This article is written by Jagriti Sanghi, an advocate practising in the Courts of Hyderabad, Telangana. This article details the global trends created in IP law practice in today’s age.
Intellectual Property (IP) law practice is creating massive opportunities globally. TRIPS governs global IP laws and most countries follow substantially similar IP laws. It is very easy to transition into other countries and practise in other countries on the global level. Very few such areas of law allow such international exposure. This article discusses a few of these global trends.
Digital media industry
Digital media is a fast-growing segment that has seen exponential growth. The expansion of streaming services, addictive content, accessible, efficient and low-cost circulation has led to its fast growth. The works for IP lawyers include IP creation, then IP rights enforcement and prevention from abuse of IP and finally the monetization of the created IP.
Social media platforms like Youtube, Instagram, Facebook (now Metaverse), Over The Top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Alt Balaji, Spotify, Gaana, and many others have resulted in huge growth in content creation and distribution. There is an explosion of copyright infringement.
These platforms are now a massive trend. They have an unlimited number of series, movies, stand-up comedy, music and other different kinds of content. There is a lot more content being created every day with the audience taking active participation in viewing the new content. It is very good for the industry to generate more work, especially for IP lawyers.
Money Heist, a Spanish web series on Netflix is so popular that it is being binged watched by audiences in 190 countries. The content is global and needs to be protected globally. Content has no boundary. Korean shows and movies are being watched by a growing Indian audience. Indian content is being telecasted in other countries. In the OTT generation, a series which is created in India could have viewers all around the world like China, Australia, the United States, African countries etc.
Scope of IP lawyers in the Digital Media Industry
There are many opportunities created for IP lawyers in the digital media industry. There is a huge increase in media contracts that deal with intellectual property. It includes content creation, development, distribution, advertisement, monetization, consultancy, freelance and employment contracts, profit-sharing agreements, investment agreements, joint development agreements, satellite rights agreements and so on. Since there are more and more projects, there are many more media contracts that are being signed, directly increasing the requirement of the number of IP lawyers.
There are compliance concerns in respect of content created on streaming or OTT platforms. IP lawyers legally vet contracts by examining the content in a detailed manner. This is done to ensure that no controversies/legal issues arise in the future as defamation suits, riots, courts hassles over content are all burdensome and expensive. It generates a lot of work for the IP lawyers since they are expected to go through the entire movie, series, comedy show, music and other content to analyse in detail the work of art.
There is a production of content licenses like music synchronization, adaptation, permission for biographical story, and image/pictures licenses which are completed meticulously by IP lawyers.
Merchandising and design is an enormous market like t-shirts, coffee mugs, posters, wall hangings, bags, face masks, school stationery, stickers etc. Anyone can start selling products and merchandise without taking a license from the owner of the IP. The piracy or fake merchandise might damage the market of the IP owner. Therefore, the trademark and design need to be registered globally to avoid piracy. IP lawyers are called to enforce and protect copyrighted works and trademarks.
Social media influencers
There is an upsurge in social media influencers and content creators online on platforms like Sharechat, TikTok, Reels, Dubsmash. These influencers are individuals with a large social media presence. They need advice on their legal rights, protection of their thoughtfully made content, monetization of content created that go viral and are used by page owners who build traffic by posting copied content. Monetization and gaining a fair share of money for the popularity of content on social media is where the IP lawyers are significant to provide assistance in handling the matters for content creators.
There is a requirement of IP lawyers for global enforcement of IP rights and royalty claims for unauthorized use of content created by influencers. Influencers are advised by IP lawyers about their rights and duties. There are cases of disputes over copied content for instance, where a random page on Instagram copies the viral content of another to get more followers on its page. IP lawyers come to the rescue in such situations by sending copyright infringement notices or royalty claim demands.
Influencer marketing is getting popular in today’s digital world where individuals with huge followers endorse a product/brand on social media. However, there are situations when influencers have bought fake followers and it compromises brand safety and paid advertisement money. Brands are also hiring IP lawyers to ensure that influencers are not committing misconduct or fraud online by depicting fake followers on their accounts. IP lawyers conduct a background check of the brand value of social media influencers and guide the businesses accordingly before moving ahead with the grant of contract. IP lawyers raise a red alert if they are not satisfied with the account of the influencers.
There are increasing legal regulations on influencer marketing. For eg., Social Media influencers are not supposed to endorse or market products without a detailed verification of the brand and its products. IP lawyers assist the social media influencers in checking the veracity of the businesses/products to be endorsed. Endorsements for false brands have to be kept in check as the audience gets influenced by social media influencers. Consumers can sue the influencers under the new Consumer Protection Act, 2019 as well for baseless claims endorsed by them. IP lawyers are also hired for suing social media influencers for direct infringement of trademark, contributory infringement, false endorsements, and unfair business practices.
Global tech-driven companies
Tech companies deal with inventions to a great extent. The global patent market is vast. A lot of money is pumped into the research and development of emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, pharma and healthcare, the biotech industry, and 3D printing. There will be more and more work generated in this area like registration of patents in these technology patents.
IP strategy plays a primary role in the success of these tech companies. IP law challenges for the companies include international transactions, and cross border IP protection and enforcement. Big companies like Google, Amazon, and Flipkart need an army of IP lawyers to maintain the IP portfolio.
Taxation of Intellectual property, tax compliance process, taxation of international income etc. require the assistance of IP lawyers.
After the pandemic, businesses and markets had to go online. Now, they have to take branding and trademark seriously as on an online platform they have to create a unique brand. For eg., There are 100 sweet shops with the name of Aggarwal in the same city in different localities. But online it is not possible as many websites with the same name will create confusion among the public. Therefore, those businesses that do not register local brands, will have to create a brand. There is a shift from informal business to formal business. As a consequence, online businesses have to register these trademarks and protect them with the help of IP lawyers. There is a growth of a number of businesses registering their trademark.
This has created a vast amount of work for IP lawyers.
There is a rise in brands that are directly selling to consumers (D2C) online without a middleman such as Bewakoof, Jockey, Ferns & Petals. These brands need IP lawyers to register, protect, enforce, license, and franchise on a regular basis. It has become possible because of social media and e-commerce.
E-commerce is one of the fastest-growing industries in India. Due to rising smartphone demand, growth of fast speed internet networks, increasing purchasing power and ease of technology has led to the growth of the Indian e-commerce market. Some of the issues of the e-commerce industry are fraudulent transactions, fake goods, enforcement of e-contracts, logistics and warehousing contracts, Trademark opposition work, passing off suits, copyright infringement, action to protect trade secrets, statutory compliances, licenses, brand protection etc.
Startups, Small Scale Enterprises which go online, do not have enough means and resources for big law firms. They require quality services, and reasonable pricing for their compliance work, cross-border, domestic trademark registration. Millions of SMEs have gone online and global, especially after the pandemic. Demands for registration and protection have increased tremendously and will continue to steadily rise.
The gaming industry is a rewarding sector for IP lawyers in terms of trademark, copyright, merchandising, brand valuation, franchising and patents related work of high-end computing equipment, registration, prosecution including filing a patent application, responding to objections and licensing contracts.
Brand registration, registration of work of art, infringement protection of characters, storylines, dialogues, merchandise products, music composition, look of the game etc.
There are contracts that need to be entered into with writers, music composers, artists, directors, cinematographers, animators, freelancers, game developers, among others.
IP lawyers have to vet content, legal compliances, taxation of international income, global protection and enforcement of Intellectual Property rights, royalty claims for unauthorized use. Many game makers target the international market.
Online reputation management
There are fake reviews and fabricated stories for businesses like Google Reviews, Amazon Reviews, Nykaa Reviews, Zomato reviews etc. IP lawyers manage the online reputation of businesses. They sue for defamation or copyright, trademark infringement. This is another growing area of work for IP lawyers.
From the global trends as mentioned in detail above, it is clear that there is a massive demand for lawyers in IP practice who can manage these varieties of complex tasks ranging from brand valuation, prosecution, IP strategy, filing and enforcing of IP rights. There is a huge volume of such work and the clients are willing to make good amounts to get their problems resolved.
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