This article is written by Komal Shah, Cofounder and Content Head, LawSikho.
Right now, you are probably reading this through a smartphone, maybe at your home or maybe in transit to somewhere. But not long ago, when your parents were in their youth, we didn’t have this possibility to reach anyone anytime and anywhere. We used to have some places at every corner of the lanes called a P.C.O (Public Call Office). There used to be box type red, yellow or black telephone instruments in which you could insert a one rupee coin and speak locally or a button phone inside small booths which you could use to dial outside your state, using what was called S.T.D (subscriber trunk dialling). For calling outside the country there was ISD which was very expensive and available at only very few places.
These were in place even for a few years after the mobile revolution started since calling outside of India even from mobiles was quite expensive and WhatsApp didn’t exist yet.
A little before this, you couldn’t call out of India from just anywhere. There used to be something called ‘trunk calls’ which you were required to place through an operator, who would dial outside India and then connect you.
What created this massive change making S.T.D. / P.C.Os available at every nook and corner so you didn’t have to struggle to reach someone? It’s relevant to know, since these very places were then replaced by internet cafes, allowing you access to better methods of cross border communication and later on, placing the www in your palms.
At the back of this was a Gujarati inventor, born in a tribal area, who went on to study at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and returned to India in 1980s to become an Advisor to the then Prime Minister and work on the Government’s telecom initiatives.
(Wait, what? Gujaratis are either businessmen or stockbrokers – right? Check – we’re conditioned to think cliche’d.)
Anyway, this guy also became the first Chairman of the Telecom Commission (recently rechristened as Digital Communications Commission), and is credited with laying the foundation for telecom growth in India and creating access to telecom services outside people’s homes in every other lane.
I am talking about Dr Sam Pitroda. His political affiliations apart, Dr Pitroda played a great role in creating a wide access to telecom facilities. He is a tremendous inventor, holding close to 100 worldwide technology patents, which he has made available for free to download on his website.
What makes people invent stuff and revolutionise the functioning of a company or a country?
I once heard Dr Pitroda at the Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA) many years back. He said that you need to have a ‘destructive’ mentality in order to end up inventing something. It will be like the existing things don’t make sense to you. The constant thought process is ‘How can I fiddle with X and make it do Y?’ Hence you will ‘destroy’ X – open it up and try to rearrange it or remove something or add something.
Now you will tell me that you are not a scientist. You’re a lawyer. So how can you invent? Doesn’t matter. What stops you from making legal inventions like these?
When family and friends were the only sources of capital for business, someone first thought of a public issue. This was an invention. When the only way in which you could gather capital was to part with ownership or get loans from banks after providing significant collateral, someone first thought of debentures. This was an invention. When the only alternative for you was to vote for the least worst candidate, someone first thought of NOTA. This was an invention too.
Inventions are possible everywhere – in every field. But for that, you need to drop your conditioned thinking. You need to drop limits and believe that something which doesn’t exist currently, is possible.
One way to achieve this could be to just be in the midst of inventors. They are inventors because they don’t think cliche’. If you’ve been with inventors through their journey, you will be privy to and influenced by these thought processes. Working with inventors as an intellectual property lawyer can probably give you such close encounters of the illuminating kind.
Just like Dr Pitroda, I have often read about people who got accepted in India only after they moved abroad and returned in some manner. Many people seem to blame this on our general failure to recognise talent. Having stayed and worked abroad, my perspective on this is a little different. When you are living and working away from the country where you are born, your vision definitely broadens. You now become an Asian rather than an Indian, and your way of approaching problems changes, because some things which would be very relevant for you otherwise, now become irrelevant in decision making. This exposure to broader thinking is what makes people drop limiting factors and become more effective. This may be the reason why people become more accepted after they have had a stint abroad.
We realised that this element of access to cross border thought processes can also be facilitated very well in the domain of intellectual property law. If you open up the list of clientele of most top rated IP firms, their major assignments will be with multinational companies. This is obvious because companies which have businesses across the globe would want to capitalise on their invention in one country by using it in another. Given how fast information travels in today’s date, they would really want their inventions to get worldwide protection, since otherwise, they can lose out on using these in other countries.
In such a scenario, understanding processes in other countries can open up avenues for you to work with firms which serve multinational clients or work with such multinational companies themselves. It can be particularly helpful if you are aware of how US multinationals can be served in terms of intellectual property, given that the top 5 companies in the world in terms of market capitalisation includes 4 US companies.
This is what prompted us to work out a mechanism where we can make access to US based faculty available to Indian students. The aim is not only to encourage the students to support inventors and creators (and probably develop inventive thinking themselves), but also to create access to a broader vision, which wouldn’t be available otherwise, unless you actually move countries.
This is why we ended up creating the Certificate Course in Intellectual Property Prosecution, in association with the Texas A&M University School of Law, a law school which is ranked the No.8 in the US for their intellectual property programmes. At INR 30,000, this is the most affordable and accessible course from a top US law school. So with LawSikho, you now get access to high quality legal education of international standard, at a very Indian price.
LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join: