May 1, 2009

Encouraging innovation

Pakistan has been able to improve its international image by adopting strict measures against piracy
By Madiha Mujahid
Individuals and businesses need an economic incentive to invest their valuable time and resources in developing and streamlining new ideas, products and creative works. They will only undertake any new venture if they are secure in the belief that they will be able to claim their inventions and their efforts as their own legally, and not have others trying to pilfer the economic gains arising from their efforts. It is upon this premise that the concept of intellectual property rights (IPRs) is based. Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind. Hence, IPRs are the legal property rights over creations of the mind.
The theory behind the promotion of IPRs is simple; if a vigilant and efficient system is in place to protect the interests of different entities, they will be more willing to undertake economic activity, which will in turn result in spikes in the national economy. Ultimately, this will also help in sustaining and strengthening this enhanced economic activity through the process of technology creation, technology transfer and creativity promotion. This is because in the present era of globalisation, if any country wishes to achieve and sustain economic development, it needs to facilitate a competitive domestic economy, which is based largely on a high-tech research and development base and resourceful knowledge input.
Individuals and businesses will only be willing to bear research and development costs if they are guaranteed a financial incentive in the form of being the sole beneficiaries of their undertakings through the provision of monopoly profits. This is achieved through IPRs by providing them with exclusive ownership rights to intellectual creations. Such a move is undertaken to stop others from exploiting the creator's efforts through checking the ability of others to copy the work or invention. This ensures that the creator is not deprived of reward and incentive. Some rights (such as patents) require registration, while other rights (such as copyrights) ensue automatically upon the work's creation.
However, despite the undisputable importance of these inalienable rights of the creators, the IP situation in Pakistan was dismal before 2005, with the country having gained international notoriety as being the hub of cheap optical discs, which were then exported to the rest of the world. This had the dual fallout of tarnishing the country's business image in the international market, as well as adversely impacting the consumer's interests in terms of competitive quality and price.
Keeping in mind the dire need for improving the legal rights available to the masses and to counter the bad image that was attached to it as being an IP violator, the Government of Pakistan took three related decisions on April 8, 2005. Firstly, it established the Intellectual Property Organisation of Pakistan (IPO-Pakistan) as the primary agency responsible for overseeing the state of IP in Pakistan and to take the required steps to address the issues arising out of this situation. The core objectives of the IPO-Pakistan are integrating IP management, improving service delivery, increasing public awareness and enhancing enforcement coordination. The basic purpose for setting up the organisation was to overcome the institutional shortcomings fettering the IP situation in the country.
Secondly, it included the Copyrights Ordinance 1962 in the FIA Act 1974 to eradicate piracy and provide a shelter to artistic and literary works. Thirdly, it enabled the Pakistan Customs to launch a crackdown against all trade activities related to the export and import of pirated optical discs. The last two moves were undertaken with a view to fortifying the IPRs enforcement in the country.
These moves have yielded positive results, both internally and externally. Internally, the piracy infrastructure has been dismantled and strict legal action has been taken against the perpetrators of these illegal activities. Consequently, the supply of pirated software and other illegal merchandise has dwindled. Externally too, the moves to enforce IPRs has garnered a positive response from other countries, such as the United States and United Kingdom, which had previously raised a massive hue and cry over the deteriorating IP situation in Pakistan.
Additionally, Pakistan is also a signatory to the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement under the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This has further propelled the upward momentum of the IPRs situation in the country, because under the rules and requirements of this agreement, Pakistan needed to streamline and upgrade its IP infrastructure. To achieve this end, the existing IP legislation has been improved and new laws have been promulgated.
Currently, the IPO-Pakistan is providing a number of IP-related services. These include trademarks, patents, registration of industrial designs, copyrights, geographical indication and plant breeder's rights. Trademarks refer to the distinctive signs or symbols used by an individual, business or other legal entity to distinguish and identify its products or services. In Pakistan, any person wishing to apply for a trademark has to file an application with the Trade Marks Registry, which works like a civil court and hears and decides cases under the jurisdiction of the Trade Marks Ordinance 2001 and Trade Mark Rules 2004.
A patent protects original inventions through the grant of exclusive rights for a period of 20 years. It gives the owner the right to prevent others from making, using, importing or selling the invention without permission, However, to successfully procure a patent in Pakistan, it is vital to meet a number of requirements -- the invention must be new, it must have involved an inventive step, it should be capable of being made or used in some kind of industry, and it should not be contrary to the law or morality.
Another way to protect IP is to provide registration for industrial designs to check their unauthorised copying and imitation, which helps to promote fair business practices and a wider range of choice for the consumers. Industrial designs deal with the physical product design of an article. According to the guidelines provided by the IPO-Pakistan, this may deal with either two-dimensional features, such as patterns or colour, or three-dimensional features, such as the shape or surface of an article.
However, exclusive ownership rights are not limited only to the trade sector. Artistic and literary creations also fall under the umbrella of IPRs in the form of copyrights. Copyright laws gives the creators sole rights over their creations, and authorises them to control the reproduction, sharing and displaying of their work. Copyrights come into effect the moment the work is created in a permanent form.
It includes literary, dramatic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, architectural and audiovisual works, as well as sound recordings, lyrics, motion pictures, etc. Copyrights are generally given for the duration of the creator's life plus an additional 50 years. In the case of a cinematographic work and/or photographs, copyrights exist until 50 years after the production of the work.
The issue of copyright infringement has always been a matter of grave concern for Pakistan, with pirated movies, software, music and books being freely available for sale within the country and also exported abroad. Finally, the government has woken up to the reality that such a move was not only hindering free and fair trade, but also inviting the wrath and censure of other countries. One of the most noteworthy developments in the protection of copyrights in Pakistan was the promulgation of the Copyright (Amendment) Act 1992.
The ordinance makes certain that firm penalties are put into place for offenders and that reimbursement is made available to the people whose rights have been infringed. The offences that can incur penalties include publishing collections or compilations of work that have been adapted, translated or modified in any manner without the say-so of the owner of the copyright. According to the ordinance, such works might include literary, artistic, dramatic, musical or cinematographic works.
An additional segment that falls under IP protection is the geographical indication of goods. This refers to that feature of a good that denotes the place or country of origin of that product. Normally such a move is undertaken so that the specified goods may benefit from the positive goodwill of that place, that is, the mention of the geographical origin of the good would naturally lead to the assumption that it is of the highest quality and distinction.
The agricultural sector is also given cover through the promulgation of the Plant Breeder Rights Ordinance 2000, which bestows exclusive rights to the developers of a specific new plant variety. This is to encourage the establishment of a viable seed industry that is crucial for the development of the country's agriculture sector. Therefore, the importance of ensuring that the creators of original and innovative products, designs, ideas and works are granted sole property rights over their invention is incontestable. This applies to all segments of commercial enterprise as well as other creative, artistic and literary works.
By securing their IPRs, individuals and businesses can benefit in a number of ways; for example, by protecting themselves against infringement by others, having the right to use and make their products, earning money by selling them, receiving royalties, etc. Conversely, a failure to do so would lead to the dwindling of the ingenious and pioneering industries that drive the national economy, because in an environment where one cannot benefit from the fruits of one's labour without being exploited, little incentive remains to continue with it.

No comments:

Post a Comment