Interview with Smriti Yadav, Partner, IP at Khaitan & Co., Mumbai

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Lavanya Ambalkar
I'm a 3rd-year student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune. My interest lies in Corporate and Intellectual Property Law and I am also the Founder and Chief Editor of "Reipublicae", a legal-political blog.

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Smriti Yadav is a Partner in the Intellectual Property Practice Group in Khaitan & Co‘s Mumbai office. With more than 15 years of experience, Smriti has been advising, managing and maintaining IP portfolios of clients in diverse fields like pharmaceuticals, tobacco, music, automobiles, retails, real estate, textiles and garments, FMCG, finance, and stock marketing including multinational companies. Smriti’s expertise lies in strategizing and handling contentious and non-contentious matters pertaining to trademarks, copyrights and industrial designs at national and international forums.

She has also advised clients on copyright royalty sharing and licensing issues and on various international treaties relating to intellectual property law and their effect on the Indian intellectual property law. Being a registered patent agent Smriti has also handled select patent cases.

Her expertise is in Intellectual Property Laws. Smriti has been recognized by well-known rankings such as Asia IP and IP Stars from time to time.

Lavanya: Please tell our readers something about how law school was for you and were you inclined towards the IP sector since the beginning?

Smriti Yadav: After graduating in science, I joined law. Until I realized the latitude that was available only to law students, I did attend my law college quite seriously. Law school always has a special place in all law student’s hearts and so does it for me. Regarding IP, yes, I always got drawn towards it since the beginning and hence I took IP as my specialization in Masters and I am continuing my zeal to date.

Lavanya: Kindly elaborate on how working in Khaitan and Co. has been for you, from being an associate to becoming a crucial partner of the firm.

Smriti Yadav: The Firm, always had a vision for IP and wanted IP to grow as an independent practice. It has always supported the younger generation. I joined Khaitan in 2008 and grew along with the firm. My role and responsibilities changed in the process and I revere every moment from being an associate to being the partner of the firm.

Lavanya: For a law student interested in building a career in IP law, what kind of activities he/she should engage in during law school?

Smriti Yadav: Like other practice areas, IP in books and in practice is quite different. While it is important to thoroughly study the basic concepts as a part of the law school curriculum, it is also important to do as many IP internships as possible. Participation in moot courts is another aspect that the student can engage himself/herself in.

Lavanya: Do you think that in order to gain good learning experience in IP law, students interested in the same field should start their internships with a small firm, or under an IP lawyer?

Smriti Yadav: For an internship experience to be fruitful, it does not matter if the student is interning in a small firm or under an IP lawyer or top firms. It is important that during the internship the student should try to participate and assist, as much as possible, in the day-to-day working of the lawyer under whom the student is interning. It is important that through internships the student gets hands-on with rudimentary concepts of IP.

Lavanya: Do you think that top tier firms do not pay much attention to what the interns are gaining through the internship experience?

Smriti Yadav: On the contrary, at least I can speak for Khaitan & Co, we keep a close watch on the performance of all the interns across all our offices. At the start, we discuss with each intern about their prior internship experiences and the expectations they have and try to achieve that as far as possible, by giving them that type of work. At the end of the internship period, we compile feedbacks from all lawyers with whom an intern has worked during his/her internship. We have a comprehensive database of all our interns. Interns also form a significant part of our yearly recruitment.

Lavanya: Do you think that interning in top tier IP firms during their law school career substantially increases the chance to get chosen as an associate in a big IP firm for a law student during the time of his/her placement?

Smriti Yadav: While having an internship experience at a top tier IP firm does reflect well on the CV, but the recruitment process followed by all the law firms is quite comprehensive. Thus, having experience in top tier IP firms is not the sole criterion at all. However, if the student is able to make a good impact at the time of his/her internship, the chances of the student getting absorbed in the same firm are quite good. This of course depends on the fact that the particular team has a vacancy or not. Even if the student is not recruited immediately, most of the firms maintain a database of such promising interns and this can come handy later in point of time of a student’s career.

Lavanya: Do you think that the financial prospects involved in the IP field are more than other fields of law?

Smriti Yadav: IP practice in India is definitely growing rapidly and it does positively impact the financial prospects in IP.

Lavanya: What do you look for in an intern to choose him/ her to work in your firm?

Smriti Yadav: I would look out for the basics such as clarity of thought, sincerity, academics, feedback from my team, etc.

Lavanya: Patents have been with us since the 17th century. In exchange for disclosing one’s invention, the state grants limited, legal monopoly overexploitation. In theory, the system encourages more innovation, for the good of society. But recently, voices of dissent have been rising. Legal costs are high. Specialists game the system to their advantage. Life-saving innovations get priced beyond the means of the poor. Hence do you think that patents do more harm than good?

Smriti Yadav: As you rightly mentioned, in exchange for disclosing one’s invention, the state grants an exclusive limited right overexploitation. There is a lot of research and development (R&D) that goes behind in developing one innovation, particularly, if we are looking at the pharmaceutical industry. If these exclusive rights are not granted, companies won’t have a reason to innovate, and due to the fact that the companies spend enormous amounts on R&D, the price of the product may be expensive. Having said that, there are provisions in statutes of most of the countries including Indian whereby on the grounds of the public requirement not being met, or unaffordability or no local working,  the patent can be compulsorily licensed. Also, unless patents are filed and published, the technology won’t be out for others to improve upon.

Lavanya: What is your opinion upon the provision of exclusive patent rights to the pharmaceutical company which comes up with the Covid-19 vaccine?

Smriti Yadav: The (Indian) Patents Act has clear provisions for national emergency (like in the present scenario – COVID), or in a circumstance of extreme urgency (Section 92). Thus, assuming anyone is granted a patent in India for a COVID -19 vaccine, then in the prescribed situation, the Central Government can compulsorily license such patent.

Lavanya: Do you think there is a need for reform in any act or provision under IP law? If yes, which?

Smriti Yadav: IP Laws in India are quite dynamic. The jurisprudence is evolving on a fairly regular basis by the Hon’ble Courts. So, yes, there is always a need for reform.

Lavanya: What, according to you, should be the approach and methodology followed by law students to get placed in great law firms like Khaitan?

Smriti Yadav: There is no specialized approach for this. The students need to follow the basics i.e. score well in academics, participate in co-curricular activities, work very hard, and sincerely at their internships.

Lavanya: What would be your advice to the budding lawyers seeking to become a brilliant IP lawyer like you?

Smriti Yadav: Choose your practice area wisely. Once you have chosen IP, work hard, sincerely, and be patient. The skillset comes with time and experience.


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