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26 April, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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Lack of IPR stymies growth of innovations in Bangladesh

FAISAL MAHMUD, Dhaka
Lack of IPR stymies growth of innovations in Bangladesh

Intellectual property rights (IPR) law and its protection has never been Bangladesh’s forte and this has often come back to haunt its work around innovation. According to the Intellectual Property Association of Bangladesh (IPAB), the government is losing more than Tk. 7,000 crore in revenue every year for IPR not being followed in the country. IPAB director general Md Azizur Rahman told The Independent that abiding by the IPR could add at least Tk. 50,000 crore a year to the gross domestic product. “As pirates don't get registration, they don't pay any tax and registration fee. They also deny to pay the government. It's daylight robbery to deprive the government of revenue,” he added.

Lack of awareness among people is the main reason behind the low presence of IPR in Bangladesh, claimed Rahman. Bangladesh does not have a standalone IP policy or strategy. Also, IP protection has not been adequately integrated into the country's development strategies. “We also hear about very few cases in where an issue related to IPR is being settled by the court,” said Rahman.

In 2008, the local agent of the world-famous Samsonite Corporation in Bangladesh initiated a criminal proceeding under the penal provision against a trader who imported counterfeit ‘Samsonite’ products. The agent investigated markets through its own investigator and found the counterfeit products in ‘Shahbagh Biponi Bitan.’

Accordingly, the agent informed the matter to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). The RAB team found the allegation true. It conducted a raid on February 27, 2008, at the place and arrested three people with huge counterfeit products.

The local police lodged criminal action under the penal provision. The guilty persons found no other alternative but to surrender to the local Agent and accordingly disclaimed the entire seized items of 310 big suitcases in quantity in favour of the local agent. They also gave adequate compensations and promised not to trade with the counterfeit

products.

The matter was disposed of in February 2010 on the basis of an out-of-court settlement.

This was one of the rare incidents where the IPR has been ensured in Bangladesh by the court.

In the country's legal system, lack of proper enforcement has rendered the IPR law ineffective in practical terms.

Bangladesh inherited the British Copyright Act-1911. In Pakistan, it was amended in 1962. After independence, the Bangladesh Copyright Act-1974 was passed. It was further amended in 1978, and finally, Copyright Act-2000 was introduced in 2000. This was further amended in 2006.

The related laws include the Trade Marks Act 2009 and Trademarks Rules 1963, the Copyright Act 2000 and Copyright Rules 2006, the Patents and Designs Act 1911 and the Patent and Designs Rules 1933. The Patents and Design Acts 1911 lay down the conditions of, and the procedure for, granting a patent, known as 'letters patent', for an invention.

The Trade Mark Act 1963 governs the conditions and procedures for registration of a trade mark. A trade mark may be registered only in respect of particular goods or all the goods included in a particular class of goods.

The country's laws also make a provision for

effective means of enforcement of the interest of IP right holders. The Bangladesh Penal Code, 1860, identifies a number of activities as criminal offences to enforce the right of the IP holders.

The copyright office is administered by a registrar under the cultural affairs ministry.

An affected copyright owner can seek remedies both in the form of civil and criminal action against any infringement of copyrights in Bangladesh in keeping with the Copyright Act 2000 (amended in 2005).

The Constitution of Bangladesh, in its Articles 40 and 42, also guaranteed the citizen’s right to property. Within the general definition of property, any property produced through creative thoughts can also be included.

Talking with The Independent, Prof. Mohammad Towhidul Islam, who teaches at the law department of Dhaka University, said the problem is that these IP laws are in a very premature form. A vast area of IP rights cannot be protected with these, he added.

All these laws, especially the patent law, do not specifically describe the inventions that will be given protection. The implementation tools do not seem to stand in a satisfactory level, providing only poor protection to IP rights.

The registration of a trade mark is also not compulsory, said Towhidul Islam.

Besides, technological invention efforts in Bangladesh are negligible, he noted.  

There is a strong opinion that if a country has no meaningful technological activity, intellectual property rights there are irrelevant and will only pit economic burdens on the country, he said.

Because of these reasons, piracy in different sectors mostly go unabated. The lack of response is also evident in that the creative industry has been unable to establish a collective management organisation (CMO), which would have furthered the interest of creators in protecting their rights, he noted.

“So, people involved in piracy are taking the advantage of this lack of coordination in Bangladesh’s creative industry and are continuing to sell counterfeit products,” he added.

Azizur Rahman said it is hard to stop piracy because of the lack of awareness among creators. “Most creators don’t have a comprehensive idea about their rights. Their ignorance is exploited by corrupt people engaged in piracy.” He also said very few people understand that the pirated material they purchase is an act of crime and a punishable offence. “People find pirated materials cheaper than the original. Besides, such materials are sold in front of law enforcement agencies,” he added.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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