"IP" Centric Law Degree by IIT-K Threatened


As some of you may be aware, a generous bequest by US billionaire Vinod Gupta helped kickstart the Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property law (RGSOIPL), India’s first specialised law school, focusing on intellectual property law (IP). This school, which is based out of IIT-Kharagpur has been operational since 2006 and has strong ties to the George Washington University law school, one of the top IP law schools from the US.

Although this law school does not only teach IP, but a string of other legal courses normally taught at the other law schools, it restricts admissions to candidates with a first degree in science. In pertinent part, the IIT-K website notes: “The School presently has one programme: Six-Semester, Three-Year Full-Time residential LL.B. Programme leading to the Degree of Bachelor of Law with specialization in Intellectual Property Rights, at par with the LL.B. Degree requirements of the Bar Council of India.”

Just as this novel experiment in specialised legal education produced its first set of law graduates this year, it has been hit with a legal challenge. Express Buzz reports:

“The Supreme Court has issued notices to the Bar Council of India, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and to the Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development on a writ petition questioning the propriety and correctness of the Bar Council of India in giving permission to IIT, Kharagpur to start a course in LLB in Intellectual Property Rights. A Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Deepak Verma directed issuance of notice after briefly hearing advocate Sanjay Parekh.

The petition filed by M Chandrasekhar, an advocate of the apex court, pointed out that the eligibility for joining an LLB course is a graduation in any discipline, that is BA, B. Com, BSc etc. The petitioner pointed out that LLB is an entry-level professional course in law wherein a candidate is taught basic principles of law in a number of subjects. If any candidate desires to specialise, he can opt for LLM course in a subject of his choice like Constitutional Law and Contracts. But, for the first time, the general character of the LLB course is sought to be changed by IIT Kharagpur by starting a specialised course in Intellectual Property Rights and that too restricting admission only to BE, B Tech, MBBS, M Pharma, MSc, MBA with Science/Engineering background, the petitioner averred.”

Towards Specialised Law Schools?

Given the sheer dearth of skilled patent lawyers in this country, I am very partial to the idea of a specialised IP law school. Particularly since the premier legal institutes in the form of the National law schools do not focus on science at all, a discipline that is absolutely essential for churning out decent patent lawyers. The National Law University (NLU), Jodhpur does offer a B.Sc. LLB, but I am not entirely sure if the level of the science taught as part of the BSc is adequate. The head of the IP Division of a big Indian pharma company once confided to me that these candidates were of no use to them, as the science taught was fairly elementary.

NUJS offers a very curious BA/BSC LLB degree, but there is no science taught at all. Dr Madhav Menon, the founding director of this law school may have intended for this law school to provide a science option as well, but this never really kicked off. The nomenclature seems more of a historic relic now.

Anyway, back to the dispute at hand and legal challenge mounted against the grant of approval to RGSOIPL’s 3 year LLB course. I don’t necessarily see a problem with a specialised “IP” focus in an entry level LLB course, provided other foundational legal courses such as contracts, torts, criminal law, constitutional law etc are also taught. I’ll try and bring you a more detailed note on the specific legal issues once I lay my hands on the petition. In the meantime, let me try and highlight some of the broader issues raised by this recent controversy:

i) To what extent do law schools comply with the Bar Council of India (BCI) norms?
ii) Should the BCI (in its current form) be permitted to regulate legal education at all? Does it have the institutional competence to do so?
Compliance With Bar Council Rules?

To answer the first question, a couple of months back, I checked the Bar Council of India (BCI) requirements applicable to the five year integrated law degrees (BA LLB, BSc LLB etc) and found that none of the law schools were likely to comply with the fairly onerous requirements spelt out by the BCI. In particular, given that these schools accord rather step motherly treatment to the BA component (having a mere 5-6 courses of history, economics and political science), they are likely to fall foul of the BCI mandate that the BA or BSc syllabus “has to be comparable to the syllabus prescribed by leading Universities in India in three year bachelor degree program in BA, B.Sc, B.Com, BBA etc taking into account the standard prescribed by the UGC/AICTE and any other respective authority for any stream of education”.

The BCI norms appear to require a good 14-20 courses to cover the “BA” component–which is way beyond the current 5-6 course offerings in this regard by the law schools.
Institutional Competence of the BCI?
As for the second question, most academics abhor the thought of having legal education in India solely dictated by the BCI, most of whose decision makers are practitioners with no real insights into legal education policy. And this sentiment has been echoed by the National Knowledge Commission as well, which recommended that course curriculum etc be designed by a new standing committee on legal education under a proposed Independent Regulatory Authority for Higher Education.

Arun’s paper titled “The Waning of a Magnificent Obsession: An Abridged Story of the History of Legal Educational Reform in India” (which I referred to in an earlier post on Law and Other Things) has some fascinating insights into this issue. He discusses the Gajendragadkar Committee Report of 1964 in this regard and notes:

“The Committee had noted the distinction made under the Advocates Act, 1961 according to which, theoretical or scientific legal education would be in charge of the Faculties of Law working under the different Universities in India and the practical or technical legal education would be in charge of the State Bar Councils. To remedy the situation, the Committee had recommended that the Bar Councils and the Universities should act in concert and agree upon evolving suitable criteria for both theoretical and practical forms of education. However, the Committee felt that a more substantive and long term solution to the problem would be the creation of a statutory body called the Council of Legal Education which could be given supervisory control over all aspects – theoretical, practical and incidental – of legal education in the country. The Gajendragadkar Committee was of the opinion that the Council should be constituted on a high-power basis and be composed of judges, law teachers, members of the Bar, and representatives of industry or other fields which would have an interest in law.

The Committee did not elaborate on the details of the constitution of the Council or on its powers, but felt that the constitution of such a Council by Parliament would facilitate the progress of legal education along healthy lines. Similar suggestions have, over the years, been made by several persons who have had some experience with policy making in the field of legal education, and recent fiascos like the V.Sudeer case only serve to heighten the urgency of the requirement of such a unified authority.”

Shamnad Basheer

Prof. (Dr.) Shamnad Basheer founded SpicyIP in 2005. He's also the Founder of IDIA, a project to train underprivileged students for admissions to the leading law schools. He served for two years as an expert on the IP global advisory council (GAC) of the World Economic Forum (WEF). In 2015, he received the Infosys Prize in Humanities in 2015 for his work on legal education and on democratising the discourse around intellectual property law and policy. The jury was headed by Nobel laureate, Prof. Amartya Sen. Professional History: After graduating from the NLS, Bangalore Prof. Basheer joined Anand and Anand, one of India’s leading IP firms. He went on to head their telecommunication and technology practice and was rated by the IFLR as a leading technology lawyer. He left for the University of Oxford to pursue post-graduate studies, completing the BCL, MPhil and DPhil as a Wellcome Trust scholar. His first academic appointment was at the George Washington University Law School, where he served as the Frank H Marks Visiting Associate Professor of IP Law. He then relocated to India in 2008 to take up the MHRD Chaired Professorship in IP Law at WB NUJS, a leading Indian law school. Later, he was the Honorary Research Chair of IP Law at Nirma University and also a visiting professor of law at the National Law School (NLS), Bangalore. Prof. Basheer has published widely and his articles have won awards, including those instituted by ATRIP, the Stanford Technology Law Review and CREATe. He was consulted widely by the government, industry, international organisations and civil society on a variety of IP issues. He also served on several government committees.

24 comments.

  1. VidyutSandesh

    Dear Shamnad
    I believe there is no problem with the 5 years integrated law degree programmes awarding a similar “specialized” degree. The problem arises when a 3 year Law School starts putting a “specialized” tag on its degree. The 5 year integrated Law School programmes, especially those of “National” nature, require students to elect certain specialized subjects as a part of their curriculum. This might include WTO, Labour, Cyber, IPR’s, etc. There is definitely nothing wrong in having some “specialization” when you can “comfortably” complete the other papers required by the BCI.
    The problem with the 3 years programme is the duration which is sufficient just enough to comply with the “necessary” papers of BCI, giving absolutely no scope for further “optional papers”. Having said that, there is one more programme, a 2 year full time residential post graduate programme of National Law University, Jodhpur which gives the degree of Masters in IPR (at par LLM), but does not require the eligibility as required by IIT Kgp for its LLB Course which includes completion of some advanced topics in applied sciences. It is true that there is a dearth of skilled IP lawyers in the country, but the trend is changing. There are people with advanced science degrees, with post doctoral experiences who are getting into specialized IP Courses and even into full time LLB programme.
    Having said that it would be quite unfortunate to have the only LLB IP programme of the country being scrapped.
    On a lighter note, what about the idea of having a 6 years integrated B.tech LLB or a 7 years integrated MBBS LLB programme??

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  2. VC

    Hi Shamnad,

    I really do not know how important this issue is but I do not see any reason of questioning IIT admission restriction to science graduates. What was the need of IIT to start LLB programme? Obviously not to compete with other law colleges/schools but to prepare and train specialized IP lawyers. Personally I do not think that such courses require science subjects to be included or taught in LLB, rather such courses should assure that candidates joining such specialized courses should have inclination and good understanding of science subject. It is nowhere necessary that any science or engineering graduate will be a competent patent attorney just because he/she has science/engineering degree. What is critically important that he/she should have inclination and zeal to upgrade his/her technical knowledge and same time develop strong legal expertise…NLU jodhpur tried to conceptualized same idea of getting science/engineering graduates and tried to infuse legal expertise during the course. This experiment was made possibly because of Prof. N.L. Mitra who insisted students to study law, economics and science at the same time and tried to develop the IP jurisprudence. Without good foundation of IP jurisprudence it is difficult to have skilled IP lawyers. Jurisprudence compels students to go into the basic whether it is science or law and develop his/her own understanding.

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  3. Vinati

    Being a student of B.Sc.- LL.B. (IPR hons.) at NLU Jodhpur and having undergone various internships with IP firms, I do not think that this B.Sc. degree is absolutely elementary and completely useless for Patent matters. Its true that we may not be able to handle complex pharmaceutical patent matters, but I have personally worked upon various telecommunications and biotech patent applications. The reason why B.Sc. people are useless for patent drafting is because patents are obviously on contemporary and developing areas of science, so clients prefer someone with a BE, BTech or M.Sc degree to handle the same. What needs to be noted is that to understand the technology and skillfully draft the patent document, or even for patent litigation, even engineers or people with masters will have to do some extra reading, as any B.Sc. guy would require (even though less efforts will be required for an engineer). As far as integrated B.Tech- LL.B. degree is concerned, that’s what the new batches at NLU Jodhpur is being offered,and from what appears, there is no need to extend the time frame of the legal education from 5 to 6 years. Till date, the courses offered only reflect an initiation of specialized education for IP, and it makes no sense in criticizing or objecting to eligibility criteria or creditworthiness of the education being imparted. specialized education in true sense will be when specific fields of science are attached with IPRs, such as nanotechnology and IP, etc. We can reach to that level of specialization only when law schools currently at nascent stages are allowed to develop.

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  4. Anonymous

    1. there are fundamental problems with the BSc LLb degrees being offered. They hardly contain the necessary credits required in a BSc degree. The irony is that students are taught subjects like Science and Law and given a BSc.LLB and then they are considered eligible to take the patent bar. anybody else interested in taking the patent bar but sans a science degree cant do it.

    2. IIT and GWU program is very US oriented…the case studies..the law etc. Wonder if they are only churning patent agents for law firms in the US to outsource their patent drafting work to.

    3. more than a science degree ..its an inquisitive mind with a scientific aptitude that would make a good patent attorney. Patent agents and drafters definitely need a good insight in the technology and necessarily have to have a science degree. but this shdnt be a necessity for being a patent attorney.

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  5. Anonymous

    As some one who has passed the Patent Agent Exam without a science degree [the old Exam system] and into patents for my daily bread, here my thoughts:
    a) I agree with Varun that reading law is very important.
    b) I personally think that the Jodhpur LLB IP program is not upto the mark – its more of a short cut. Here you are giving people a science degree without a strong science foundation. These folks don’t even read enough science text books to equate their knowledge with say a Mumbai or a Delhi university BSc student — folks don’t flame me for this comment – be true to your reading and then tell me – how many of you folks actually read equivalent amount of science books?
    c) I think that Jodhpur and IIT programs that take people with a completed full time science degree from another Institution and teaching them IP law is a much better option. Here the candidate has worked hard on his BSc degree and no short cut approach.

    I have people with me who have no formal training in law, but whose understanding and arguments on a daily basis in our office is excellent – so again agreeing with one of the commenters – zeal to learn matters a lot.

    Regards,
    Freq. Anon

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  6. VidyutSandesh

    Hi..
    I believe the first batch of IIT kgp is out. It would be great pleasure to know the how the industry has responded. I would like to request Sai Deepak to throw some light on the placement statistics. I know one of my friends at the IIT kgp has got an excellent offer with one of the Electronics Giants’. If the industry has welcomed the batch with open hands, IIT kgp must follow the lines of ISB Hyderabad, which gives a damn to the certification/affiliation etc. to AICTE/UGC etc. We all know ISB doesn’t need any help from the certifications for its excellent placement which often beat those of IIM’s.

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  7. Anonymous

    I guess there appear to be two issues now-
    1. Having a B.Sc. or Engg. degree to comply with the requirements of other equivalent degrees.
    2. Having ‘zealous guys’, with good scientific accumen to do the patent work.
    What I still don’t understand is that if the integrated courses aim at churning good patent agents for India, why reading enough number of science books should matter? I agree that for such work, even engg. grads will have to do extra reading, so as long as science degrees provided in colleges like NLU Jodhpur or Gandhinagar can enable the students to understand the basics and read further for the specific case, there shouldn’t be any problem
    On the other hand,the test becomes a highly subjective one, and quality of each student will have to be checked to find out whether or not they are suited to the patent work or not.
    These degrees are actually experimental and nothing can be said till these guys are out in the market for sometime. As far as IIT-kgp is concerned, the brand itself is sufficient to get good placements, but then, the concern remains the same- the quality of education required must match the standards of any other engg. course. If that’s the concern of the petition, it may force the educationists to refine the education patterns and come up with better integrated courses for IP and science.

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  8. Anonymous

    I guess there appear to be two issues now-
    1. Having a B.Sc. or Engg. degree to comply with the requirements of other equivalent degrees.
    2. Having ‘zealous guys’, with good scientific accumen to do the patent work.
    What I still don’t understand is that if the integrated courses aim at churning good patent agents for India, why reading enough number of science books should matter? I agree that for such work, even engg. grads will have to do extra reading, so as long as science degrees provided in colleges like NLU Jodhpur or Gandhinagar can enable the students to understand the basics and read further for the specific case, there shouldn’t be any problem
    On the other hand,the test becomes a highly subjective one, and quality of each student will have to be checked to find out whether or not they are suited to the patent work or not.
    These degrees are actually experimental and nothing can be said till these guys are out in the market for sometime. As far as IIT-kgp is concerned, the brand itself is sufficient to get good placements, but then, the concern remains the same- the quality of education required must match the standards of any other engg. course. If that’s the concern of the petition, it may force the educationists to refine the education patterns and come up with better integrated courses for IP and science.

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    Dear Mr Shamnad and friends in law,

    At the outset I do not feel the petition filed by Mr Chandrasekhar is reasonable. In IIT, the “equals are being treated equally” and as such his stance of discrimination, does not really hold ground. There appears to be some resistance by the legal fraternity to accept engineers (courtesy the responses to the blog)as part of the brethren.This is understandable. Frankly, there is a vast difference between science and technology. In my opinion, a B.Sc student is not in the same position to understand and comprehend what a student of engineering can. Things cannot always be read up within a few days. A student of science or anyone with an ‘inquisitive mind’ can, of course, if time permits, read up on anything under the sun. As an aeronautical engineer from one of the oldest institutes in the country (Madras Institute of Technology), I can safely assume that no patent lawyer, with or without a BSc degree, can really ‘read up’ on a niche area like aerospace engineering. This explains, to some extent, why all the legalities associated with Indian aerospace patents are outsourced.We must not forget that it took a mechanical engineer to clearly bring out the differences between the Bajaj and the TVS patents ( Sai Deepak from RGSIPL, IIT Kharagpur). I believe, even the patent attorneys arguing the case, with their ‘inquisitive minds’, were not able to explain vital differences between the two patents. I would say that it is easier for engineers( who already posses a scientific acumen) to learn law, than the other way round. The vice-versa may be difficult, but not impossible.
    RoC
    BTech-Aeronautics
    LLB(IP)-IIT Kgp

    Reply
  10. Anonymous

    First of all, this has absolutely nothing to do with zeal. The issue is when can a particular course offered by a particular institution be deemed to have satisfied the requirements set by a body regulating the professional education in that field (in this case, BCI for LLB degree and central universities such as DU for BSc degree). Having been in NLU, Jodhpur, I can testify that the science taught there is way below par and the BSc degree is a farce. I also strongly condemn the move to offer BTech LLB in NLU as 5 years are way too less for the same. Such over-ambitious ventures can lead to the students being left in the lurch and hanging in mid-air knowing neither BTech nor LLB yet dangerously proclaiming that they know both. While I agree that our country is in dire need of specialised patent lawyers, I am sorry to say that IIT-KGP law institute is not the way to go about it. 3 years are barely enough to cover basic courses prescribed by BCI. As it has been already mentioned, there is no point in studying IP law courses unless you are absolutely thorough with jurisprudence and basic law courses. If people are under the impression that the IIT brand will carry them through, all i can say is that such thinking is most unfortunate. Regarding the comment that IIT-KGP law degree doesn’t need BCI recognition, all i can say is that i cannot take such a comment seriously.

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  11. Anonymous

    I note that the engineers and science students themselves are not on one page here. 🙂

    As I said earlier, between the 2 options, I think that the IIT route of a LLB after a formal science degree is better.

    As regards the people who think that they are good even with a short cut LLB + BSc option a la NLU Jodhpur, I can assure you… the long cut is worth the effort for a client. I regularly spend a lot on US / European IP lawyers who have come via the long route – usually at least a Master’s degree [more so a PhD] + a formal JD/ LLB etc. They are worth every $ / Pound I pay.

    Compare that to the short cut LLB/ BSc option, I think that the attorney cannot give me the best advise.

    NOW coming to Electronics giant accepting the IIT KGP students – let me tell you – a large number of Engineers are employed by Bosch/ GE/ Philips etc doing ‘BPO’ level IP work – but on a captive basis. I have spoken to the folks – its better than working for full fledged KPOs but still – all said N done, glorified BPO work.

    Regards,
    Freq. Anon

    Reply
  12. Anonymous

    guys, if you want to know, practically, till date, all engineers only carry out patent work (atleast drafting) after learning a bit of law. so if IIT KGP is aiming at institutionalizing the same, there is no harm, coz they are giving LLB degree specifically to build patent agents. so i think BCI recognition, or not, or meeting the paper standards or not, this school is a good start for IP in India. secondly, i personally know 2 B.Sc. students from first batch of NLU-J. they’re working with top IP firms right now and even foreign corporations are chosing these Indian firms. For those who wrote so vehemently against this degree, I’m sorry, but you propbably got the bad out of the stock.

    Reply
  13. J. Sai Deepak

    Hi,
    Since this post is of immediate relevance to me, I would like to share my thoughts on the points made in the post and the comments. Because this comment is huge, I shall split this into 2 or 3 comments. Before I do, I would like to disclaim a few things- firstly, I have no prejudices against any particular stream because I believe that each stream equips its students with a skillset of its own; secondly, I am not here to defend IIT-Kgp or the LLB offered there because (1)IIT-Kgp is a brand that does not need my aid and (2) the worth/quality of any course or its products will ultimately be decided by the market; thirdly, observations made here must be understood with reference to their general applicability to a sample having a majority of “normal” people and not exceptions; fourthly, my points are restricted only to patent law and not IP in general; and finally, by sheer coincidence it so happens that I had the opportunity of sharing my views on this topic in the recent past in an entirely different forum, so I humbly request those who are familiar with my views on the topic to patiently put up with my repetition of certain perspectives.

    Now moving to the issue, which is the need for and advisability of having such specialized courses and if at all both are answered in the affirmative, which is the institution best placed for such amalgamation, let us have certain ideal frames of reference to compare with; ideally the products of such courses are expected to be those with the ability to straddle and marry two supposedly diverse branches of knowledge, science (broadly encompassing technology too) and law. To be even clearer, I would say it has to be science and humanities because that would indicate the ability of the individual to be at home with one branch which requires a panache for a predominantly analytical approach grounded in rigorous rationality (i.e. proof and refutability in both empirical and theoretical forms) and an obsession with quantification, and at the same time the individual must be equally at ease with another branch which requires a talent for intuitive broad-based study; in other words, we are looking for the perfect right brain-left brain combination. I am sure all of us agree with the need for and advisability of such products/individuals given their unique ability to seamlessly merge science and law to churn out fascinating propositions of universal validity. These are precisely the kind of individuals who, if they existed, would be in a better position, for instance, to define “obviousness” in patent law without prevarication or use of casuistic language to cloak lack of clear comprehension. It is in understanding such nuanced concepts/areas that we need people who know what they are talking about and its implications. Therefore, patent law and policy makers, judges, patent litigators, academics and patent agents must ideally be those with such an elusive blend of scientific temper and legal acumen.

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  14. J. Sai Deepak

    But since we don’t live in an ideal world, we find ourselves asking who’s better, one who is qualified in law with passable knowledge of science or vice-versa? Here I would like to make a point; for the sake of an argument, some might say that a degree in law doesn’t guarantee sound legal knowledge nor does a degree in science or engineering translate into depth in scientific temper. I will not take this line of argument because for the purposes of this discussion, we are concerned only with those people who, by and large, would need to take up a degree to possess some measure of proficiency in the field, but for some reason may be qualified only in science or law, but not both. Therefore, coming back to our question, which lopsided combination is better of the two? Law being a post-graduate course (even in B.A. LL.B., it is still B.A followed by LL.B. making LL.B. a post-graduate course) is meant to be pursued by people from various streams such as engineering, arts and medicine. This means by its very nature, it is capable of being comprehended by graduates from different streams; further, since it concerns all of us, it has to be relatable and understandable to all of us, albeit in varying degrees. So someone with a science or engineering degree can read and understand an article on intricate topics in law. But can one say the same thing about engineering? Can anyone from a stream other than science/engineering pick up and not just “read up”, but relate to a journal publication or a Ph.D thesis on, let’s say, a topic like opto-fluidics, or traction force microscopy or surface patterning or other similar topics? I don’t think so; this is not because the person is intellectually challenged, but simply because science or engineering requires a different knowledge base and training which is specialized. What this means is, in the absence of a formal degree in law, one can make do with someone who is proficient (read someone who has a degree) in science/engineering but one cannot conclude with the same optimism about someone who is proficient in law but is not formally trained in science/engineering.

    To this some may counter saying, if a mechanical engineer can understand something which is as divergent as biotechnology, why can’t someone with no professional training in science? Conversely, if a mechanical engineer has issues understanding something related to biosciences because he does not have a degree in it, does it mean he must be restricted to patents concerning only his area of specialization? Ideally, the answer would be a yes, but given the number of specializations possible in engineering, can we go about producing patent attorneys/agents for each of these specializations? I don’t think so; which is why we need engineers/science graduates with strong knowledge of fundamentals and an open mind to reading literature from areas/engineering specializations which are out of their comfort zones. It follows that an engineer reading up on something from a diametrically opposite area of engineering is still better equipped and better placed to grasp the concept than someone with no degree in science/engineering.

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  15. J. Sai Deepak

    It must be understood that when we deal with patent law, there are levels of understanding required depending upon what one is involved in i.e. patent drafting or litigation or examination. The proportion of science and law varies here; when it comes to drafting (by drafting, I don’t mean keying in missing lines/words in already available drafting templates) understanding the invention and etching its scope requires more than just “reading up” on the technology along with a refined comprehension of the application of doctrines. When it comes to litigation, the trade off on science usually tends to be slightly higher but the litigator’s skill still lies in clearly presenting the techno-legalities which again requires an intuitive feel of science and that comes (but not necessarily) with a degree. To explain my point better here’s a question; imagine you are a patent lawyer and you are dealing with a case which deals with an advanced valve actuator in a compressor and you are expected to defend the patent in the light of a crowded prior art. You are not a person with a degree in science or engineering; whom would you prefer by your side, an engineer who can explain the technology to you in reasonably clear terms and with training can understand where your questions are coming from, or someone with only an LL.B degree who knows the statute inside out but does not come from a science or engineering background? Whose opinion would you rely on?

    Here’s another example; in cases involving invalidation of patents on grounds of obviousness, we rely on the opinion of a person with ordinary skill in the art. This means we rely on his experience and ability to relate to that art instinctively thanks to his training. In the absence of such training, the opinion formulated is a product of an isolated understanding of merely the facts of the case but not with reference to the technology as a whole. This explains the confusion created by the “common sense” requirement as spelt out in KSR v. Teleflex or other cases where the Judge ideally should be one with a gift for cross-disciplinary analysis.

    In the light of these observations, it is clear that atleast as far as patent law is concerned, there can be absolutely no compromise on the requirement of a sound training in science/engineering in the form of a rigorous degree and not just a namesake qualification which leaves the student neither here nor there. So those with intentions of starting these 5-6 years programmes must ponder over what kind of graduates do they intend to send out and who exactly will these graduates be of use to. 5-6 years of engineering and law sounds good on paper but it may kill the spark in the student if he is fed with two heavy duty subjects over such a long period. It is kind of unfair to expect students after 12th to be able to understand what they are taking on in the form of a mammoth 6 year BTech LLB programme because interests and tastes change after the first 2 years and they may simply have no interest in taking up law after engineering. So I would say that it is best to impart proper engineering education and project the 3 year LLB programme as an option attractive enough for an engineer to pursue on the lines of an MBA. Even if such courses 6 year integrated courses are started, I would still stick to my stand on zero compromise when it comes to the quality of engineering education because engineering, given the amount of effort and infrastructure it requires, cannot be skimmed over.

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  16. J. Sai Deepak

    As to the question about where these B.Sc LL.B or B.Tech LL.B. courses must be offered, I do not think that technology cannot be taught in law schools or the other way round because these days every tom, dick and harry opens an engineering institution, such being the case I don’t see why a National Law School of repute cannot start an engineering programme and successfully run it. In the same breath, I would hold that legal education can be imparted by technical institutions as well but the question which comes to my mind when I say this is, why haven’t national law schools started 3 year LLB courses for engineers/science graduates? All said and done every institution has its area of core competence, so if National Law Schools had started courses tailor-made for science grads, I am sure they would have found takers.

    Coming to the question of how important is a full-fledged LLB degree to understand patent law, I personally feel that unless one understands general law and the basics of proprietary jurisprudence, one’s knowledge of patent law is truncated and there is only a certain level to which one can go with such knowledge. Having said that, I would like to point out, that absence of a law degree need not necessarily prove to be a stumbling block if one decides to restrict oneself to the kind of drafting/prosecution work which goes on in this country now because very little law is used in most places. But as more and more people realise the value of a full-fledged degree and understand that it is worth spending every day of those 3 years if one is to exploit its potential to the hilt and go beyond drafting/prosecution, we shall see a slow phasing out of pure patent agents i.e. those with only an engineering background and a qualification in the patent bar examination.

    Specifically, with regard to the LLB programme offered at IIT Kgp, my take would be that the programme must be seen as an initiative to draw more number of engineering graduates to the legal profession with patent law being dangled as the carrot which has a technology connection (In fact, in the words of the architect of this programme, this was the objective behind the course and its strategic location-IIT Kgp). Once they step into the LLB degree, there is a very good possibility that they might consider specialising in areas other than IP as well which bodes well for the future of the legal profession in India because the need for technology-savvy lawyers has never been felt more than it is today. Quite a few LLB graduates from IIT Kgp have consciously chosen not to restrict themselves to pure IP and have taken up conventional branches of law as well. So from an objective standpoint, one would think that this novel initiative is a logical and welcome progression in the evolution of legal education in India where the LL.B. degree traditionally has had to face an undue and unfair share of stigma. After the yeoman contribution of National Law Schools in streamlining legal education and bringing it on par with global standards, the IIT Kgp initiative is the way forward.

    I agree with the point made that a skewed focus on IP without a strong foundation in areas such as Constitution, Contracts, Property and the rest may defeat the very purpose of the LLB degree, but a look at the way the curriculum at the IIT Kgp has been structured combined with the autonomy given to professors at IITs should tell one that all the regular courses have been given their due.

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  17. J. Sai Deepak

    As for the current controversy about restricting entry only to those with a BTech/MBBS/M.Sc, without getting into the legality and wisdom of such a restriction, I would think that IIT Kgp could and should have achieved the same goal in a different manner without having to court such writs. The entrance for the LLB is conducted through the National Admission Test (NAT) which has core mathematics such as calculus as part of its pattern; either by retaining the same level of mathematics or by raising the standard by introducing applied math combined with an increase in the number of marks allotted and the minimum cut-off for this section, IIT Kgp can ensure that the entry is limited only to those with a science/engineering background. If negative marking is further introduced, that should take care of any chance of someone making it through by sheer luck. The thing about such a method would be that it would be difficult for any litigant to object to the pattern of the examination or introduction of higher mathematics because if he has problems with such a pattern, he would have to object to math playing a crucial role in exams like CAT as well.

    Coming to placements at IIT Kgp for the LLB degree, they have been decent from both relative and absolute standpoints; students have taken up work with established full-service law firms and a good number have been recruited by global majors and IP boutiques at competitive packages. A few students have opted for higher education in the US (Duke), UK (UCL) and Germany (MIPLC) while a few have decided to practice under senior counsel. For accurate figures, I suggest you contact Mr.Nikhil Ranjan ([email protected]) who is one of my best buddies from the law school and the placement coordinator.

    I shall be delighted to hear more from our commentators about their views and counterviews to my opinions.

    Bests,
    J.Sai Deepak.

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  18. SACHIN VERMA

    Being an engineer, i agree with what you have said. Also, the first year syllabus at all engineering institutions is almost the same. So a minimum threshold is always maintained between two engineers of different branches. Hence, an electronics engineer can comprehend a biotech patent with a little more effort, rather than that of any ordinary law graduate.

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  19. S.K.MOHANTY

    I have seen this story in the blog today. Although I have not seen the copy of the petition filed in the Supreme Court nor apprised myself about the proceedings therein hence i reserve my comment for time being.However, i am of a primafacie view Hon’ble Supreme Court will not pass any order contrary to student’s interest who have eithe passed out this year or have joined the programme since 2006. I am being associated this programme as Adjunct Faculty I had regular interactions with both students , faculty and former Head of RGSOIPL.During initial years of establishment even this Law School under aegis of IIT KGP have some problems like getting competent fulltime faculty to teach law courses as Kharagpur has very little to offer for attracting the best of the legal minds. However, still due to able mentorship & guidance of Prof. Mitra (who is advisor to this law schol) some of the young and energetic law teachers joined there and still trying at their best to keep pace with demanding international standard towards IP oriented law course.Although many students have either joined or encouraged to join this law school by their respective parents/guardians as not only Brand of IIT KGP is involved with the inovative LL.B. programme but also with lot of high expectation from the Industry during placement after completition of the degree.Although I do not have placement statistics but when the first batch came out from this law school this year during the time when all industries were some how hit by global slow down & recession hit market around. I hope when economy will revive and industry will be encourage to recruit fresh talents like boom time things will be much better.
    Further a programme offered by not less than a prestigious institute like IIT,KGP having MOU with George Washington University after lot of academic and industry interface and deliberation can be scrapped merely on technical grounds when already first batch has pased out & most of them already joined various organisations. However,positive suggestions are always welcome to broadbase the eligibility requriement to the programme without diluting academic standard or course component of the programme by allowing undesirable elements to get entry like other law colleges around the country except that of Delhi or Mumbai University offering 3 years law programme.Bar Council of India may introduce LL.B.(hons.) 3 year degree.Even this 3 year LL.B.course can be still made attractive to students by offering some specialisation having some affinity to either science/technical or accounts/
    management or humanities as Hons. subjects to make a dual-degree keeping in tune with academic course blended with professional practice of global standard.

    S.K.MOHANTY
    Advocate(Supreme Court & Delhi High Court)

    LEGAL SHEBANG
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    LGF- 6/33-33A Vikram Vihar,
    Lajpat Nagar-IV, New Delhi-1100024
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    E-mail: [email protected]

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