Intellectual property rights in Pakistan

Mohsin Saleem Ullah

On Wednesday, 26th of April World Intellectual Property Day was commemorated around the world, a yearly celebration since 2000 of IP’s role in stimulating innovation, creativity; raising awareness of how patent, copyrights, trademarks and design impacts on our daily life. The themed day like many others, passed by people unnoticed, only a few who have had relevance considered it important, however, IP is one of the most profound aspects of our future economies. The term ‘’intellectual property’’ was not widespread until the 1960s, when it was adopted by the world intellectual property organization, a trade body that attained a status of UN agency. The mentioned ideologically loaded term, refers to the creation of mind, invention, and symbol used in commerce. Maintaining a right balance between the interest of investors and public interest, a special law has been enacted internationally to prevent copyright, trademarks and patent disputes, which enable people to earn recognition, financial benefits and exclusive rights over their creation.
Like industrial revolution, post-war consumption and technological revolution, we are in a state of massive changes. Yet unlike those eras, the confluence of economic, social and environmental pressure has created demands for innovation. At present, there are estimated to be seven billion people living on our resource deficient planet and if the current rate of development prevails, there will be nine billion by 2050 and some suggesting this figure may reach 10.6 billion. Our existence will solely depend on a surge of creativity and invention. In the near future the best gadgets will be defined by their futility; once more necessity will be the mother of invention.
In the UK, the government has taken major steps to prioritize and support the intellectual property development as the lifeblood of their economy. Recently, all party IP groups initiated an inquiry to realize the role of government in the promotion of IP and agreed on its importance, as it plays a vital role in boosting the economy. In addition, IP education has been introduced at the university and secondary level to ensure students, recognizing the value of their own intellectual property and the business they intend to enter. To serve this purpose, the Intellectual property awareness network (IPAN) has an education group which is working hard to ensure that the next generation of university students are introduced to the IP rights.
Whereas, a contrary scenario is found here In Pakistan. Despite the fact that the government had established an autonomous body in 2005, as Intellectual property rights organization to enforce IPR and monitor its violation, working under the administrative control of cabinet division but the control was recently handed over to commerce division. The recruitment of the finest professionals with a towering vision: ‘ To place Pakistan as a consistent and a responsible nation on the IP map of the world, by promoting and intellectual property rights’; remained a dream. Like in many other government organizations, the international stakeholders have also lost their faith and the journey on which it embarked with a sterling vision to eliminate the foregoing malpractices has been blurred. No doubt, Pakistani markets are flooded with duplicate products by unscrupulous manufacturers and even the malpractice of similar trademarks are in common; hampering the economy and breach of trust of Multinational companies.
Back in 2008, United states trade representative office (UTSR) issued a ‘’301 watch’’( section 301 of the 1984 Trade Act) report highlighting the IP rights problem around the world, including in Pakistan. The report had revealed an unsatisfactory level of protection with regard to IP rights in Pakistan and had placed the country in the special category, where it has been mostly in the past, as the same situation was experienced in 2006.The reports urged Pakistan government to take stern enforcement actions otherwise in case of an unfavorable finding, the country could face withdrawal of trade benefits with U.S or imposition of duties on trade goods. Such consistent malpractices in the presence of IPRO had tarnished Pakistan’s image internationally, which became the root cause of reluctance found in the international investors to infuse their capital within the country.
Nevertheless, the present government is showing their keen interest and maximizing their efforts in elevating Pakistan’s position from the USTR Watch list. As said, by Federal Commerce Minister Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan, on third consultative session of National Intellectual Property strategy, held in March, 2017 that a final draft has been prepared with regard to it along with consultation of all stakeholders, which will be floored in parliament by the end of the current year for its enactment. Addressing the session, he said the rights of inventors, exports, technological expertise, literature cannot be secured without adopting a proper mechanism. The efforts, were depicted by a recent USTR 2017 reports, which revealed out-of-cycle reviews for Pakistan, due to the improvement in recent ranking, as Pakistan was able to maintain positive momentum to reform its IP rights.

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