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Doyen of Indian IP, Prof Tehemtan Nasserwanji Daruwalla, RIP

TN Daruwalla: In memoriam
TN Daruwalla: In memoriam
“…his life was gentle; and the elements so mixed in him, that nature might stand up and say to all the world ‘This was a man’…”
Mark Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar Act V Scene 5 

Prof Tehemtan Nasserwanji Daruwalla, the prima donna of Indian intellectual property (IP) lawyers, suddenly passed away on the evening of 13 August 2013 leaving behind a huge void, impossible to fill. He was known globally as the doyen and pioneer of intellectual property law in India, having had the distinction of being an active part of intellectual property jurisprudence here.

He was the global face of Indian IP, being the president of the Indian Intellectual Property Lawyers Association and giving seminars and discourses on the subject all over the world. Many of today’s eminent IP lawyers and sitting judges have had the good fortune to be taught or trained by him.

I had heard of Prof Daruwalla earlier, but my association with him started in 2003 as a fresh law graduate seeking to switch from chartered accountancy to law. He graciously accepted me into his fold, providing me an oasis of comfort amidst the desert of career confusion. He was my senior as well as my professor in my LL.M. and I had the good fortune of interacting with him in his chambers, courtrooms, as well as the classroom. The times I spent in his chamber and in his classes were the most intellectually fruitful and some of the happiest times of my career.

His intelligence and powers of legal analysis had no equals. His swashbuckling and flamboyant erudition, coupled with his witty repartee and impeccable integrity in landmark cases would certainly make him the modern D’Artagnan of the Bar.

A real life instance illustrates these facets well. In a complex trademark matter, his opponent (a former student, now an eminent senior counsel) chose to make a point relying on a prominent treatise of Australian Trademark law. Prof Daruwalla immediately distinguished it from memory, referring to another paragraph, a few pages ahead, in the very treatise his opponent sought to rely on. His opponent gallantly conceded the point and also acknowledged his defeat by saying, “Sir, you have taught me all I know”. Prof Daruwalla, with his sharp wit immediately retorted, “Maybe, but I haven’t taught you all I know!

Despite having several MNCs on his client roster, he would often take up matters for the underdog against other giant MNCs, sometimes without fees, if, in his opinion, the MNCs were using the law to harass small litigants.

Teacher extraordinary

He was also a teacher par excellence choosing to fan the flame of knowledge in a student rather than merely give boring discourses. He was part of the faculty at the Government Law College and the Bombay University (for LL.M.) for around three decades.

He once observed that teaching was like oil prospecting. If oil was not struck in the first five minutes, a speaker must stop “boring”.

His lectures and seminars were both educational and entertaining with plenty of literary quotes, sound and film clips, visual aids and similar illustrative devices.

Indeed, his musical talent is a facet of his personality that is not very well known, despite his sometimes breaking into snatches of song in his rich melodious voice in the midst of a copyright or trademark presentations to illuminate a point to his audience. (I fondly recall his demonstration of a toy dog that resembled Elvis holding a guitar, singing “Hound Dog”, to illustrate to his audience the concept of character merchandising).

The combination of his immense knowledge, sparkling wit and superbly effective teaching methodology made him a much sought after speaker, both in India and abroad amongst academia and professional associations. I would actively seek his advice in preparing my own presentations and his advice not only enriched them but boosted my knowledge and confidence.

As a matter of fact, at various IP seminars people would immediately recall him upon hearing my name since we share the same surname. When I had once told him about it, he jokingly encouraged me by saying that if I would continue, he would bring an action against me for passing off.

Fast flowing knowledge

However, these were merely the best-known facets of his kaleidoscopic personality and those knowing him could not but marvel at his impeccable integrity and other qualities of head and heart, his terrific wit, his photographic memory, his encyclopaedic knowledge of English literature, his fantastic sense of humour and his musical and histrionic abilities.

Though he was an intellectual property lawyer he was extremely free in sharing his knowledge and his library and even long after my leaving his chambers as a junior, he would help me out with a key draft, a suggested course of action or a word of advice. In this context he had once remarked that knowledge must be a fast flowing stream, with new knowledge like fresh water coming in and old going out, and should not be hoarded since it would resemble a stagnant pool and breed mosquitoes!

Prof Daruwalla also treated all his office staff and juniors with the utmost kindness and respect, almost as an extended family. When I had informed him that I would be leaving his chamber (to seek a higher paying assignment) he shook me warmly by the hand and wished me well quoting from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted all the voyage of life is bound in shallows and miseries.. On such a full sea we are now afloat and we must take the current when it serves or else lose our ventures…”

Besides the above, he had a tremendous sense of humour, the rare ability to lighten up a stressful situation and would sometimes say, “This is too serious to be taken seriously”, putting a whole new perspective on what would have otherwise been an impasse.

Ironically one of his repeated lines when we were stymied was “Expect the unexpected”. The Almighty snatching him away so abruptly ,was certainly extremely unexpected and leaves a large void in the lives of all those he had touched.

May the Almighty give his loving wife, Aloo, the strength to bear this great loss.

The following immortal words of Nehru would well reflect the sentiments of those whose life he had touched:

“…the light that shone …….was no ordinary light. The light that has illumined for these many years will illumine ….for many more years...”

Dear Tehemtan, your light will continue to shine on in our hearts…

Freddy Daruwala is a partner of Nasikwala Law Office Advocates and Solicitors. He can be contacted at

Photo via Underscore Records

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