Pushing boundaries

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Space project testament to India’s can-do persona

India did not make it to the moon this time. But there is no doubt that it will. Even without a successful lunar landing, this is an astonishing feat for a country that faces complex and sizeable challenges that some may argue would crush all desire and ability to aspire and excel. That this is not the case is remarkable, but not altogether surprising.

boundariesThe moon mission reveals both the nation’s determination to be at the forefront of humankind’s journeys into space, and its inherent capabilities in this area that thrive even within the low budget of India’s space programme.

It is also telling of an invaluable can-do spirit that inhabits many across the country. The challenge, however, is to harness this potential and to replicate the country’s achievements in space in other more down-to-earth areas. Is this achievable?

This month’s Cover story looks at a report of the US government, the US Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report for 2019, that delivers a stinging rebuke to India on its record for the protection of intellectual property rights. The report describes India as “one of the world’s most challenging major economies” with respect to protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.

This is a long-standing grievance of the US government, and India has been on its priority watchlist for many years. But is the criticism justified? The report takes issue with protections in the pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical sectors among other things, which as we point out undermines its efforts to provide high-quality medicines at low cost to poor and developing countries.

Be that as it may, the report is to be seen against India’s improved ranking in the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Centre annual International IP Index, which assesses the IP climate in 50 world economies.

In The AIs have it we turn the spotlight on artificial intelligence, which is poised to have a transformative effect on numerous industries. It also has the potential to pose multifarious legal challenges in the future, and developing an appropriate legislative framework for it is vital.

Prominent legal issues need to be addressed. There is no law recognizing artificial intelligence as a legal person, and it is extremely important that India establishes jurisprudence around this, such that the specific rights and obligations of an artificial intelligence can be demarcated. Our coverage provides an analysis of current developments.

Writing in this month’s Vantage point Sanhita Katyal, corporate vice president, legal and compliance at Max Life Insurance, states that the long-term success of a regulatory sandbox, which is to be introduced in India with the notification of the Sandbox Regulations, 2019, will depend on regulators being open to modifying regulations to facilitate innovations under the regulatory framework.

The insurance sector regulator had earlier proposed the introduction of a contained testing space so as to experiment with fintech solutions in order to espouse innovation in insurance products. Sandboxing in this manner has the potential of cutting through regulatory uncertainty by offering path-breaking innovations in insurance products and services.

This month’s What’s the deal? focuses on merger activity in the telecoms sector, where a spate of mergers in the past few years in the EU, the US, India and elsewhere has provided a window into merger regulation and merger control across jurisdictions. The entry of Reliance Jio triggered significant M&A activity among existing operators, which was by and large given the go-ahead by the anti-trust regulator. Not all mergers received similar approvals, case in point being a merger in New Zealand that was prohibited as the antitrust regulator feared it would result in the foreclosure of competing service providers.

In this month’s Intelligence report senior women lawyers across Asia share personal stories of success, struggles and strategies for a more inclusive legal profession. The lawyers featured include Grace Yeoh, who in 2016 became the first woman to be appointed managing partner at a Kuala Lumpur firm in 100 years; Singapore-based Rebecca Chew, who was the first woman in Rajah & Tann’s history to hold the deputy managing partner position; and Melissa Kaye Pang, who last year became the first woman president of the Hong Kong Law Society in its 110-year history. As is to be expected, many of the lawyers profiled expressed frustration with existing stereotypes of women, both within and outside the workplace.

Yet progress is being made, and women lawyers increasingly make up the majority of new entrants within the profession in Asia. The challenge however, as Zia Mody, the managing partner of AZB & Partners in Mumbai, says, is to retain women talent. “Everyone has gone beyond the point of hiring women. They are valuable. The question is how many have really finessed the conversation with women on how to keep them.” Mody, who speaks with new mothers individually to figure out their requirements and how these can fit in at the firm, says: “When there is proper expectation setting, you see everyone fall in line, including all the male partners.”

Strategic thinking such as this must surely be vital to overcome challenges, both in space and closer to home.