The general counsel of UPL talks to Rebecca Abraham about the risks and rewards of managing 7,000+ agrochemical trademarks
Global companies that currently lead in their particular sector – be it electronics, pharmaceuticals or beverages – almost invariably have a strong intellectual property (IP) portfolio.
Despite some high-profile disputes over infringement of IP rights in Indian courts, this is not true of most Indian companies, which typically display a lukewarm interest in IP rights and management of IP assets.
Yet there are exceptions and among them is UPL – one of five leading post-patent agrochemical manufacturers in the world.
UPL, which is listed in India and was formerly known as United Phosphorous, has a large global footprint with a presence in 124 countries. In 2015-16, 82% of its revenues came from outside India, while 85% was derived from sales of its branded products.
As its many brands are so important to the company, it is not surprising that it has a considerable global portfolio of IP assets: 7,000 to 8,000 trademark registrations, 136 patents and also 388 patent applications. The company’s legal team manages its trademark portfolio, while others oversee all aspects of its patent portfolio, apart from patent litigation.
Yet it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that UPL set up a centralized system for ownership and management of its trademarks. “The guiding principle was to have some sort of consistency for global products and global launches,” says Rohit Kumar, UPL’s general counsel, adding that the company needed uniform trademarks and trade names to operate under in different parts of the world.