Pakistan least prepared for TRIPS

By: Karimullah Adeni

Karachi: Pakistan is not prepared to take on the challenges that the economy would have to face as the WTO agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) comes into effect from January 2005.

Signatories to this very vital agreement were required to make new laws and regulations in conformity with the minimum benchmark set out by the World International Property Organization (WIPO) to ensure that the culture of infringement and counterfeiting, the main hurdle especially for developing countries in the way of attracting investment, be brought to an end. The intellectual property includes trademarks, service marks, patents and copyrights.

"Since 1995 when Pakistan signed the TRIPS agreement, no serious attention has been paid to create awareness amongst business or masses about its positive or negative impact on our economy," said Attorney at Law Karimullah Adeni.

He said the government did little to educate people and local businessmen in particular, an idea of this can be had from the very fact that on the Intellectual Property Day, which is observed all over world on April 26, no seminar, walk or lecture was arranged by the authorities concerned to mark the day.

He said Pakistan had 10 years to prepare its economy and itself to deal with any negative impact that it expects as a result of implementing this treaty. The government did it but half-heartedly and met the major requirement of TRIPS i.e. new rules for trademarks, patent and copyrights.

Mr Adeni says the TRIPS is matter of less than two weeks and the Patent Office and Trade Mark Registry are neither properly staffed nor trained to cater to the workload after January 1, 2005, hence they will remain under immense pressure.

The huge pile of pending cases with these departments was the main cause of delay in the formation of Pakistan Intellectual Property Rights Organization (PIPRO), which would takeover the charge of intellectual property affairs.

He says that it is a highly technical area and for understanding the impact of WTO agreement on patent rights, trademark, copyright, etc., on the economy, one has to see the agreement itself, which is of different nature and subjects.

"So far as our economy is concerned the main stakeholders are the local pharmaceutical companies. This industry is prepared for the challenges that may arise," he hoped.

When asked about prospects for this sector, he said currently there were 20 to 30 firms in trademarks and patent business and more were coming in due to rising awareness, hence good chances for growth in this sector.

Giving an example of negative impact, he said the pirated computer software and foreign books, which are presently available at throwaway prices and a cheap source for a huge majority of low-income and poor students, would no longer available.

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) would start raiding shops, companies and industries to check the piracy. The companies would have to purchase licensed software, he said.

Deputy Registrar, Trade Mark Registry, Khalid Hidyat, told: "The agreement on TRIPS was not a monster but a boon for us which would promote fairer and transparent trade. No investor will come here unless we give him the assurance of protection of his intellectual property, no matter how many MoUs or commitments he has made. We have to abide by rules and take practical steps to check the infringement and counterfeiting, which will ensure benefits in the long run."

Mr Hidyat says copyright gives protection to the expression but not to the idea, so it does not block the way of inventing new products, innovations, etc.

"We have already made new patent, trademark, copyright rules in compliance with the TRIPS agreement and the draft for the establishment of PIPRO has already been finalized and is awaiting parliament's approval, he said.

But when asked without computerization and use of latest technology how the Trade Mark Registry handles bulk of data and maintains huge records, he said the process of computerization and data software application was under way with the financial assistance of WIPO.