The awe-inspiring story of Shalini Sitaraman Menezes and her quest to bring a treasure trove of opportunities and knowledge via intellectual property rights
Shalini Sitaraman Menezes, founder and director of Patented.Network and SimSim Advisory Pvt. Ltd., is an intellectual property lawyer with a Master’s degree in physics, biophysics, and corporate law. A lady with several academic accolades to her name, she is currently pursuing a PhD in Finance at Goa University.
Shalini spent the initial years of her life in the city of Bombay. She chose to study physics at St. Xavier’s College and later went on to get her masters in physics from Bombay University. After completing a second masters in biophysics from the Ohio State University, USA, Shalini decided to venture into the educational sector.
Following a four month stint as a science instructor at Brooks Institute of Photography in California, she joined the Lake Tahoe Community College as the head of the physics department. She taught a wide range of subjects including concepts of classical mechanics, electromagnetism, astronomy, and modern physics.
It was in America that Shalini chose the path of patents, copyrights, and trademarks. After a certain incident involving an acquaintance whose idea was stolen and later patented, she became intrigued by the concept of intellectual property. She wanted to understand and delve deeper into the subject. Hence, she decided to pursue an LLB with a specialisation in intellectual property.
In 2006, Shalini joined the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, which had started a law school with a specialisation in Intellectual Property Law.
At IIT Kharagpur, she met exemplary professors and students. About one professor in particular she says, “He taught me that there are three elements necessary to practice Intellectual Property Law: Technology, Law, and Finance.”
Shalini got married in the middle of the law programme. When she was back on campus, she realised that she was pregnant. It was quite a fix as she still had one and a half year of law school left. She says her husband was very supportive.
Needless to say, it was not very easy. After taking a semester off to have the baby in Mumbai, she came back to Kharagpur with an infant in tow. As female married students with children weren’t allowed to board the IIT student housing facility at the time, she took up a house outside campus along with her mother-in-law who had accompanied her from Mumbai.
“It was quite an adventure,” she says. “I used to take my bicycle to go and feed the baby in-between classes. My professors were very kind and understood my situation. Many a times there was no electricity because it was a rural village. So I used take my mother-in-law and son to the hostel and spend the night there.”
When asked whether she faced any problems with the baby, Shalini said with laughter in her voice, “My baby was very co-operative. He didn’t pull any wires, didn’t scribble anywhere nor did he touch any of my law books.”
Even with the added responsibility of motherhood, Shalini completed her LLB and stood second in her class. She also managed to finish her patent agent exam which was required in order to file in any patent.
A lawyer and a qualified patent agent, she joined her husband in the United States. As she was not allowed to work in the States, Shalini helped many of her friends who later became scientists file in their patents unofficially.
After a point of time, the couple decide to move back to India. They specifically chose Goa as they found it was a place where they could raise their children and grow professionally. The problem, however, was that there was no law firm in Goa at that time. Thus, Shalini took up a job at a boutique Intellectual Property Law firm in Mumbai.
“Law firms are notorious for their crazy work schedules. I used to visit my family every two weeks. I’d arrive on Friday and go back on Sunday. Sometimes I could not get bookings, the buses would break down, or the trains would get delayed. Despite all this, I reached my family.”
Shalini started raising awareness about Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) after she came back to Goa. Initially, there were only a handful of clients who believed in her. Therefore she had to build a firmer base and spread more information about the subject. Her hard-work eventually paid off and presently her company has more than 30 patents and above a 100 trademarks filed from Goa.
In the meantime, she got an LLM in Corporate Law along with a certification from the United States as a certified patent valuation analyst. In 2019, Shalini enrolled for a PhD in Finance at Goa University.
Given her technical background in physics and biophysics, an LLM in Corporate Law and now a PhD in Finance, Shalini had succeeded in acquiring all the elements necessary for successful Intellectual Property evaluation/management.
The next step that came after filing the patents for her clients was monetising them. There was no platform available to trade these assets. According to Shalini, “Commercialising patents is like real estate. You need patents, sell them, license them and buy them.”
So she came up with Patented.Network, a patent aggregator platform that facilitates the acquisition, sale, licensing, and valuation of patents.
The absence of an Intellectual Property Rights companies in Goa worked like a double-edged sword. Although it gave Shalini the opportunity of the first move, it also proved detrimental because not a lot of people are aware about intellectual property and what can be done with it. She would readily welcome more competition as “Competition keeps everybody on their toes. It forces people to innovate, evolve, and improve.”
There is no such thing as a dull day in Shalini’s life. She always meets new patent holders, patent buyers, and investors who bring new challenges to the table. When asked if she’d have her life any other way, she responded, “I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am if not for all the challenges that I have faced and the mistakes that I have made. It made life interesting. The more I got out there and did things that were out of the box, the more people started reaching out to me with new and adventurous ideas.”
Shalini concludes with a strong message, not for the women, but for the people around them. She says, “Aspiring women do not need any advice. They are amazing as they are. The advice I would give is to their near and dear ones, especially the men. Be kind and support these fabulous women in your lives because they will succeed in life. With or without you”