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Crafting Your Career (CYC) | 12 Informational Interview with Lipika Sahoo — Intellectual Property

Lakshmi Ganesan

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This is the eighth episode of the series of “informational interviews’.. Here IndiaBioscience chats with Dr. Lipika Sahoo, an Indian Patent and Trademark agent, exploring her career trajectory, her work, about the field, relevant skills and the opportunities in her career space.

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TRANSCRIPT WITH TIMESTAMPS

Lakshmi Ganesan 0:01

You're listening to IndiaBiospeaks, your one stop resource for science news and careers.

Hello and welcome to another episode of crafting your career in science. In this series of episodes, we're continuing to talk to various science professionals to get their personal and professional insights on how they navigated their career paths. In the informational interview today we have with us Lipika Sahoo. Lipika has eighteen years of experience in academia and industry in the areas of technology, innovation and intellectual property. She has a PhD from the Indian Institute of Science in Microbiology and Cell Biology. She holds a triple Masters: MSc from Sambalpur University, Odisha; PGDIPR from National Law School of India University (NLSIU) in Bangalore, PGCBM from Xavier Institute of Management (XIBM) in Bhubaneshwar and also an advanced certification from World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). She is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore and she's a registered Indian Patent and Trademark agent. She's passionate about technology and innovation. She is also the founder and the CEO of LifeIntellect Consultancy Private Limited. She helps scientists and business owners protect their ideas by enabling the generation of valuable intellectual property - be it an innovation, invention, a design, a product, an idea or a business process.

Hello, Lipika, thank you for joining us today.

Lipika Sahoo 1:39

Hello, Lakshmi. Thank you so much for inviting me to this podcast. It's a pleasure to be here in this beautiful NCBS campus with the IndiaBioscience Team.

Lakshmi Ganesan 1:50

Great, Lipika, I have heard you describe your career many times as a long winding path. Can you tell us a bit about this journey and what brought you to this role?

Lipika Sahoo 2:01

In 2006, I completed my PhD at the Indian Institute of Science. After completing my colloquium, I got a job offer from Novozymes, a Danish biotech company. They were setting up the first R & D unit in Bangalore. So after my interview, I got selected, and was the first scientist that joined R & D Novozymes in Bangalore. During the process, I had to go to Copenhagen, Denmark, Novozymes headquarters to start a new project and get the project in India to continue that work. While we were graduate students, we were more focused in creating and doing the research. But whereas in a company, whatever research we do, the primary focus was getting valuable intellectual property so that it can be brought to the market. So that was my first interaction with the world of IP and exposure to the intellectual property rights related work, which I found very interesting. When I came back to Bangalore after my stay in Copenhagen, I continued with the wet lab research for some time, and in a couple of years, I was more drawn to the world of IP. So that is the time I quit my job. I pursued a patent law course in National Law School, Bangalore. I was also interested in learning about management. I continued my management studies from Xavier's institute of Management, and after that, I had the option of going back to job and start working either as a patent professional or as a research scientist, but then I thought maybe starting a company where I would have the opportunity to do the research, understand the research work by the scientists and the inventors, and helping them get their ideas to the market would be interesting.

Lakshmi Ganesan 4:21

Why did you ultimately choose a career in the intellectual property space?

Lipika Sahoo 4:26

Yeah, as I already mentioned, I found the world of IP very fascinating. A patent is an exclusive right related to the creation of the mind. It could be an invention, literary work, artistic work, or a monopoly assigned to a designated owner by the state. While working as an IP professional, you have the opportunity to work with great professors, scientists, writers, painters artists, established companies, startups or research institutes, and also you have the option of working on different kinds of products and services. It could be a technology related to cancer drugs, blockchain, computer vision or drone technology. So it is always very interesting to work with different kinds of projects. You are also working with different kinds of innovative ideas, and also at the same time helping companies or individuals get their ideas into the real world.

Lakshmi Ganesan 5:36

So Lipika, what are the roles and responsibilities of an IP professional?

Lipika Sahoo 5:42

It could be talking to inventors, understanding their ideas, it could be patent searching, drafting, and filing of patent and trademark applications, prosecution, handling patent office actions and drafting assignments. agreements and doing IP due diligence. The role involves understanding simple to complex technologies, talking to inventors and understanding their ideas and suggesting adequate protection that meets their budget.

Lakshmi Ganesan 6:43

Lipika, can you describe a typical work day?

Lipika Sahoo 6:53

Yeah, Lakshmi. One thing that I can say is it is not a typical nine to five job. There is no typical work day. It varies from day to day. The flow of activities depends on the kind of work that we have planned for that particular day. Typically morning starts with responding to clients, planning, delegating work, reviewing and drafting applications, and coordinating with foreign councils for filings, and also sometimes speaking engagements.

Lakshmi Ganesan 7:32

Lipika I would like to know what is it that you enjoy most about what you do?

Lipika Sahoo 7:35

Lakshmi, what I like most is the analytical and strategic inputs that we give to the client, to help clients grow their business by protecting their ideas through patents, and trademarks. You feel happy when you get a patent granted, or you register a design or trademark. The value that we are adding to the ecosystem is the thing that we enjoy most

Lakshmi Ganesan 8:07

Lipika what would you say are the main challenges in this field?

Lipika Sahoo 8:12

The most important thing is time, because most of the activities in the IP arena are time bound. Within that time, we have to get the information, draft it and file to meet deadlines. So, that is one of the challenges that we always face. The second is the changing dynamics of IP law. So if you are filing in some foreign country, you have to be well-versed and aware of the changes specific to that location. So constantly updating oneself is a necessity. The third is getting the right resources, having the necessary knowledge and skill. That is one of the biggest challenges. I would say.

Lakshmi Ganesan 9:05

Lipika, for a graduate who's looking to enter this space, what kinds of skills and accomplishments tend to be valued or rewarded?

Lipika Sahoo 9:12

Lakshmi, most of these IP documents, are patent documents or technological documents, where the person working here should have a good command over language, they should have good analytical skills, good communication skill, and they should have a mastery over the subject matter. They should be able to clearly understand the ideas and the business of the client. They should be able to delegate work when necessary, and should be able to work in a team because you might be drafting and somebody else will be drawing the figures. So you should be able to work in a coherent manner.

Lakshmi Ganesan 9:55

Lipika, can you shed some light on how one can gain these skills that you just mentioned?

Lipika Sahoo 10:02

Reading on a variety of topics, practicing listening, asking relevant questions and continuing to educate oneself is very, very important in building foundational knowledge. You should have the ability to understand different kinds of concepts. You might be an expert in one subject, but you should develop interest in a variety of subjects. You might be a biologist, but the invention might have software design or a mechanical element. Although you are a biologist, you should be able to understand the concept of mechanical engineering or the software design part of it. So understanding an interrelated subject is very important.

Lakshmi Ganesan 11:00

What kind of training opportunities exist for a graduate student who's planning to enter this field?

Lipika Sahoo 11:07

Yeah, for the science graduate, what I can say is if you want to be a patent professional, you should have a graduate degree in science. This could be your BSc MSC, MTech or a PhD. If you have a degree in science and an understanding of the patent aspect, you can start drafting, and analysing reports. You have to qualify a patent agent exam to represent clients and file patents on their behalf. To gain experience, you can start working as a freelancer or doing internships in a law firm. This will give you a real world exposure to understand how the world of IP looks, so you can judge for yourself, whether you really like it or if it just looks good on pen and paper.

If you want to train yourself, there are many online courses available from WIPO. There are lots of distance learning courses available from NLSIU and other institutes. There are direct classroom programs for patent drafting, patent evaluation, and technology transfer.

Lakshmi Ganesan 12:35

Thank you, Lipika. In the description section of this podcast you can find a list of many opportunities that you can look up on how you can train yourself.

Can you tell us what the present job market is like? What kind of opportunities can one look forward to in the IP space?

Lipika Sahoo 13:06

The job prospects are there both at global and the national level. The industry is growing exponentially. Growth is easy and the salary is also good. However, getting your foot in the door having necessary skills and experience, could be a little challenging, because everybody would like you to have some knowledge and some experience before they hire you.

This is when internships come in handy in providing you a good real world exposure and the necessary experience. India is now becoming a hub for startups and R & D centers, and multinational companies. Numerous funding opportunities are also available from government and private sectors. There is fast track patent examination for the patents filed by many startups. More and more companies are filing patents and creating many valuable IPs. Altogether, the job market for an IP professional looks quite promising.

Lakshmi Ganesan 14:14

Lipika, like you mentioned, the number of opportunities in this space is great. It is also refreshing to know that India is becoming a fertile ground for new ideas and innovation. There is also so much support from the government and the private sectors to nurture innovations. On that note, Lipika are there any do's and don'ts in this field that one should keep in mind?

Lipika Sahoo 14:37

As I already mentioned, it's better to have a real world experience. If you want to make a carrier switch from the hardcore science to IP, you should start small, for example, you can start doing online courses on topics that interest you and then you can do a short-term internship before you plan any big investment of your time and energy in doing a full time, say LLB or LLM programme.

Lakshmi Ganesan 15:06

Thank you Lipika. Finally, are there any messages or words of career wisdom that you would like to leave our listeners with today?

Lipika Sahoo 15:15

Lakshmi, as I already mentioned, IP is a high intensive and a deadline driven career. It will be very nice if you cultivate a creative hobby like dancing, music or painting on-the-side. Career choices are partly intellectual and partly your intuitive calling. A great career match can be found at the confluence of your skills, your interests, and most importantly, where your passion lies. So if you want a career in technology, law, patent, innovation, dealing with lots of people and training people, I would say IP is a great fit and and a challenging career option.

Lakshmi Ganesan 15:59

Thank you, Lipika for letting us take a peek into your career journey, and for taking the time to share such valuable information and knowledge. To all our listeners, thank you for listening. Do check out the description section of this podcast, where you can find some relevant links to the resources that Lipika shared with us today. Until next time, when we will hear the life story of another accomplished science professional, keep enjoying your science and keep your mind open and keep looking for opportunities to learn and grow, and of course, do keep listening to crafting your career in science

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