Shamnad came from the Indian state of Kerala in southwest India. He studied law, graduating with Honors from the National Law School of India University Bangalore, a national higher education initiative to create a special setting for legal education in India. He first turned to the private sector, practicing IP law at the firm of Anand and Anand in Delhi. From there, he made his way to Oxford, earning a BCL with Distinction and in turn an MPhil and DPhil in law.
Already writing and lecturing to international renown, he inter alia taught at George Washington University in Washington, DC, before settling in for a number of years at the National University of Juridical Sciences in Kolkata as the Ministry of HRD Chaired Professor of Intellectual Property.
Along the way, he created SpicyIP, which is recognized as a leading IP blog worldwide and serves as the window into all things IP in India (not infrequently, as expressed in Shamnad’s deeply felt and strongly worded posts). Shamnad joined this Kat in co-editing a book for Oxford University Press, in between teaching (for which he won numerous awards), guest lectureships, articles, book chapters, reports, and IP legal advocacy, especially in copyright and in a noted intervention in the landmark Novartis patent case.
One Indian Justice described Shamnad as “arguably the country’s foremost academic authority on matters pertaining to intellectual property and information technology.” Indeed, as late of April of this year, Shamnad had returned from brief stints at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.
So, if one were to measure Shamnad Basheer, the IP professional, his accomplishments speak for themselves. But Shamnad apparently did not view himself first and foremost as an IP person. On his resume, he identified himself as “Founder, IDIA Charitable Trust”. IDIA is the acronym for “Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to Legal Education”.
As reported by IPKat in February 2017, IDIA is an India-wide initiative to enable students from less advantageous backgrounds to secure admission to, and successfully complete, legal studies at the National Law Universities, widely seen as the top tier of Indian law schools. The problem is that the NLU’s have largely become the domain of a narrow social stratum, to the exclusion of students from rural areas or national states remotely located from the centers of Indian economic and cultural power.
Shamnad sought to rectify this. He spearheaded a voluntary team of volunteers who travel the width and length of India, seeking to sensitize students to consider the study of law, selecting those with the most promise for doing so, giving them between one to three years of preparatory education, and supporting and mentoring these students during their during their time at the NLU.
“Support” includes providing financial help for these students, who could not likely otherwise be able to provide for themselves. Seeking funding on an on-going basis became a central challenge for Shamnad and IDIA. [Kat readers, are you listening?]
In 2018, Shamnad was recognized by Obelisk Support as one of the top ten lawyers who are changing the world for the better.
In 2018, Shamnad received the Pirappancode Memorial Award for “outstanding social justice lawyering”.
As for Shamnad the person, many adjectives have been used— “humble", “kind”, “gracious”, “friendly”, "charitable", “warm”, “ebullient”, “charming”, “approachable”, a "mensch” (sorry, Shamnad, I had to add the ultimate Yiddish word for describing a decent human being)—but no list can do him justice. A decade ago, this Kat’s son was set to visit Kolkata, so I contacted Shamnad for some pointers on what the young Kat should do and see. “He will stay with me and I will take him around the city”, was Shamnad’s response.
He was also a profoundly spiritual soul. This Kat’s daughter once joined this Kat and Shamnad for a meal and conversation. She came away with the feeling that he was among the most spiritual persons whom she had ever met.
The imagery “larger than life” is spot-on in describing Shamnad, but it comes with a large dose of irony. A debilitating illness, persisting over nearly a decade, had seriously emaciated him physically. But his illness never diminished his enthusiasm for what he loved to do and the people with whom he worked. (This Kat has saved his multi-year WhatsApp exchange with Shamnad, the last of which took place on August 2nd; preserving this exchange will be my own lasting memorial of our friendship.)
My relationship with Shamnad was on-going over a decade, sometimes intense as submission dates with our publisher approached, more often just the mundane between two people who had come to be friends. But I am jealous of his friends, especially in India, who knew him better than I, and worked or saw him more than I.
One such person, Gopal Sankaranarayanan, wrote the following words about Shamnad, in a requiem entitled “The Art of Kindness” --
Unlike other requiems, this will not conclude on a sombre note. For Shamnad was anything but that. His very life was a celebration of the mind and body and the soul—he sowed seeds of learning, he invigorated others, he engendered empathy and sacrifice, he cajoled, he pleaded and fought for what was right, and most important of all, he never stopped giving.May his memory be forever blessed.
By Neil Wilkof
Remembering Shamnad Basheer Reviewed by Neil Wilkof on Sunday, August 11, 2019 Rating: