GW Law School: Building Bridges To India

Monday, December 6, 2010 - 00:00

Editor: In 2003, the GW Law faculty and alumni launched the India Project for the purpose of building bridges between the U.S. and India. Please tell our readers about some of the accomplishments of the project. What collaborative projects are underway with the Indian institutions?

Karamanian: Each year since the founding of our India Project in 2003, we have organized an annual trip to India. Along with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) and other organizations, we have co-sponsored in major Indian cities an intellectual property (IP) law summit. Participants in the summit have included distinguished lawyers, judges, government officials, law professors, scientists, and members of the business community and NGO community from India, as well as their counterparts from outside of India, including the United States, Europe and Asia.

Another important aspect of our relationship to India involves our ties to Indian law schools. Our initial collaboration was with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, one of the world's leading universities. We provided guidance, mainly advice about the curriculum, to the new Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law (RGSIPL) at the IIT Kharagpur. The RGSIPL offers the LLB degree that is certified by the Bar Council of India. This year six GW Law students spent their spring break at Kharagpur. This coming year we hope to have RGSIPL students at GW Law for a short-term program as well as send more of our students to the IIT. We are also coordinating webcast lectures and examining ways to involve our faculty in joint educational activities and research projects.

One of the highlights of the GW Law-RGSIPL relationship is that three RGSIPL graduates have pursued the LLM degree here at GW Law. One of the students was given our Thomas Buergenthal Scholarship, which allowed him to pursue the degree free of any charge for tuition.

We have also entered into agreements with two other distinguished law faculties in India. One is Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), which was recognized in the Constitution of India as an "institution of national importance." We have been fortunate to have two scholarship students from AMU in our LLM program and to have participated in two forums at AMU. Our other agreement is with the new National Law University, Delhi, which hosted the mock argument at last year's IP forum.

As to governmental institutions, we have been working with the new Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA) and the Competition Commission of India. One of my colleagues, Professor Christopher Yukins, an expert in the field of government procurement law, spoke at a conference organized by the Competition Commission last year, and he'll be returning this December to participate in another forum on antitrust. Professor Steve Schooner, also an expert in government procurement laws, will be speaking in India this spring.

One of our goals is to reach beyond IP law in our work with Indian educational and governmental institutions. Although we will continue to build on our IP programming, we are looking for ways to share some of the other strengths of GW Law with institutions in India, including in areas such as corporate, government procurement, competition, antitrust and international law. Our affiliations with the IICA and the Competition Commission are steps in that direction.

Editor: In what respects is GW Law the perfect home for such a project due to its emphasis on intellectual property law and India's push into technology?

Karamanian: GW Law is fortunate to have a number of relationships in IP law, not just in the United States but around the world. The support of our alumni, including Judge Randall Rader, the new chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, has buttressed our academic endeavors. Judge Rader teaches a patent course at GW Law and is very engaged in legal education, including judicial education. Our new IP law dean, John Whealan, is the former solicitor of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and he has been able to draw on his expertise in helping structure our programs.

Another critical aspect is our alumni in India, who are highly trained in IP law and corporate law and are working at major law firms and in other capacities. They offer us invaluable insight into India.

Raj Davé, a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, has been a driving force behind our Indian activities. He is a GW Law alumnus and an alumnus of the IIT Kharagpur. My colleague Martin Adelman, who teaches patent law, has also been instrumental. He brings a keen interest in India due to his lifelong friendship with Ram Jethmalani, one of India's most prominent Supreme Court advocates and India's former Union Minister for law. Another important person behind our Indian activities is Professor Ananda Chakrabarty of the University of Illinois, a microbiologist who is the inventor of the first patented genetically engineered microorganism that the U.S. Supreme Court recognized as protected under U.S. patent law. Each of these individual's visions and efforts have helped shape GW Law's activities in India.

Editor: What is the talent pool that contributes to the India Project?

Karamanian: The talent pool consists of in-house counsel at a variety of corporations, outside counsel, government officials, judges, scientist members of the NGO community, representatives from international institutions, law professors, law students, and representatives from business from both the United States, India and other countries.

Editor: Describe the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur's collaboration with GW Law to assist in the development of the Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property.

Karamanian: The IIT Kharagpur is the founding IIT in India. It is a very prestigious school for sciences and engineering. One of its graduates, the American businessman Vinod Gupta, was instrumental in establishing the IIT Kharagpur business school, which is named after him. Vin shared in the vision of educating the brilliant graduates from the IIT and other scientists and engineers from around India in the field of law, with an emphasis in IP law, so that they could be equipped to work as lawyers on IP matters. Once the idea was defined, we were asked to help identify topics for the curriculum at the new law school and also to help in other respects, such as identifying course materials and aiding in the establishment of the library.

Editor: How has India's legal profession changed owing to the influx of foreign investment?

Karamanian: This is a very interesting and timely issue due to a recent legal challenge to the role of foreign attorneys in India. We are watching with interest the developments concerning liberalization of the legal market in India for U.S. lawyers. India has a very established, sophisticated and large bar. Lawyers in India, like lawyers in the United States, are well-versed in many aspects of business law. A recent article noted that the focus on IP law in India has led to the rise of Indian law firms and lawyers specializing in IP law, and it seems some of them are doing very well financially. Also, the increased flow of trans-border transactions has led to a greater interest in arbitration and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. We are seeing more of our LLM graduates from India gravitating towards the major law firms in India and working on matters relating to foreign investment. It remains to be seen how these developments will affect foreign lawyers.

Editor: Based on Raj Davé's recommendations, a mock trial was arranged in India with presentations by U.S. lawyers presenting a patent law case before a U.S. judge and jury under U.S. law and another trial by Indian lawyers before an Indian judge under Indian law.

Karamanian: Nearly every year we have held a mock trial the day before the IP summit. The audience consists largely of students from Indian law schools. The trial is a useful educational tool as it allows for the comparison of the presentation of a case under U.S. law by U.S. lawyers and then under Indian law by Indian lawyers. It has been interesting to see the similarity between the two systems, particularly as to the cross-examination of witnesses. The U.S. delegates have also enjoyed watching the outstanding arguments by some of India's leading advocates.

Editor: Please describe the Indian Studies Center at GW Law and how it interrelates with the India Project.

Karamanian: It's important to have a full-fledged center at GW Law that examines a wide range of legal issues relating to India. A few years ago we hosted in Washington, DC a major constitutional law conference involving India that featured leading lawyers from India, including Fali Nariman, Abishek Singhvi, and Prashant Bhushan, as well as lawyers and academics from the United States. The center will pull together and manage the many different aspects of our Indian activities, such as student moot court competitions, student exchanges, conferences and other collaborative activities with our Indian counterparts. Gauri Rasgotra, a lawyer from India, served as the first head of our India Project, and we are delighted that Rina Pal has now taken over. The center will also look for more opportunities for our students in India. For example, last academic year, we sent two of our students to Gujarat National Law University to compete in its moot court competition - and the team won. Members of the winning team were given the opportunity to intern at the law firm of Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan in New Delhi and Jocelyn Bond of the team is at the firm now. We are sending another team this coming year to the Gujarat National Law University as well as a team to the K.K. Luthra Memorial Moot Competition at the University of Delhi, Faculty of Law.

Editor: What was the effect of President Obama's trip to India?

Karamanian: President Obama's recent visit heightened the focus on India. Mind you, President William Clinton and President George W. Bush were also both highly engaged with India, so it is nice to see that President Obama is building on the previously established momentum. An important aspect of the U.S.-India relationship is education. Both the United States and India, the world's two largest democracies, have very strong institutions in higher education. Over the past year, India's Minister of Human Resources Development, Kapil Sibal, has visited the United States to discuss collaborative educational opportunities. GW Law has built meaningful relations with leading Indian law faculties over the last seven years. We measure our progress by the outstanding Indian students we have enrolled at GW Law and the quality of the programming and other collaborative activities we have held with Indian law faculties and lawyers.

Editor: What are your plans for the future?

Karamanian: On the IP front, we are looking in 2011 to host a roundtable that would allow for a wider range of participants with the expectation of a more academic treatment of some of the issues. Our hope is that the roundtable will lead to published papers. We will continue with our outreach to the business community, legal professionals, the universities and other constituencies, including members of the NGO community. Also, we are organizing more activities with our counterparts at Indian law schools, such as exchanges, moot court competitions, and joint publications.