

I provide analytical service to the patent attorneys based in Denmark with respect to patentability, freedom to operate or infringement of any new idea under development. Hence the job demands complete understanding of subject matter, to point out and analyze the market position of the idea with respect to the competitors.

How does your work benefit society? 

A career in IPR is not very well known in India. Intellectual property rights are not the point of focus in the primary academic curriculum. Unlike the well known and widely explored professional fields, the student community is quite unaware of the field of IPR. 

Nevertheless, there is very much a need today in basic and applied sciences to look at IPR and promote its integration into academic fields in order to provide a competent outlook to research. Hence, IPR has to be a part of the formal academic training, so that students can explore a number of related opportunities while selecting their career path.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Pursuing medical or para-medical courses or research paths are the standard approaches for any Indian student who is interested in the field of biology. However, the field of IP as a part of basic biological science is not well known and explored in our society. Hence, knowledge of this field provides a wider scope to students for looking at alternative avenues.