Aditya Kutty currently heads the Core Legal team of Netflix India. He graduated from Hidayatullah National Law University in 2011, and did his LLM in intellectual property laws from the George Washington University Law School in 2015. He has been working in the space of IPR and TMT for more than a decade now.
1. To begin with, please tell us something about yourself, your journey in the profession and your early years with our readers.
I have always had keen interest in all things technology, media and art. That perhaps aptly explains why I decided to pursue this level of specialiation as a lawyer from the get-go. I started my career as an IP lawyer at a boutique (not full service) IP firm called Saikrishna & Associates (S&A). At S&A I was an associate in the Litigation and Advisory Practice and I had the privilege of being involved in various interesting disputes. Some of them included anti-piracy matters, civil rights, enforcing moral rights of authors under copyright law to patent law matters and other general commercial matters as well.
2. How did your law school experience shape you to what you are today? Please also share your interests and motivations.
Apart from working and taking a keen interest in subject(s) like IP, media, technology and competition law, I also spent a considerable time & investment working and actively participating in moot court competitions. I think moots really propel you to dig deep into issues of the problem presented to you. It significantly helps at honing problem solving and research skills. In part, it also pushed me to continually find ways to present my arguments before an audience (all of that helps prepare for actual court proceedings).
3. How has your journey from being an intellectual property litigation associate at Saikrishna & Associates to heading the Core Legal team of Netflix India been so far?
In retrospect, it has been an interesting journey of ups and downs, with parts intentionally tailored where I dived right into taking a bold bet. The first few years were foundational and being in a mid-sized firm helped understand the work ground up, and also gave me the opportunity to address client needs (in the process also upskilled managing clients — something not taught at law school). What drove me this far is certainly being able to be solution driven and curious at every step of the journey (as an associate or today as a lead of a function). Going in-house also means that you also need to educate yourself about the business and have a 360-degree view of each of the clientele you are serving within a business. And so, it becomes imperative that you go in each day with a true sense of ownership (not only as a lawyer but also as a business owner) — ask those incisive questions till you get appropriate answers. I believe these traits have got me to where I am today.
4. A decade back, intellectual property was a relatively smaller field in law. So, how did intellectual property rights and TMT become a passion for you? Was there a driving factor behind this choice?
I would not say it was a small field under law. IP law has existed in some form or manner since a while (e.g., copyright law has had interesting case developments since its inception in 1957). However, the expanse of allied laws within technology (and IP) law as a whole has certainly substantially increased in a short span over the last decade, given the surge of technology companies that have come to the foray. As a result of rapid innovation (fuelled by investors and governments, alike), designing a regulatory framework that ensures the safety of users and the public while facilitating the commercial use and consumer enjoyment of disruptive innovation is a challenging undertaking. Innovation often takes a giant stride ahead and regulators often struggle to keep up with it (AI as an example today). That is in fact where the “driving factor” also lay for me, personally. When regulation fails to catch up, you end up wearing either your policy hat or your lawyer one to help “enable” innovation for your clientele. In some (or in most) cases, you could be in a position where your interpretation is in the grey until there is some form of judicial precedent, which could concretise your position (or not), either way, you are solving novel problems and in the process being an innovation enabler.
5. Would you please share with us some of the most interesting aspects and challenges that you have faced during your career?
Challenges are a part and parcel of growing in this profession. One key challenge I recall was the shift from being a law student to a lawyer. While that transition happens very quickly, more often than not, law students are not adept at handling the day-to-day tasks of client management, grasping the nuances of filings in a court of law, soft skills when addressing senior lawyers in the profession and/or clients, amongst other such things, which are not taught at law school. Entering an in-house role was an initial journey full of learnings too, because without understanding the entire business model, it is almost impossible to advise your clients. All in all, these are all key learnings to help us not only grow as a lawyer but also as an individual in a society.
6. There is a perception about the corporate world when it comes to work life balance. Is it a myth or is it possible to achieve work-life balance with consistent practice?
I think this is very workplace and individual specific. While there are certain workplaces that encourage a work-life balance, others expect one to put in long hours (and that may be asked, when serving certain clients). On the same footing, it also depends on individuals who are able to prioritise.
7. How important is doing proper legal research, and how should law students equip themselves with legal research skills.
Keep yourself updated with the latest judicial precedents and read the entire case law from start to finish. It is important to keep abreast of regulatory developments and also understand the impact the cases on a particular sector. Not having your well-researched answers could put you in backfoot in the profession. Especially these days, the regulatory landscape is evolving fairly quickly, requiring law students and lawyers to be across the changes. There is really no substitute to continually reading and sifting through relevant case material and opinions to get your answers to legal problems.
8. What is the one trait that you want a young professional setting foot into the real world to cultivate and is there anything that you would like to share with the readers and researchers of SCC OnLine?
As Walt Disney once said, “The best ideas come from those most curious” and we are in the ideas’ business. I think curiosity is the best benchmark to set as a young legal professional as well. We are driven by a curiosity to understand, learn and grow. Curiosity can lead you to places you do not expect to end up, and so it is important to get your hands dirty early in the profession by extensively asking questions, spending time going deep into a subject-matter of your interest, and most importantly, actively listening/hearing other professional’s experiences in the profession.