Intellectual Property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs and symbols and names and images used in commerce.
IP is protected by law, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefits from what they invent or create. By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.
Although many of the legal principles governing intellectual property rights have evolved over centuries, it was not until the 19th century that the term intellectual property began to be used, and not until the late 20th century that it became commonplace in majority of the world.
Common types of intellectual property rights include patents, copyrights, industrial design rights, trademarks, trade dress, and in some jurisdictions trade secrets. There are also more specialized varieties, such as circuit designs and industrial design rights, supplementary protection certificates for pharmaceutical products and database rights.
World Intellectual Property Rights Day is celebrated worldwide on 26th April with great enthusiasm, but in Pakistan it goes mostly unnoticed. IPR laws are flouted with impunity.
To enforce IPR and to monitor those who violate the law, the government has established an Intellectual Property Rights organization, which is a regulatory cum service body, under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and is directly under the supervision of the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
According to its web site: ‘It is an autonomous and corporate body and its governance structure is based on Public - Private partnership. The Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission and six Federal Secretaries represent the Public Sector and eleven Members, including the Chairman, represent the Private Sector’.
‘The Chairman Policy Board is managed by a distinguished and experienced professional from the Private Sector. The DG is the CEO and Secretary of the Policy Board is a Federal Secretary, which is the highest position in the civil service. Thus the Government of Pakistan has invested its finest human capital in the governance structure of lPO Pakistan’.
Its vision is: ‘To put Pakistan on the IP map of the world as a responsible country, by promoting and protecting intellectual property rights’. And its mission is: ‘Integrating and upgrading IP infrastructure for improved service delivery, increased public awareness and enhanced enforcement coordination for achieving the goal of being an IP based nation’.
One would have thought that with such ‘Distinguished and widely experienced professionals from the Private Sector’ heading the organization and heavy weights from the various ministries and with such a lofty vision and mission, its efforts to establish IPR in Pakistan would be very focused and aggressive.
But unfortunately, that has not been the case. Like many organizations with such distinguished personalities, it’s noble vision, has blurred and its mission has become a ‘mission impossible. The markets are flooded with look-alike products and even the copy-rights logo is being illegally used to cheat the consumers.
To highlight the issue of IPR violations, IPO-Pakistan arranges several thrilling, action filled activities to celebrate the day, which usually include a walk, seminars and conferences. In the past, these walks were usually organized by a leading IP law firm, in collaboration with IPO-Pakistan,
They are often led by the Chairman, IPO, and the participants usually include the Registrar of Trade Marks, Pakistan, Controller of Patents, Registrar of Designs, Registrar of Copyrights, Chairman All Pakistan CD and DVD Shops Associations and those manufacturers who are directly affected by IPR violations .
Some years back, a seminar was arranged by Helpline Trust, in collaboration with PIPRA, which was attended by senior members of the Judiciary, IP Attorneys and IPO-Pakistan officials. The Chairman and Members of the Pakistan Industrial and Intellectual Property Rights Association (PIPRA), had also arranged a function to celebrate this auspicious day.
“Every creation of the human mind has an origin and is the creator’s property and every creator has the legal right to possess, use and benefit from his creation. It has a direct correlation between the level of intellectual property rights protection and foreign investment. Pakistan’s software piracy level is estimated to be around 90 percent”.
If these learned and enlightened gentlemen really believe that mere seminars and walks will succeed in the enforcement of IPR laws in Pakistan, then they will have to talk and walk for a very long time to bring their vision into focus and make their mission a possibility.
Multinational companies, who are the main victims of the violations of IPR laws, because of the use of look alike logos and products by unscrupulous manufacturers, are also making an effort to highlight the issue, but they also seem to be in disagreement on how to tackle the problem.
Consumer Protection Council of Helpline Trust has offered its platform to facilitate the MNCs to create awareness against this menace, as consumers are also being cheated by these look alike products and logos, but so far no positive response has been received from them, as we do not wish to be ‘commercialized’ and allow brand promotion.
For the record, there has been a marked improvement in the workings of the Registrar of Trade Marks, Pakistan, Controller of Patent and Registrar of Designs and Registrar of Copyrights offices, but the progress in this area is still very slow.
U.S. law, USTR issues a Special report, cataloguing specific IPR problems in dozens of countries worldwide. It has expressed specific concerns about Pakistan, due to a lack of progress in this area and has put us on the Priority Watch List.
It has strongly suggested that Pakistan should take strong enforcement actions against book piracy and aggressively prosecute IPR crimes, especially in CDs’, food, beverages and medicines and ensure that its courts issue deterrent-level sentences for IPR infringers. It has warned that US will continue to monitor the IPR situation in Pakistan closely. Previous govt never given much importance to IPR issues. This has tarnished Pakistan’s image and investors are reluctant to invest in the country. Let us hope that the new government will take this problem more seriously and the Intellectual Property Rights organization will take effective steps to curb this menace. Blatant IPR violations are not only cheating the consumers, but also discouraging foreign investors to invest in the country.
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