Home/ Leisure / Pravin Anand | The protector of inventions

Pravin Anand, India’s leading legal authority on intellectual property (IP) rights—and the managing partner of law firm Anand and Anand—walks with me into Threesixty, the coffee shop at The Oberoi, New Delhi. The time is around 1.15pm, most tables are already taken and there are quite a few people waiting. “I have to rush back to court in 45 minutes," Anand reminds the stewardess casually.

Delhi high court, where Anand handles most of his cases, is just a stone’s throw away from the hotel. And Anand frequently drops into the coffee shop to grab a quick lunch. So it is not entirely surprising when the stewardess addresses him by name and asks us to wait briefly.

Fun in law: Anand has designed a board game to teach intellectual property litigation. Jayachandran / Mint

Anand is dressed simply in a crisp white shirt and black trousers. Without his courtroom black robes, he looks much like any regulation corporate executive. And nothing like a man obsessed with intellectual property (IP) law.

So what interesting “matter" awaits his attention in court? I ask, using the legal fraternity’s term for a court case. “It is difficult to single out what is interesting today," he says, before telling me about the long list of cases lined up: a copyright issue related to Mattel’s board game Scrabble, a dispute between TV channels and the Indian Performing Rights Society, patent matters related to pharmaceuticals, and some trademark litigation. “We deal with a mix of all kinds of intellectual property. Every issue is interesting," he says.

Anand asks me to start on my chicken consommé as he waits for his vegetarian sushi lunch to be served.

Continuing our conversation on the line-up of cases in court, I am convinced: Anand is having a torrid love affair with IP rights. When I point this out, Anand admits to “obsessively correlating everything to intellectual property". “There is intellectual property in the mineral water here, in the design of this jug and in the recipes," he says, pointing to everything on the table, even my bowl of soup.

The career lawyer talks me into ordering a salad next. When I decide on a Chicken Caesar, he calls out to the waiter in typical Delhi style: “Bete (son)!"

Anand was born and brought up in Delhi. He studied at St Xavier’s School and then went on to do his bachelor’s degree in chemistry before completing his bachelor’s in law from Delhi University.

I ask him if he always intended to join his family’s pioneering intellectual property law firm. Anand’s grandfather, who founded the firm in 1923, started off as a trademark agent in New Delhi. Anand’s father joined the firm in 1954. “Back then, IP was synonymous with trademarks alone. There were not more than two-three patents a year. Today, there is intellectual property in the way things are made, presented and marketed. So the scope of IP has gone beyond what it used to be perceived in those days," says Anand.

Helped, no doubt, by years of arguing in various courts, Anand is an adept storyteller. He recalls how, in school, his principal came around to ask students what they all wanted to become when they grew up.

“Some said doctor, some said engineer, policeman and even Superman!" A 12-year-old Anand had resolutely announced to his class that he wanted to be a “patent lawyer". His classmates roared with laughter. They thought it had something to do with the patent leather products that were popular in those days, he explains.

After joining the firm in 1979, Anand coaxed his family into modernizing the firm, which boasted a stable but predominantly Indian client base. “Those days, getting a telex and a fax machine were big things. Others, including my dad, didn’t realize its value. My dad once asked what relevance a computer had in a lawyer’s office."

His “progressive approach" not only increased business for his company but also helped rapidly transform the state of IP law in India. He began by using judgements from countries with established IP laws while arguing his cases in local courts. This, he says, not only exposed Indian judges to a relatively new field but also triggered the evolution of a domestic framework for IP law.

Over the years, Anand recalls having argued many “one of a kind" and “first ever" cases on IP rights. He talks about cases involving HMV Gramophone Co. and consumer electronics manufacturer Philips India Ltd that broke new ground in IP rights. He also argued the Internet company Yahoo’s case in a domain name dispute—another first-of-its-kind case in India.

After liberalization, Anand explains, the “gap between what was happening in the West and what was happening in India in the IT industry was narrowing. The gap between our courts and theirs was also narrowing. If there were phishing, spamming, hyperlinking and cybersquatting cases in America, then there would be such cases in India soon after." Copyright, trademark and patent disputes emerged and awareness on these subjects increased. “Indian courts were receptive to look at the experience in other countries. This made law-making in intellectual property a vibrant and creative process," Anand says, between bites of his veg sushi. Asked why piracy and trademark infringement is so rampant in India, Anand confesses that while awareness of IP rights is high, the country is still a long way from “loving it".

Interestingly, Anand has not been shy of expressing the creativity in IP law outside courts as well. In 2005, he produced a play called Brainchild, written by Farrukh Dhondy, based on his experiences, to spread awareness on IP rights. Anand’s company also organizes an annual moot court competition. The prestigious annual competition brings together students from the country’s top law schools. Just fresh off the drawing board is Anaryst, a board game that allows players to buy and sell copyright, trademarks and other forms of intellectual property. Currently simmering in Anand’s mind is a cartoon character, and he wants to use it in comic books to help law students “demystify the law and convey esoteric ideas".

For the second time during our meeting, Anand’s BlackBerry rings. Court is about to convene for the Scrabble case. Anand nonchalantly responds to the caller: “Tell the judge, if he asks, that I will be there in 5 minutes" (he currently represents Mattel in a case against the Agarwalla brothers, who developed an online version of the board game).

I quickly ask him about his future plans. After taking the family firm from one office and four lawyers to four offices with 70 lawyers and 18 engineers, what’s next? He says they will remain focused on IP while growing into smaller cities where creativity thrives: “Whether it is a Tarun Tahiliani, a sculptor or an artist, each creative individual is an intellectual property centre. I love working with them and understanding their creative processes and learning what fuels their creativity."

Curriculum Vitae | Pravin Anand

Born: 5 May 1955

Education: Bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and law from Delhi University

Current Designation: Managing partner, Anand and Anand

Work Profile: Anand and Anand was set up in 1923 by Pravin Anand’s grandfather as an agent for trademarks. Pravin Anand joined the firm in 1979

Pillar of the Law: Anand was the first to win an Anton Piller order from an Indian court. Derived from British legal precedence, the order allows a defendant’s premises to be searched without prior warning and evidence to be seized in order to prevent tampering. Anand has used this in several music piracy cases

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Updated: 05 Jun 2009, 10:43 PM IST
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