“Believe, and the rest will follow,” anticipating the future intersection of law and technology. Gain insights into how the U.S. experience broadened his perspective and depth of knowledge, setting the stage for a distinguished career in IPR – Amit Panigrahi, Partner Designate at Luthra and Luthra Law offices

This interview has been published by  Priyanka Karwa and The SuperLawyer Team

Your journey into law seems to have had a unique choice between following in the family’s medical footsteps or venturing into law. What inspired you to break the mold and pursue a career in law, especially as a first-generation lawyer in your family?

Well, choice was indeed interesting but for me the satisfaction of being a well-rounded professional was the first priority. . It was difficult to choose from either of two, but law attracted me because of the respect for knowledge it gave and since it was less explored at that time (2005). The more I read the law books to know about the subject, the more I was sure that I wanted to now pursue it. Being the First-Gen lawyer in the family, it also took some field work and guidance and so became my early mentor, Mr Fali S. Nariman. That’s when it was all clear! 

You pursued an LL.M. in Intellectual Property from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. How did studying in the U.S. influence your perspective on intellectual property law, and did it bring any unexpected adventures?

My pursuance of LL.M and where to do it from was very clear, U.S. and from Cardozo. The U.S. was a forum less explored for a Masters in such a niche branch of Law. I was lucky to have cleared a couple of more universities in the US and also in the UK, but choosing Cardozo was completely based on the faculty that was teaching IPR, at the time. So, to answer if studying in the U.S. influenced my perspective on IPR- yes, it did and it broadened my horizons and provided me the depth of knowledge  I think I would have wanted before entering this domain. I still thank my stars that I chose the right opportunity at the right time because jumping from a 5 year long hardcore litigation background to pursuing my masters in IPR, was a leap of faith that fared me well. Even at the time, I knew that unlike many, I would still want to come back to my roots – India and forge my path in Corporate world. The belief to achieve propelled me  into this unexpected adventure, of diving into the unknown, with the only clarity being that I wanted to carve my path in IPR and become a subject leader in the times to come..

Given your focus on technology and trademarks (IP), where do you see the intersection of law and technology heading in the next decade, and what challenges or opportunities do you anticipate? 

Technology and Trademarks have actually been going hand to hand since their inception and as such exhibit interdependency. It is only recently that collectively they grabbed the limelight around 2020, the era of technological revolution. Technology has evidently become a basic necessity of today’s time, from a mere zoom call to the most complex of workplaces function on the basis of it, every second of every day. For example, today we could anticipate and analyse the balling/ batting technique of each player in the World Cup in such great detail as compared to even 2010. At  such a time, IP is the armour to such technology, to protect it from being misused. I say IP because, it will not just be trademarks, but other aspects i.e. Copyright, Patent, Design, Data Protection too. This does open a lot of opportunities for the legal IP industry, since it is a very interesting and creative field wherein IP is needed in almost every type of work/industry. I will also not negate the fact that opportunities come with their challenges, called “misuse” by common-man and “infringement” by us. Look at Artificial Intelligence (AI), other that it gives an opportunity of profit to the industry with its sheer dynamic usage but it is also a massive threat as in many cases it essentially copies  image, work, or other IP to that nature, making it difficult to protect the privacy rights of an individual or a copyright of a literature work. That’s the charm & harm of Technology and IP. 

Aside from your legal prowess, you’ve been part of projects representing the music and entertainment industry. How does your passion for law intersect with your interest in these creative fields, and have there been instances where your legal expertise met the world of music and entertainment in unexpected ways?

Oh yes, that’s the beauty of IP. I have had my interest and liking for music from a young age. As we know it well, India’s entertainment industry is one of the biggest, globally. So, having to mitigate my profession with something I liked was a cake walk. It all started at Luthra and Luthra, when I was introduced to one of the biggest production houses in India leading to connecting with the who’s who of the Industry, helping protect their work rights to royalty rights, kept on webbing me into it and hit a different high note. The exciting part of this is to work around the intricacies of every part of the entertainment industry, be it the agreements before starting of film or concert to how we strategize to protect the rights of the Artists from being misused. It does keep you excitingly engaged through and through. 

You’ve worked on a range of cases, from pharmaceutical disputes to trademark infringement. What’s the most unexpected or fascinating aspect of your work that people might not be aware of? 

I think that would be, getting to have fun while working, which is a rarity for a lawyer. IP is a diversified as well as creative field but to derive pleasure in being an IP Lawyer is probably a luxury that you gain only if you grip it at the right moment.  Also, I love the travelling part of it, going for on-site inspection  to even meeting a client just to hear how they established their creative work, and the challenge thereafter to figure out the best way to protect the Intellectual Property rights so that credit is gained where it is due. This is one property, which is not physically present but holds a value equivalent or in some cases more than  a physical one. 

If you could trademark one word or phrase to represent your approach to law, what would it be and why?

“Believe! and the rest will follow”. This is in relation not just to Law but to every aspect I dealt or deal with, I think having conviction  in what you are doing and doing it thoroughly, the rest/outcome will follow exactly how you intend it to happen. 

Beyond the courtroom, you have a diverse practice that includes advising on business transactions, licensing, and even franchising. How do you balance the structured legal world with the entrepreneurial spirit required in these areas? Also, on a lighter note, what’s your favorite way to unwind from the demands of a busy legal practice?

These two are simply two sides of Law and each functions hand in gloves with others. For me it is like reading two subjects – one is the practical side of Law and the other is theoretical. I think this was embedded in me since School, because very few know I was a science student and we all know the “practical, lab tests” and the “theoretical/theory test” phase. I enjoyed doing it then and I enjoy giving time to both now. But yes, sometimes, the entrepreneurial/business transactional part throws you off the track because commercial goals may or may not always be in alignment with the law and that’s where the trick of the trade lies. The fun part is, finding and figuring out strategies and coming up with the best legal solution for your clients. In the end, I think that’s what I look at, the satisfaction to see your client happy and trust they bestow on you.

Unwinding myself from law is simple for me – I am an auto-enthusiast and a swimmer, so a long drive with friends and/ or family and silent/quaint time coupled with a few laps in the pool does the job. 

You’ve evolved from a junior associate to your current role. How has your approach to handling legal matters changed over the years, and what advice would you give to young lawyers starting their career in Intellectual Property law?

This journey of a first-generation lawyer/junior Associate at Luthra and Luthra till today, holding the current Position as Partner has its way of teaching the ups and downs of the subject. I learnt in every step, be it basics like running with a senior holding the files, sorting out documents with the clerk, filing of a matter, to bigger responsibilities like interacting with a client to closure of a deal or securing a favourable order at the Apex court of India or, even the fun times when you get to enjoy a cold coffee in the cafeteria with your colleagues or seniors, every task  has a learning curve and added value to my professional journey. Like many experienced lawyers, even today when I enter a courtroom to argue my matter or to deal with a new client or work on a new proposition, I still find myself in the shoes of a novice professional who had just started out his journey into this black and white dominated corridors of law and it is that feeling that gives me the excitement to work on what I am diving into, and will continue to positively influence me as a professional in my years to come. We can never stop learning, can we?

My advice to my younger colleagues will be, taste everything in the subject, and what you are really good at will automatically make space – then put in your Best into it and see the Magic. Highs & Lows will come but keeping yourself Grounded in your Highs and Centered In your Lows is what will sail you through.

Get in touch with Amit Panigrahi-

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