In conversation with winners of 2021 Oxford International Intellectual Property Law Moot Competition: Sahil Malhotra, Romit Kohli, and Siddharth Kaushal

The team consisted of Sahil Malhotra, Romit Kohli, and Siddharth Kaushal of NLUD wins 2021 Oxford International Intellectual Property Law Moot Competition.

They have been interviewed by EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador Nitya Bansal who is currently pursuing law from NLUD.

 

  1. How would you like to introduce yourselves? Why did you take up law as a career?

Sahil: I am a 4th year student at National Law University (NLU) Delhi. When I was in school, I felt that I had several skills which are useful for a lawyer, and that was what first drove me to prepare for the law school entrance exams. However, when I began the preparations, I began to enjoy and became really interested in the subjects that I was studying, which then just cemented my desire to pursue law as a career.

Siddharth: My name is Siddharth Kaushal and I am a IVth year student at NLU Delhi. My interest in law sparked early in my childhood, as I grew up to stories told by my grandmother of her father, who was a prominent lawyer in the early 1940s in India. Whilst in school, my interests in academics, reading, critical and logical reasoning and public speaking made law an attractive career opportunity for me.

  1. In law school, what drew your interest towards mooting?

Sahil: In my mind, mooting has always been the quintessential law school extracurricular activity. Having participated in debating competitions in school, I was always eager to understand and engage in oral advocacy, which made mooting a particularly attractive activity for me. Mooting also presented an opportunity for me to explore fields of law that would not be taught as subjects in law school.

Siddharth: In law school, I wanted to take up an activity which would allow me to continue my interest in public speaking, while also getting an opportunity to develop my legal research skills. Mooting was the perfect co-curricular activity to do just that. I think moot court competitions not only allow law students an opportunity to research and debate on significant issues in a particular field of law, but also allow them to develop important skills such as time management and teamwork.

  1. Can you explain a little bit about the Oxford IPR Moot? What was your problem based on?

The Oxford International Intellectual Property Law Moot is an annual moot court competition organised by the Oxford Intellectual Property Research Centre (OIPRC). Approximately 28 teams are selected for the oral rounds each year, on the basis of the teams’ written submissions. Each year, the moot problem deals with complex issues spanning multiple regimes of intellectual property.

The 2021 moot problem dealt with the three main IP regimes: patents, trade marks and copyrights. The patents issue concerned the issuance of a compulsory licence on a patented pharmaceutical drug used to treat a rare disease. The trade marks issue concerned the validity of an “assignment and licence-back” transaction between a pharmaceutical company and its IP-holding company. The copyrights issue concerned two sub-issues: the first concerned the existence (or lack thereof) of a public interest defence to copyright infringement, while the second concerned whether the release of confidential corporate documents is covered within the quotation exception to copyright infringement.

  1. How did you approach the moot? What were your strategies towards approaching the moot problem?

The very first step we took was to divide the issues between us, such that each of us would focus on one particular field of IP law. Unlike other moots, this moot requires a deep understanding and discussion of the policy rationale behind the existence of the law and the form in which it exists, which is why our preparation strategy was to first understand these rationales for patents, trade marks and copyrights, and then narrow our study to the specific issues in the problem.

We have our coach, Ms Ashna Taneja, to thank for adopting this strategy. Having participated in this moot herself and having coached another team for this moot previously, she ensured that we would focus only on relevant materials and resources, which helped us manage our time wisely.

  1. How did all of you work towards developing and honing your drafting and pleading skills?

Sahil: For me personally, it was a matter of asking seniors for guidance and practice. Whenever I participated in a moot, I always sent my drafts to as many seniors as I could to get different perspectives on how to improve the drafting. Similarly, for pleadings, I used to request seniors to take practice rounds for me and their feedback is what helped me hone my skills.

Siddharth: As Sahil correctly pointed out, the best way to develop any skill is through guidance and experience. The three of us have been very lucky to have had seniors who taught us the basics of mooting, be it research, drafting or pleadings. Furthermore, each of us has participated in two moot court competitions prior to our selection for the Oxford IPR Moot, and the experiences we gained from each of those moots have been extremely helpful in developing our drafting and pleading skills.

  1. What tips and suggestions would you have for our readers for preparing their memorials and pleadings?

For memorials, you have to strike a balance between being exhaustive and being concise. You have to ensure that you are able to make all the strongest arguments within the word/page limit, while making sure that the drafting is easy to read and comprehend. Additionally, attention to detail is extremely important for memorials, because you have to maintain consistency throughout the memorial. This is particularly true as each person has a different style of drafting an argument and to be scored well it becomes important to adopt a uniform drafting style across all issues.

For pleadings, the rule has to be to simplify, simplify, simplify. The simpler your pleadings, the easier they are to follow for the Judges. Also, pleadings are not a speech. Rather, they are meant to be a conversation with the Judge to assist him/her in reaching the conclusion that favours your client.

  1. Did the pandemic in any way affect the Oxford IPR Moot Competition?

Yes, in several ways. The oral rounds that were to be conducted in March 2020 were cancelled, so the organisers came up with a hybrid model for the oral rounds held in March 2021. Teams that had qualified for the 2020 oral rounds were given the option of automatically participating in the 2021 oral rounds without going through the memo qualification phase again, while new teams were allowed to submit memos and qualify for the 2021 oral rounds. This was possible because the moot problem was the same in both years. As a result, there were  unprecedented 32 teams at the 2021 oral rounds. Also, like all other moots during the pandemic, the competition was conducted virtually, over Zoom, instead of the teams travelling to Oxford.

  1. Working on a moot through a pandemic must have been challenging. Can you elaborate on some of the challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them?

Sahil: The biggest challenge I personally faced was that I was at home in Pune, so I was unable to access the physical resources in our university library. Once we qualified for the oral rounds, I had to travel to Delhi to solve this problem. It is always tough to coordinate with teammates when everyone is in different cities, and when we were preparing our memorials, the three of us used to be on video conferences with each other for several hours a day.

Siddharth: As a team, I think the pandemic posed a number of challenges for the three of us. Perhaps the biggest challenge was to find a way to manage time and work together as a team, while we were all back home with our families. Throughout the competition, we were constantly in connect, either via conference calls or lengthy interactions on Zoom/Google Meets to discuss potential arguments, ensure consistency in drafting style, practising arguments, etc. Mooting is fundamentally a team-based activity and I think what worked best for us was the ability to trust each other and our work ethic.

  1. In your opinion, how important is doing proper legal research? How can law students equip themselves with legal research skills?

Sahil: As a lawyer, research will be the bedrock of your entire career, and you cannot compromise on developing research skills. I believe that good research is a matter of finding the correct sources and databases, and as far as online research on databases is concerned, one has to adopt a hit-and-trial method of finding the correct keywords which describe the proposition they are researching for. Quite often, even beginning with a basic Google search can be quite useful.

Siddharth: As future lawyers, I believe legal research is the most important skill set that we can develop in law school. It is important for us, as law students, to build a strong foundation in terms of our legal research skills. Be it moots or internships, being thorough with your research, in my opinion, is a law student’s strongest asset.

In terms of developing such skills, I believe it is important to familiarise oneself with different online databases, as each one operates differently in terms of the search options or techniques as well as the manner in which the sources are provided. In order to learn how to do that, perhaps the best way is to approach your seniors for guidance or look at the free training videos that are available online. Post that, following the trial-and-error approach is the key to build a strong base for developing legal research skills.

  1. What plans do you have for the future, both long term and short term?

Sahil: No long-term plans as such, but short-term plan is to try to build a career in commercial law.

Siddharth: Given the present state of the pandemic, I do not have any short-term plans: it is important for all of us to be safe and healthy along with our families. In the long term, I wish to build a career in litigation, specifically in the field of criminal law.

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