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Intellectual property lawyers are generally thought of to be wolves in sheep's clothing. Shamnad Basheer was different.
Born on 14th May 1976
Born on this day in Kulathupuzha Of Kerala in 1976, Shamnad found himself in the country's most prestigious law school, the National Law School of India University, Bangalore in the mid-90s. This was a time of reckoning for India and its people, who were undergoing a shift of gears post the liberalisation of the economy.
But when Basheer looked around in his class, all he could see was students who sported heavy accents, spoke in lucid English, came from the best schools in India and had massive financial banking. What had been touted as a game changer for the destitute, had so far done nothing of the sort. People born in the cradle of affluence still ruled the roost.
That was the moment he decided that he wanted to do something different. He was aware that from a very young age, he had responded to injustices around him very swiftly. But back then, he was brushed off as just a kid. But now, he had the opportunity to do something about it.
After graduating from NLS, he joined Anand and Anand, a high-ranking Intellectual property law firm based in New Delhi to bide his time and earn some money, so that he could pursure his post-graduation from one of the best foreign universities.
Despite knowing that sooner or later he'd leave the firm, there was no compromise in his work ethic.
During his stint at Anand and Anand, he was included amongst the geniuses of Tech Law by IFLR 1000.
When Oxford beckoned him, he left the firm without any second thoughts. Even at Oxford, a place buzzing with the world's brightest minds, Basheer stood out from the rest. Warm and pure a human as he was a genius. Basheer touched lives at Oxford and left a mark as an academic at Oxford.
As he earned more and more accolades for his unique perspective on IPR, he was drawn back to India just like a moth is to a flame. He founded his own blog, SpicyIP in 2005 so that he could continue contributing positively to the world of IPR.
Basheer realised that the time for him to give back to the people had come. He wanted to democratise access to law schools, which had been out of the underprivileged's reach for far too long.
The Novartis Case saw Basheer intervene as an academic authority, helping diversify access to a life-saving drug that would've otherwise been patented and put far far beyond the reach of those who need it the most.
In his mind, this would've had a two-pronged impact; not only would these people be financially better off, but they would also positively impact the judicial system by ridding it of its parochial outlook and bringing a whole new range of perspective into the courts.
Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to Legal Education, or IDIA began in 2010 as an NGO that made kids aware of law as a profession, provided them the training needed to get into prominent law schools and funded their education.
The general perception of IPR lawyers is one of corporate parasites who feast on the blood of the weak and needy. Basheer took many steps towards changing that impression. Whether or not he was able to do that, is up for debate. But till the end of his life, when he met a tragic demise in 2016, he touched several lives.
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