Anand and Anand
What is the biggest career challenge that you have faced and what can others learn from how you overcame it?
One of the biggest career challenges emerged during my earliest days in the legal field in 2005, when the Biological Diversity Law had just come into effect in India. It was the first time that I had to tell clients about the new obligations for using Indian biological resources and that things were not going to be same as before. The change was not acceptable to those following centuries-old practices of using Indian plants and herbs and my advice was questioned. Despite feeling pressured to revise my opinions, I decided to continue with my interpretation and understanding of the law. I also made representations before the Biodiversity Authority, which was still getting to grips with the situation. After years of perseverance and holding onto my view on the law – even at the cost of appearing to favour the authority – clients finally saw that I had their best interests at heart when asking them for full compliance. My efforts led to me helping to spread more awareness about the new law. In 2019 the authority itself provided additional time to companies trying to comply with the requirements. The learning from this experience was that maintaining integrity during pressure is easy if your intention is to help.
What led you to your current career as an expert in biological diversity – and what advice would you have for someone considering following in your footsteps?
It was sheer chance that I found myself focusing on the Biological Diversity Law, as this came into being during a transitional phase of my career. My PhD from the Tata Energy and Resources Institute’s biotechnology and bioresources department sparked my interest in this new development on the Indian legal scene. The more I delved into it, the more that the vastness and importance of the subject amazed me. Biological resources are our heritage and responsibility – there is so much to do in order to conserve them while using them sustainably.
You are known for being passionate about protecting the environment – how can IP developments help to address the various environmental crises that we currently face?
Innovation is key to protecting the current deterioration of our environment. A human commitment to this, combined with adopting green technologies in every area of life, is essential to overcome the environmental crisis looming over future generations. Incentives to protect environmentally friendly intellectual property and encourage their implementation could play a key role in addressing this issue.
What, in your opinion, makes for a watertight patent protection policy – and are there any particular areas that life sciences should concentrate on when it comes to protection?
Pre-patent filing activities, such as capturing all innovations generated, taking informed decision to protect via patents of other forms of intellectual property and establishing clear ownership documentation, are critical. However, as there are no perfect patents, continuous efforts to gain maximum commercial benefit – either by licensing partnerships or enforcement litigation strategies – are necessary. In the life sciences sector the importance of patent pools cannot be underestimated when it comes to having a patent portfolio that provides maximum returns. In addition, the claim scope needs to be carefully crafted in medtech patents due to different jurisdictional subject-matter patentability criterion.
What three IP developments do you see coming down the pipeline for the agro-biotech industry – and how can companies in the space best prepare themselves?
The world’s population is expected to increase by 2 billion in the next 30 years, from 7.7 billion currently to 9.7 billion in 2050, and could peak at nearly 11 billion around 2100 as per a United Nations report of 2019. The agro-biotech industry – particularly with regard to using genome editing tools such as SDN-1 and SDN-2 combined with new breeding techniques – will play a key role in meeting the second UN Sustainable Development Goal, that is, no hunger. Use of technologies such as AI and machine learning to extract value from data, service and information databases to develop not only high yield and pest/stress resistant varieties, but also better quality and nutritive variants should be possible in the near future. The industry therefore needs to focus on developing a strong global IP network with awareness of county-specific laws for litigation and alternate dispute resolutions, as well as increasing knowledge of regulatory practices and procedures related to biological resources, including those for digital sequence information.
Neeti Wilson is an IP and biological diversity law specialist. She advises on IP management and related regulatory issues in the life sciences, agriculture, biotechnology and natural resources industries. She is a registered Indian patent agent and member of the Delhi High Court Bar Association.
Dr Wilson joined Anand and Anand in 2005 and is currently a partner in the patent department. Her prior work experience was as scientist in Tata Energy and Research Institute and the Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council.
Click here to see her IAM 300 2020 profile.