A few weeks ago, I’d emailed our SpicyIP subscriber group on the tragic passing away of Hitesh Barot, a leading in-house IP counsel. The India Business Law Journal (IBLJ) put together a wonderful piece collating the sentiments of many who knew Hitesh. With their permission, I’m reproducing it below.
The link to the IBLJ website which carries this piece (in the latest issue) is here. And for Indian law students, you get a free subscription to this wonderful repository of the latest Indian legal developments.
I have to thank Donnie Ashok for sending me this wonderful picture of Hitesh. Donnie is an IDIA scholar studying at GNLU (Gujarat National Law University), where Hitesh taught as visiting faculty. Hitesh had a great fondness for Donnie and took pains to mentor and guide him.
Here is the IBLJ piece. Sleep well Hitesh.
Tributes pour in for Hitesh Barot
Hitesh Barot, a senior IP counsel and former vice president of technology policy at General Electric, died in a tragic accident on 21 May. Barot was pulled into the Narmada river by a crocodile near Bhalod, his native village in Gujarat. He was 48. “He was one of the most dynamic in-house IP counsels,” said Shamnad Basheer, the founder of intellectual property blog SpicyIP. “Always full of wit and warmth, Hitesh livened up any room he entered or any discussion that he partook in. Just an absolutely wonderful guy. It is a tragic loss for the IP community.”
Barot began his career at McCutchen Doyle Brown & Enersen in California and worked there for roughly seven years, during which the firm was acquired by Bingham Dana and became known as Bingham McCutchen. He then worked at Intel as its director of global public policy in India and Santa Clara, California, before moving to GE in 2011.
Federal magistrate judge Paul Grewal for the Northern District of California met Barot when he was a young lawyer. “He was a natural advocate and a tremendous rainmaker,” said Grewal. “But he always yearned to make a difference. And so when he gave up a lucrative future in his practice in the US to go to India with Intel and later GE, I was not surprised. Nor was I surprised when he gave that up to help get Indian voters registered and engaged in their democracy’s future. He died too young. He died too soon. He was an example to lawyers everywhere.”
Barot left GE to work at the Centre for Ethical Life & Leadership to simplify voter registration through advocating change in the online registration system. During his eight months in this role, Barot persuaded the Election Commission of India to partner with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce, the National Association of Software and Service Companies, the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India in a campaign to help corporate employees and others obtain a voter card where they currently live.
Susan Karamanian, the associate dean for international and comparative legal studies at the George Washington University, interacted with Barot on the university’s India project and noted his reputation as “one of the most knowledgeable US-trained lawyers in the Indian legal system”. Barot received an engineering degree and a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley, before moving on to pursue an Indian law degree. “I recall his excitement when he told me he was pursuing legal studies in
India to become an Indian lawyer,” said Karamanian. “Although Hitesh had spent considerable time in the United States, his love for India, particularly the people of India, guided him. His deep understanding of India and its legal and political systems reflected his engagement with a wide range of Indian institutions and the people operating within them.”
Karamanian added that Barot understood the US legal system equally well. She remembers the way he listened and observed and “the care and respect he gave to each person whom he met” and how he put “his enormous energy to use in paving a way to bring people together”.
Raj Dave, a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, was a close friend of Barot’s for a decade. “Hitesh was an extraordinary person who could think outside-the-box … a natural leader,” said Dave. “Even though he was brought up in the US, his love for India was immense and genuine. He wanted to make a change in India [and] wanted to expose his three boys – Rohan, Jaimal and Tanish – to the Indian culture and languages and he accomplished this mission with a passion. Hitesh will be missed forever by me and my family.”
The news came as a shock to many in the Indian and international IP community, who described Barot as vivacious, passionate, intelligent and friendly. “He was extremely vibrant and had great ideas,” said senior advocate Prathiba Singh. “He wanted to contribute a lot to the IP landscape in India.”
“His zeal to serve the legal community and India in general inspired the other members of the Indian National Bar Association,” said Kaviraj Singh, the association’s secretary general. Vishnumohan Rethinam, a partner at Remfry & Sagar, remembers Barot’s “vibrant, wholesome and engaging persona”, while Gunjan Paharia, the managing partner at ZeusIP, called him “a brilliant IP counsel and self-made man”.
Anil Advani, the managing partner of Inventus Law in California, spoke of Barot as an “intelligent, fun and passionate lawyer who was always liked wherever he went and whatever he did”.
Amitabh Lal Das, the general counsel of Yahoo!, knew Barot well and talked of how they formed deep bonds after seeing one another regularly at trade association meetings. “Nothing anyone will say now will add up to how fantastic a guy he was,” said Das. “I will always remember him for his verve, optimism, outgoing, affable and helping nature and for his amazing sense of humour.”
Das said they would discuss career plans, aspirations, his Indian law degree and his desire to have an impact on the electoral process, among other things. “He had shared detailed plans of increasing voter registrations amongst the citizens in corporate jobs and had checked if Yahoo! could play a role,” said Das. “As recently as 14 May, I texted him to ask for his plans in the wake of the exit polls that I imagined he would have been really excited about, but I did not get a response. And, now he is gone, so suddenly and so untimely, leaving his friends stunned and shocked.”
Manoj Pillai, a partner at LexOrbis and another good friend of Barot’s, said he was always “full of life” and “never cared about hierarchies”. Pillai recalls introducing Barot to a group of senior judges in Delhi who were taken aback when Barot reached out for a handshake and said “nice to meet you, addressing them by first name in his characteristic élan”. According to Pillai, Barot and the judges “got along so fabulously well that evening”, demonstrating a friendliness and informal air that only Barot could pull off. “We will miss him badly,” said Pillai.
Hemant Singh, the managing partner at Inttl Advocare, who knew Barot both professionally and personally, said the news was “traumatic and shattering”. Singh described Barot as “an exceptional human being” in addition to one of the most knowledgeable IP experts. “He has truly left a vacuum which will be hard to fill,” said Singh. “I have lost a friend and the IP fraternity has lost a brilliant IP visionary and expert.”
Chander Lall, a partner at Lall & Sethi, recalls speaking to Barot about his desire to return to India. “Our last few conversations were about his moving back to Gujarat, his having horses in his village,” Lall said. “I remember him saying he had located some very old and beautiful saddles in his ancestral home.”
Although Barot held senior positions in the intellectual property world, Lall says his heart and soul always belonged to India. “A man who left the lucrative corporate world to make a difference to the people of the country of his birth,” added Lall. “India has lost a great champion of its cause. May his soul rest in peace and give his family the strength to bear this loss.”