• By Dr Niti Dewan of R K Dewan & Co

ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनःसर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः ।

सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तुमा कश्चिद्दुःखभाग्भवेत् ।

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥- Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.14

May all be happy;May all be without disease;May all look for well-being of others; May none have misery of any sort May there be Peace! Peace! Peace!

Dear colleagues and friends, I amvery hopeful that the present crisis will be over soon. I am positive that the world and we will come out stronger and better experienced from this event that is just a blip on the eons of humanity. I am optimistic that we will cross this period to a better future. Of course, we will be sad for those who could not make it and remember them forever.

However, this happening will change every equation in our world when we come out on the bright side of the tunnel.We will know that this too has passed but none of us will be the same again.We will have to rethink the way we live;rejig the way we do things and review the way we interact with other people. I think we would enter into a more communicative world in which we are more supportive of each other and understand each other’s feelings.

Let us take this time to reflect on a plan to restore the lost balance. Yes, in my view this crisis is a result of a loss in humanity’s balance. I would like to share my thoughts on how an IP firm like ours could plan for the Post- COVID-19 world.

I believe that we will have to review a lot of things to revive our strength and re-establish the position of IP and of ourselves in the world.I share here my 5 Re Step by Step Plan for reviewing and bouncing back.

Step 1 –Re-assuring our People

Our people are our most important assets. In this time of need, our people rallied together to continue to provide service to our clients. When we reemerge, we will have to reestablish our channels of communication first and foremost amongst our own people. During this journey, positions may have changed, family needs may have changed, the ability to continue to work with the same zest may have been altered and as a firm, we will have to take into account all these variables in our personnel equation. As a starting point, a firm like ours will need to show the optimum care and compassion for our people and provide them with the reassurance that “all is well”. That we are all grateful that we were able to provide uninterrupted service and that the team came together when the hour needed it most. The firm will also have to reassess and reallocate team members to finish any remaining deliverable and pending tasks.

Many of us will realize the virtues of physical presence in the office, the brainstorming, the coffee breaks, the lunchtime gossips… we may want to jump out of bed every morning to reach office and enjoy these hidden pleasures.

Step 2 – Re-visiting Timelines

I don’t like the term deadlines; there is morbidity around it.Instead of that, let us say due dates or timelines. The entire IP ecosystem works on strict due dates and hence managing due dates and proper docketing of every update is very crucial for any IPfirm. It is verycomplex process for a firm to deal with multiple due dates and process hundreds of patents, trademarks, copyright, and design applications;theirfiling, prosecution and renewals and at the same time attend tolitigation in this field, without keeping a tight grip on timelines. This crisis has shifted all the timelines all over the world. The National IP offices of various countries have been hard-pressed to fix a timeline, postpone a timeline and reschedule a timeline only to postpone it again. This has caused disruption in their IP management system and software.Similarly, the internal IP management system and software of IP firms will have to be re-coded to take care of these shifting timelines and the documentation involved. For instance, many firms have auto-reminder systems to support their clients. These will all have to be revamped. Therefore, reengineering the internal IP management systems and putting in appropriate patches for covering these changes will have to dealt with as soon as possible.

Step -3 Re-connecting with our Clients

Clients are the foundation of any firm’s success.The firm’sgrowth isdependent on its clients. Infact, the growth of the client and the growth of the firm go hand in hand. They create value and bring in revenues required to run the firm. A primary concern, therefore,is to re-connect withour clients and at the outset inquire about their wellbeing. We pray that all our clientswill have survived this ordeal but some may not have done so well. It is expected that our clients may request for delayed payments.Somemay not have even the funds to maintain their IP,theirpriorities may have changed as they will be more focused on restoring the balance of their ownorganization.

At this time, it may become necessary to explain to some of our clients the importance of IP in taking them forward. Our firm will stand by our clients& cooperate with them to the fullest extent posible. We will endeavours make them mindful of the fact that IP is the driving force that will pull them out successfully fromthequicksand.

Step 4- Re-looking our Finances

The lockdown, stay at home, curfew, quarantine has had a strong impact on the world economy.People have not been able to go to work, travel for business or leisure, create output and even consume beyond the bare essentials and necessities of life. It is inevitable that this slowdown and stoppage of work will have a significant impact on the finances of the firm. This will require the firm to reassess its assets and liabilities, revisit its books of account and clearly understand and appreciate its financial position. If the need arises, more capital may be needed to be invested in the firm to maintain its financial health.

It may be necessary to trim “less necessary” expenditures. It is important to prioritizefor our regular functioning and postpone items in which costs need not be incurred now. We may have to ask ourselves such questions:

Do we need to subscribe to this magazine? Do we need to attend this networking conference?Do we need to spend on this marketing and branding advertisement? Do we need to hire new associates? Do we need to purchase new resources? Do we need to renew our subscriptions for old ones? Do we need to upgrade our working IT apps and programs? Do we need to migrate our physical server to a cloud server? Do we need to create a network of ourteam members for more effective communication? Do we need to hire some associates who will work from home? Several such questions need to be answered.

Step 5- Re-organising the Management Structure

One last point,“the stay at home phenomena” has generated a new working culture in IP firms. The principals, the partners, the associates, and the assistants who needed to report to the office during working hours are working from home. Some regular tasks thatseemed difficult without the physical presence of employeesare now being carried out virtually. This virtual realityhas its own risks and threats but is has also generated new thoughtwaves in the minds of employers. Management has now realised that some tasks can be done equally efficiently without the employees having to come to work every working day. Management is now required to rethink trust and confidentiality issues and this has opened up the vista of having atrustworthy relationships within the organization. In an IP firm trust and confidentiality is an important issue more so than in a general practice law firm. Inventions and designs are supposed to be maintained in a confidential manner until they are published.The first filing of a trademark can make the world of difference to the client’s business.Therefore, thefiling process may berequired to be re-fixtured to enable filings to happen in a confidential manner fromoutside the office environment. These fixtures will continue to remain in place even when the crisis tides over. Firms who have a biometric system of attendance with fixed leaves may have to change their model to allot work on a project basis to independent associates. I believe the work from home phenomena is here to stay even beyond the crisis. We will see firms having two sets of personnel one working physically in the office and another working on allotted projects from home and interchange the roles as required .Various tasks/ deliverables will require less or no physical client visits and meeting, less or no dependence on physical office infrastructure, for their completion and can be done by people working from their home. Therefore,in orderto curtail the additional cost incurred in providing facilities to employees coming to the office, firms will have torecalibratethe management structure and divide and apportion thework accordingly. There could be an arrangement made forpeopleworking on allotted projects and visiting the office occasionally as and when required. Salaries and consultation feeswill also have to be reconfigured accordingly.

These are some of my thoughts in the post-crisis period. I am sure in the changing scenario we may have to adapt on the fly. Change is inevitable and the change will be for the better. I pray for the good health and safety for the IP fraternity. I will appreciate your thoughts and comments.

रात्रिर्गमिष्यति भविष्यति सुप्रभातम् भास्वानुदेष्यति हसिष्यति पंकजश्रीः।

- Swami Kuvalayananda.

The night will pass and dawn will arrive, the sun will rise and lotus will bloom.


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