Humanities, 2014

Shamnad Basheer

Founder and Managing Trustee, Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access, and Founder, SpicyIP, India

The Infosys Prize 2014 in Humanities is awarded to Prof. Shamnad Basheer for his outstanding contributions to a broad range of legal issues and legal education. He has been doing this with remarkable fair‑mindedness in assessing opposing positions taken on quintessentially controversial areas, such as intellectual property laws.


Infographic: Intellectual property and an inclusive knowledge society


Prof. Shamnad Basheer is the founder of SpicyIP, India's premier blog on intellectual property and innovation law and policy. He is also the founder and managing trustee of Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA), a non‑profit body that aims to empower underprivileged communities through legal education.

Basheer graduated from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, and joined Anand and Anand, India's leading intellectual property law firm. He went on to head the firm's Technology and Media law division. Basheer did his B.C.L., M.Phil. and D.Phil. from the University of Oxford, where he also edited the Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal.

Basheer was the first Ministry of Human Resource Development Chaired Professor of Intellectual Property Law at the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata, and the Frank H. Marks Visiting Associate Professor of Intellectual Property Law at the George Washington University Law School in Washington DC. He has been a research fellow at the Institute of Intellectual Property, Tokyo, an International Bar Association scholar and an Inter‑Pacific Bar Association scholar.

Basheer did his postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford. He completed the BCL (as a Shell Centenary scholar), MPhil, and DPhil with distinction. His thesis dealing with biotechnology and patent law in India was awarded the second prize in a writing contest held by the Stanford Technology Law Review. At Oxford, he was the editor of the Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal (OUCLJ) and a founding member of Electronic Database of Intellectual Property (EDIP). He continues to be affiliated to the Oxford Intellectual Property Research Center (OIPRC).

He has also been research Fellow at the Institute of Intellectual Property (IIP), Tokyo, an International Bar Association (IBA) scholar and an Inter Pacific Bar Association (IPBA) scholar.

Scope and impact of work

Prof. Shamnad Basheer is a legal scholar of great distinction whose work has had an impact on legal policy, particularly intellectual property laws and regulations. Since the cogency and consistency of legal arguments are sometimes sacrificed in legal decisions and swayed, if only implicitly, by the force of immediacy, Basheer's contribution in highlighting a broader policy vision and undertaking comparative analysis with global jurisprudence has been of great theoretical as well as applicational interest. Basheer's demonstration of his ability to rise above immediate passions, without losing sight of the important life‑and‑death issues that generate those passions, has made him a much sought‑after voice of legal illumination. The impact of his suggestions regarding pharmaceutical patents will be particularly interesting to follow.

Basheer's work includes three important contributions. He provides a fuller understanding of debates on Indian patent legislation in different contexts – historical as well as contemporary, and national as well as international. He brings this understanding to bear on discussions of legislative and policy reforms, and reforms in dispute resolution. He has straddled the world of academia and practice, and contributed richly to both a theoretical understanding of law and a more grounded practical evolution of jurisprudence through various interventions in courts.

Basheer has undertaken pioneering work in fostering access to premier legal education in favor of underprivileged communities through his IDIA project. He has also promoted access to law and knowledge through various efforts on his blog and writings, through court interventions and through a non‑profit, Promoting Public Interest Lawyering (P‑PIL). Basheer's multifaceted impact on legal thinking, legal learning and legal practice in India has been a powerful and enriching influence that deserves admiration and acclaim.

Citation by the Jury

In a country where there have been remarkable figures in the judiciary and in the profession of law, there have recently been very few comparably distinguished contributions in the academic study of law. Prof. Shamnad Basheer stands out as a notable exception. The committee wishes to honor with the Infosys Prize Prof. Basheer's impressive theoretical work, with extensive practical relevance, on a range of legal issues, particularly intellectual property rights and regulations. Prof. Basheer has also done pioneering work in bringing legal education and knowledge within the reach of the common man, paying particular attention to the critical importance of legal knowledge and support for disadvantaged groups, whose predicament relates not merely to the injustice of their current situation, but also to their inadequate understanding of what they can do to resist and redress such injustice.

Congratulatory Message From The Jury Chair – Amartya Sen

It is my wonderful duty to congratulate Prof. Basheer for his remarkable work on legal theory, legal practice and also legal education. And he's being honored by the Infosys Prize in Humanities for the major breakthroughs he has made, particularly in his academic work dealing with intellectual property rights generally, but patent laws in particular. He has also linked up the practice of law with the theory of it in a totally remarkable and convincing way. He has also been a major factor in the expansion of legal education in India whereby people can participate in the reasoning that goes into legal decisions on subjects including patent rights and so on, which affect the lives of so many people. So we are delighted on behalf of the Infosys Science Foundation and the jury committee to be able to honor Prof. Basheer for the fantastic work that he has done and which has made a major difference to the world of legal education and legal practice, and legal understanding across the country.