Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law, IIT Kharagpur has recently hosted Masters’ Conference on Intellectual Property (MCIP) 2021, the first issue of its flagship annual masters’ conference, in virtual mode. The Conference was held from 26 to 28 February 2021 and was hosted using interactive platforms like Google Meet and Run The World. The conference stayed true to its theme, which was earlier declared to be ‘IP and Society’ for this year, and focused on the role of Intellectual Property in promoting socially relevant innovations.

The inaugural ceremony began at 5:30 PM on 26 February and was introduced by Prof. Goutam Saha, the Dean of the Law School. Prof. Saha highlighted the significance of Intellectual Property Rights and associated policy questions in a globalised information economy, and how IP policy bears significant roles in the socio-economic development of communities. Prof. Saha also emphasised on how MCIP is the first of its kind to bring forth a research platform solely dedicated to masters’ students, and what MCIP stands for.

Following Prof. Saha’s introductory remarks, MCIP was inaugurated by Justice Aniruddha Bose, Judge, Supreme Court of India, who was the Chief Guest of the Inaugural Ceremony. Justice Bose highlighted the link between science and law in his inaugural speech, and explained how science and law are linked by the common thread of rationality. Justice Bose also called for the significance of evidence-backed IP law, and philosophical questions associated with technological developments. Quoting the legendary lines of Rabindra Nath Tagore, “… where knowledge is free…”, Justice Bose remarked how we live in an era where knowledge isn’t exactly free. Justice Bose also suggested the students and faculties of the Law School to come up with a technology law journal that will transcend the boundaries of disciplinarian thinking and will accommodate scholarship on transdisciplinary issues of technology and philosophy.

The conference hosted three technical sessions for the purpose of paper presentations, two on 27 and one on 28 February. The first technical session focused on the interplay between IP Law and the Pandemic. Prof. Vivekanandan, chair of the first technical session, enlightened the participants on the nuances of IP jurisprudence and policy in times of a global pandemic. Prof. Vivekanandan explained how the rationale behind IP law has always faced a Public-Private dichotomy, and why the private must give way to the public interest in times of dire need. Prof. Vivekanadan also highlighted the irony regarding how Indian IP policy is often criticised by the developed countries as being recessive and minimalist, but it is India only that’s leading the world when it comes to vaccine research and development. In his introductory speech, he also mentioned that the central question for science remains ‘why’, and for technology, ‘how’ – but when it comes to law, the central question that must be asked every now and then is ‘for whom’.

Proceeding with the paper presentations, the first session witnessed a number of interesting discussions involving the dichotomy between safety and efficacy when it comes to vaccines, the ethical questions concerning the vaccination drives, the politicisation of the pandemic and the role of misinformation etc.

The second technical session focused on the interplay between IP and environment and included papers on Traditional Knowledge, Genetic Resources, Biodiversity, Traditional Cultural Expressions etc. Dr. Oommen V Oommen, chair of the second technical session, highlighted the link between biodiversity, traditional knowledge, and socio-economic development in his introductory remark. Following his remarks, the paper presenters discussed various aspects of community rights, traditional cultural expressions, local traditional knowledge etc. The third session witnessed the highest number of empirical research papers being presented, hinting towards an evidence-backed policy stand in Traditional Knowledge and associated fields.

The third technical session focused on IP Law and Policy in the wake of AI and Big Data. Dr TK Bandyopadhyay, chair of the session, commented on the link between Artificial Intelligence and Law, and how that impacts intermediary liabilities. Dr Bandyopadhyay also explained to the presenters on how a generic law for all the e-commerce platforms may actually be ineffective since the platforms follow different business models that may impose different kinds of liabilities. The session witnessed presentations from a diverse field of technology law including the link between law and neural networks, liability and personhood of AI, fixing accountability to automated algorithms etc.

In addition to the technical sessions, MCIP 2021 witnessed a policy hackathon and policy boot camp focusing on the Non-Personal Data policy and its interplay with IP law and policy. The policy boot camp was attended by Dr Sunanda Bharti, Dr Uday Shankar, and Dr Arindam Basu. The boot camp had a two-fold aim: to train the participants for the policy hackathon and to educate the participants on the various nuances of the non-personal data policy.

Dr Bharti, speaking at the boot camp, explained the various key points to keep in mind while drafting a policy proposal. Among other things, she emphasised on the need to keep the draft simple, straight, and easy to understand. Also, she emphasised on the need to deliberate the beneficiary group and the role of their consent, the rationale for a policy, and avoiding ambiguity. Also, emphasising the need for a group effort, she went on to clarify that policy making should never be a single person’s exercise. Dr Uday explained the need to ask ‘what’, ‘whom’, and ‘how’ prior to the drafting  stage. Dr Uday also emphasised on how the policy should be lacking normative biases, but must be compliant with the fundamental norm of the country/legal system. Dr Uday also went on to highlight the significance of planned implementaion, feedback loops, and independent evaluation of policy outcomes. Dr Arindam discussed the significance of avoiding paternalistic policy regulations, and also the sanctity of the individual’s freedom to contract. Dr Arindam also raised the question as to whether data is really an antitrust issue or not.

The policy hackathon witnessed participants proposing innovative policy solutions to the dilemma of non-personal data sharing policy. The solutions proposed were diverse and multidisciplinary in the truest sense of the word. While some solutions focused on the legal and regulatory aspects, others went on to propose technological and business-model solutions to the posed challenge involving blockchain, cryptography, federated learning, open innovation etc.

In addition to the technical sessions and policy hackathon, the conference also witnessed networking evenings, albeit being a virtual one. The networking evenings were hosted on the Run The World platform, enabling participants to engage in speed-networking. Participants were randomly matched with other participants online, and were allowed to hold informal conversations for a short period of time following which they were free to stay connected to each other personally and professionally. In addition to the networking evenings, online Pictionary game was also hosted to foster informal interaction amongst the participants. With all the learnings, fun, and lessons, MCIP was concluded on 28 February 2021 with the promise of an even better and bigger next issue in 2022.

Winners List can be accessed at MCIP Winners

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