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There are laws that provide a foundation for the protection of ‘ Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), but the laws are weak and their enforcement or implementation is even weaker.

Weak enforcement mechanisms, outdated regulations, and limited awareness about intellectual property rights (IPR) have contributed to creating an environment where IPR violations are prevalent.

One prime reason for lack of IPR enforcement by successive governments is their lack of understanding of the implications of non-compliance with IPR laws and the significance of its long-term benefits to the state economy.

The non-committal attitude of the government provides the beneficiaries of violations an almost free hand to ignore the IPR laws and have their way.

There could be a soft corner within the government on the argument that weak IPRs protect the poor in their country from the high prices associated with stronger patent regimes.

But, this argument is weak as the advantages of IPR compliance in terms of foreign technology transfer, research for providing the consumer with a quality and safe product and much needed flow of FDI in the country, far outweigh the perceived advantage of providing the consumer with a cheaper product - where quality is compromised and in some cases pose a health hazard, thereby, offering little value for money to the consumer.

The success of IPR enforcement lies in change of government mindset and its ownership of the cause.

Pakistan’s legal framework for intellectual property includes various laws and regulations aimed at protecting different forms of intellectual property, such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.

The key legislative enactments governing IPR in Pakistan include the Patents Ordinance 2000, the Copyright Ordinance 1962, the Trademarks Ordinance 2001, and the Geographical Indications (Registration and Protection) Act 2020.

Protecting intellectual property rights (IPR) is crucial for fostering innovation, creativity, and economic growth within a country. Non-compliance with intellectual property rights in Pakistan has led to several significant losses across various sectors of the economy.

Counterfeiting and piracy remain pervasive, impacting industries such as pharmaceuticals, entertainment, software, and consumer goods. These challenges undermine the interests of innovators, creators, and businesses, resulting in a range of negative consequences.

The failure to effectively protect intellectual property rights has led to substantial economic losses in Pakistan. Counterfeit products and infringed copyrights result in revenue losses for legitimate businesses and discourage investment in innovative and creative endeavors.

Moreover, the absence of strong IPR enforcement mechanisms can hinder economic growth and limit the country’s attractiveness to foreign investors.

In the pharmaceutical sector, the presence of counterfeit drugs poses grave risks to public health and safety. Non-compliant or substandard medicines can exacerbate health issues, contribute to the spread of drug-resistant diseases, and undermine public trust in the healthcare system. The absence of robust measures to combat counterfeit pharmaceuticals jeopardizes the well-being of the population.

Weak protection of intellectual property rights discourages innovation and creativity. When innovators and creators are not adequately rewarded or protected for their work, they may be less inclined to invest in research and development, artistic pursuits, or entrepreneurial endeavors. This can hinder the growth of industries and limit the generation of new technologies and creative works.

Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI), the collective body of top 200 plus foreign investors in Pakistan, gives a very high priority to effective IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) regime in the country which is critical for attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as well as it helps cultivate and promote research and innovation culture in the country.

OICCI since years has been harping on the significance of IPR and regularly organizes various activities to highlight the importance of protecting IPR and regularly conduct survey among OICCI members on the negative impacts of the IPR violations on their businesses and the loss to the government revenues.

The respondents of the Survey 2023 reported the low level of priority given to IPR regime by the Government authorities, other stakeholders including Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA) and that the timelines for the legal resolutions of IPR disputes have increased in Pakistan.

Overall, the survey respondents have reported roughly 20 per cent loss of sales revenue due to ineffective IPR regime, with serious implications on revenue to the exchequer.

The government functionaries must recognize that a 20 percent loss of sales revenue in these times of economic depression is unacceptable.

The issue of IPR protection is periodically escalated by the diplomats at higher government and global levels.

Non-compliance with international standards for intellectual property rights may strain trade relations with other countries. Failure to uphold IPR commitments can lead to trade disputes, sanctions, or limitations on market access for Pakistani products and services. These adverse consequences can impede the country’s participation in global trade and limit its competitiveness on the international stage.

The state of affairs of intellectual property rights in Pakistan remains complex, with persistent challenges stemming from non-compliance and inadequate enforcement.

Addressing these issues is critical to safeguarding the interests of innovators, upholding public health and safety, stimulating economic growth, and bolstering Pakistan’s standing in the global marketplace.

By implementing targeted initiatives and fostering a culture of IPR protection, Pakistan can mitigate the losses associated with non-compliance and create an environment conducive to innovation, creativity, and sustainable economic development.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Farhat Ali

The writer is a former President, Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry

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