I have just returned from two weeks in India. Starting from an inquiry from INTA about participating in a programme on trade mark valuation, the visit transmogrified into 9 presentations across Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. I will likely comment from time to time about my experiences there, but permit me to mention just one now.
My last talk was at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore (IIMB as it is known). Many of you may well recognize the campus; it is the picture that it is often shown of a Indian campus set in the midst of a small forest, a cross between Silicon Valley and New England. After the never-ceasing cacaphony of the city, it was almost surrealistic to have the chirping of birds (and not the shrill of a car horn) awake me in the morning.
My was talk was on "IP as a Management Tool." Without boring readers about the substance of the lecture, my final topic was whether there will be a distinct form of Indian IP arising out of the particulars of the Indian experience. The way I framed my comments was in terms of "jugaad". And what is "jugaad"? Here is what Wikipedia has to say here:
"Jugaad ... are locally made motor vehicles that are used mostly in small villages as a means of low cost transportation inIndia. Jugaad literally means an arrangement or a work around, which have to be used because of lack of resources. This is a Hindi term also widely used by people speaking other Indian languages, and people of Indian origin around the world. The same term is still used for a type of vehicle, found in rural India. This vehicle is made by carpenters, by fitting a diesel engine on a cart.
.... They are known for having poor brakes and cannot go beyond 60 km/h. They operate on diesel fuel and are just ordinary water pump sets converted into engine.The brakes of these vehicles very often fail and one of the passengers jumps down and applies a manual wooden block as a brake. ...."Jugaad" is also colloquial Hindi word that can mean an innovative fix,often pejoratively used for solutions that bend rules, or a resource that can be used as such or a person who can solve a vexatious issue. It is used as much for enterprising street mechanics as for political fixers. In essence, though it is a tribute to native genius, and lateral thinking. Even though in everyday life, a Jugaad can be a solution, in context of Management, Jugaad is essentially a person who has some special capability or access to a resource or even access to another Jugaad that can be useful under extreme or special circumstances."
I mused whether this orientation runs more generally through the world of Indian technology and innovation and, if so, whether it will result in a distinct form of patent immediately recognizable as "Indian". If so, attention will likely be made to the role of traditional knowledge as part of the Indian experience. As has been observed in the "basmati" rice episode here, the technology of the past still bears on the technology of the present. In that episode, a U.S. patent was originally obtained in connection with "basmati" rice, considered a long-standing type of rice identified with its Indian source. Ultimately the patent and trade mark issues were resolved to the satisfaction of the Indians.
I wish to conclude with a personal anecdote about "jugaad". I was leaving from a meeting with IP people at a well-known Bangalore company. Somehow the frame of my spectacles brushed up against the interior of the cab and the plastic cord holding the right lens in place was torn. I faced my last days in India with the prospect of wandering about in sun glasses (trust me, grandfathers are not cool in sun glasses). My driver, who had been with me throughout my time in Bangalore, did not hesitate. He proceeded directly to a storefront along the strip, entered and came out 30 seconds later with something in hand. He smiled and said--"I fix it"--and so he did. He had somehow come up with an adhesive that he applied to the cord and lens. The lens is still in place. I am becoming a believer in "jugaad".