Pakistan on infringement of intellectual property rights watchlist

Not suprisingly, the Daily Times reports that Pakistan has been left on the US Trade Union’s 2005 intellectual priority rights watchlist. According to the USTR’s ‘Special 301′ report Pakistan has made progress during the past year by proposing legislation to form the long awaited Pakistan Intellectual Property Organization (PIPRO), which is designed to centralize enforcement but has been disappointed by lack of legal action against counterfeiters:

An example of Pakistan’s ineffective IPR enforcement occurred in 2004, when four optical disc plants closed voluntarily, but reopened when it became apparent that the Government of Pakistan did not intend to impose any penalties for continued activities related to piracy.

Is protecting foreign granted IP in Pakistan a good thing? Should Pakistan limit itself to curbing piracy (both foreign and local) but stay away from the more restrictive measures (DMCA, software patents) that the US wants the world to adopt?

(* It must be noted that US IP losses stemming from China, Russia and Brazil outweight the rest of the world)

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6 Responses to “Pakistan on infringement of intellectual property rights watchlist”

  1. chowkidar says:

    On Intellectual PropertyThere is an interesting paper over at Khwarzimic Science Society titled The Top 10 Science and Technology Priorities for Pakistan (Adobe PDF Format). From the article:

    1. Establish Property Rights. From the standpoint of an inventor or a company investing in R&D, property rights are utmost. Sometimes intellectual property (IP) is seen as an effort to bow down to western regimes on the part of our government but we must all understand that even more than that, we need it for our own sake. Maybe we want to start from a very protectionist regime – one that only honours domestic innovation but not foreign innovation (e.g. Microsoft patents), but it seems that we are very unlikely to go much further in terms of innovation and domestic production without an established respect for property rights. Without guaranteeing these rights, we would always remain a country that is a user, not a producer of technology and no company or individual would invest in R&D because there is little hope for reaping any reward from such a creative discourse. Would you create software or a gadget for Pakistan’s domestic market, when the next day a replica appears on the shop shelves and you cannot resort to any litigation against such an act of blatant piracy?

  2. haq says:

    TRIPSshibil gives some more details:

    Pakistan is also in violation of its obligations under the TRIPS agreement. Our compliance deadline was extended from Jan 1/03 to Jan 1/05. As of then we’ve been in a position to have economic sanctions imposed on us. Also, Pakistan has fairly decent IP laws, the question really is enforcement.

  3. halai says:

    also…More on how we are violating TRIPS here.

    and more on the TRIPS agreement.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Contextualizing Intellectual PropertyUndoubtedly, there needs to be a properly thought out policy and legislation relating to intellectual property (IP) in Pakistan and the rest of the world. In fact, it needs to be re-thought in alignment with larger public policy objectives in most jurisdictions, as is slowly being done (largely through the courts) within the EU and to a lesser extent in Canada. However, the fall out of a lack of proper IP regulation has been grossly over-stated inasmuch as all ill economic effects are shown to be natural or causal. In Pakistan, the devil of the harm of the lack of IP protection is in the details. The problem legally is one of enforcement, and generally other extraneous factors such as affordability, that are generally and wrongly attributed to the lack of IP regulation by an overzealous IP lobby.

    First, the link between innovation and IP needs to be further examined. A large number, if not most, of innovative ideas come through the provision of research grants provided to universities etc. Other innovations result through government spending. Granted however, that a profit motive often builds upon available innovation, with a consumerist motif. Innovators will innovate absent a profit motive, whereas consumerist investment may require profit and thus, IP protection. The difference is whether one is coming up with something of mass application and benefit like the internet, or the latest acne medication. This is an important distinction in the moral case for IP, that is, what sort of ‘innovation’ it seeks to protect.

    Lack of IP regulation is not the primary reason for inadequate foreign investment in Pakistan. Foreign investment in China is skyrocketing despite its much worse piracy record. The point is providing a holistically stable investment environment of which IP regulation is, I suggest, a small part.

    Further, there some adequately conceived (though in need of some updating) IP regulation in Pakistan already that can definitely render favourable results through litigation. The main complaint is, or should be, red tapism and lack of enforcement through regulatory government offices.

    Though the case is now being made for ‘developing’ countries like Pakistan to include international IP protection in their development infrastructure, this is historically unprecedented. The real questions are how a ‘developing’ nation like Pakistan can strike a balance between free trade and protecting local industry, between encouraging domestic innovation and respecting international patents, and most importantly, between affordability and accessibility on the one hand and a myriad of ‘user fees’ (licenses, royalties etc) on the other.

    The generic AIDS drugs debate in Africa contextualized the dangers of stringent IP regulation there. In Pakistan, we might be headed for a comparable chastening. We were meant to start strict enforcement of multilateral ‘international’ IP standards under the TRIPS Agreement under the WTO as of January 1, 2003. This was delayed to January 1, 2005. Having moved beyond this deadline, we face stiff economic sanctions and penalties should we fall out of favour in the current geo-political environment. How should the Pakistani government respond? Should local businesses or the infant IT industry be allowed to go under when essential software or other products become unfeasibly expensive? If not, is there an example to follow in Africa’s generic drugs case? The only certainty is that the above questions are becoming more pertinent, and we need contextualized and homegrown answers rather than aping the largely exaggerated or unsubstantiated arguments of an alien IP lobby.

  5. Anonymous says:

    piracy figuresali halai points out a great BBC article about the piracy business in Pakistan:

    • Over 13m pirate copies exported a month
    • About 230m replica discs made every year
    • Domestic piracy market worth $27m a year
    • Annual cost to copyright holders - at least $2.7bn

    A teaser quote from the article:

    “Western diplomats buy these pirated DVDs. Many of them have become my personal friends in the process”

  6. Anonymous says:

    SkepticalRe: Annual cost to copyright holders - at least $2.7bn

    I’m always skeptical about such figures. How is this cost arrived at? Absent any piracy, would every purchaser of a pirate copy buy an original copy instead? Is every purchase of a pirate copy a lost sale to the copyright holder? How has it really impacted the profit margins of these industries?