Deepika Pokharia, Senior Associate at Saikrishna & Associates In a FireSide Chat with SuperLawyer on IPR, Taxation and Evolution of NFT, AI and Metaverse

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

Was pursuing law planned or did it all happen by chance?

I would say it was planned for as long as I can remember. When I did not score the desired rank in my CLAT examination, I decided to do law post-graduation. I studied B.Com (Hons) at Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, Delhi University and thereafter, took admission in Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi. I have always been inclined towards litigation and so far I think it is working out well for me.

Please enlighten our audience about the initial struggles in your career and how you managed to overcome them?

I have been very fortunate both in terms of having the absolute freedom in my career choices and finding the right opportunities. I started my professional journey with Wadhwa Law Chambers as an IP Associate.

Despite working in a relatively niche field of law, I was exposed to all kinds of work ranging from general advisory, commercial litigation to transactional work. Additionally, smaller teams ensured significant contribution in every matter.

I just feel that as a first generation lawyer there is certain lack of insight or clarity one has in figuring out their career goals. That being said, everyone has different journeys and law being the dynamic profession it is, every opportunity irrespective of the organisational structure or area of practice is worthwhile. 

The only major struggle for me (as well as my peers) has been to achieve a work-life balance, which generally becomes impossible in smaller set ups. This problem is also supplemented by our own deep-rooted conditioning and seeking validation in overworking. I think having a healthy professional relationship with your senior(s) is significant in resolving any such workplace issues.

What are the most important considerations to keep in mind when dealing with IPR and Tax issues? 

That’s a very wide question given the range of IP rights and Tax statutes in India.

To answer it briefly, I would say insofar as IPR is concerned, understanding the overlap between various IP rights is extremely important. Additionally, in any intellectual property issue, whether litigation or transactional, the foremost consideration is determining the scope of the IP right involved.

Again, taxation has a very wide domain. While having a basic understanding of the tax implications, statutory timelines and compliances is a prerequisite to any tax dispute, one needs to be updated with the ever growing developments, jurisprudence and amendments. Circulars, Press Releases and Notifications also assume a significant role in understanding taxation issues.

What are the most prominent challenges that you have come across while dealing with Tax and IPR Transactions? 

Both Tax and IPR happen to be slightly technical fields and as such breaking down the legal issues is always a challenge. Lack of substantial precedents with relatively new enactments such as the GST Act poses another challenge. For that matter, even the concepts of Design law are still not well-settled in India.

Deepika, how do you ensure that clients’ intellectual property is adequately protected, and what are the basic compliance procedures one has to work upon? 

I have personally witnessed a growing awareness about the importance of intellectual property (particularly trademarks and copyright) amongst upcoming business and entrepreneurs. Brand protection is finally being considered paramount amongst businesses, who not only seek to protect their brands but also understand the legal consequences of intellectual property violations.

The basic idea is to start early and secure statutory protections. The importance as well as effectiveness of  IP Prosecution cannot be underestimated.

What are the most common mistakes you see businesses make in IPR nowadays? 

Like I said, businesses, irrespective of their size and operations, are increasingly becoming conscious of intellectual property rights. However, not acting early enough both in terms of protection of one’s IP rights and initiating actions for any infringement/violation poses significant problems.

Besides this, businesses need to be extremely wary of loosely-worded agreements whether it be licensing, settlement or even employment contracts insofar as they pertain to ownership of the IP rights.  

What resources do you recommend for staying up to date in law? Any blogs that you always keep an eye on?

Insofar as the general and daily legal updates are concerned, dedicated legal news resources such as Bar and Bench and Live Law already cater to a significant audience which even includes non-lawyers/legal professionals.

For developments in the field of IP law, I find SpicyIP and IPWatchdog very interesting. For that matter, LinkedIn has now become a great source for legal updates. More often than not, I find myself looking for a case law on LinkedIn because I recall scrolling past something familiar on the platform. What is really great about LinkedIn is that its not just independent practitioners or firms sharing daily updates but law students having an inclination towards IP.

If your university or office have a PTC subscription, I would always recommend skimming through it.

Deepika, you’ve been quite active in these IPR dealings, but lately we are witnessing the evolution of Metaverse and NFT, according to you how will it affect the legal industry?

I feel with every technical development/evolution, comes in the legal disputes. Internet and e-commerce have opened floodgates of litigation with IP disputes constituting a major chunk of it. Similarly, copyright and trademark issues particularly, one concerning the ownership of such IP rights in NFTs seems imminent.

“As dependency on tech and AI will increase, issues pertaining to security and privacy will also witness an increase”, please throw some light on this statement.

That goes without saying. Digital footprints and access to personal data invariably leads to security and privacy concerns. While it is impossible not to move along with these technological developments, we will have to educate ourselves of all the possible repercussions.

Just last week, there has been a lot of discussion on privacy issues concerning the Lensa AI mobile app which is being used by several celebrities/influencers across social media platforms for sharing their AI generated “avatars”.

Any 5 best pieces of advice that you would love to give to our readers?

Well, here are the five takeaways from my experience so far:

Constantly reassess your growth and goals. What gives you work satisfaction today, may not tomorrow.

Insofar as possible, work on all sorts of matter and do not pigeonhole yourself.

A law degree does not necessarily translate to litigation so explore your avenues.

Professional work ethics and accountability goes a long way.

Lastly and most importantly, break out of your legal circle every now and then. Meet your non-lawyer friends, engage in discussions about anything but law. The idea is to expand your horizons and avoid the burn out.

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