Country Focus: Pakistan - Towards an Integrated Management of Intellectual Property
Punjab University College of Art and Design (Photo Imram)
Pakistan has made significant achievements in updating its intellectual property (IP) system in recent years. However, policymakers in this South Asian country of 161 million view them as only first steps, necessary but not sufficient. They have recently turned their focus to a sweeping, institutional approach to better centralize and modernize their IP system, with an eye toward more fully integrating it into the country’s development objectives and policy planning.
In recent years the country carried out a wide ranging review and revision of its IP laws to better align them with international instruments. While this effort was successful, those involved in the work came to realize that it was adversely affected by the fragmented nature of the institutions dealing with IP in Pakistan. Until recently, three different IP offices (Trademarks, Patent Office, Copyright Office) existed; these offices came under three different ministries (Ministries of Commerce, Industries, and Education, respectively). In addition, another government agency was responsible for initiating and coordinating IP activities with external partners.
This institutional arrangement led to a less than optimal functioning of the IP system. First, it made it difficult for the government to take an integrated, strategic view of IP. As management of IP issues was spread over several offices and ministries, proper consideration could not be given to developing an effective means to promote a broad use of IP tools to enhance trade and investment, promote technology development, foster cultural industries or leverage IP to achieve crucial social objectives, such as in the areas of health and education.
Second, the lack of an “IP hub” in the government resulted in difficulties in analyzing issues which cut across various IP disciplines, such as the protection of software, traditional medicines and folklore. These and other issues often require assessment in a broader IP context rather than from a specific patent, trademark or copyright perspective. A more “holistic” approach was clearly necessary, but this was not easily carried out by a collection of offices dealing exclusively in their own areas of IP. Third, even the traditional services to be provided by the three IP Offices – receiving applications and granting rights – were negatively affected. As these offices were not integrated into overall development planning – and therefore not seen to be contributing directly to socio-economic goals – their activities were perceived to be of an esoteric and technical nature. As a result, they had difficulties in securing the necessary means to upgrade their operations. Rights holders were not fully satisfied, and potential users of IP had little incentive to actually use the system.
To overcome these shortcomings, Pakistan earlier this year took the bold decision to establish a unified IP Organization called the “Intellectual Property Organization-Pakistan (IPO-P).” The new organization has an autonomous status (allowing it to determine its own financial and personnel regulations), reports directly to the Cabinet, and has the mandate to deal with all IP matters. The three existing IP Offices are now part of this unified Organization. A Policy Board, comprising representatives from the private and public sectors, has also been set up. It is mandated to meet at least twice a year and to provide guidance to IPO-P on policy issues.
The positive effects of the establishment of IPO-P are already evident. IP issues have greater visibility, and figure higher on the policymakers’ agenda. Additional financial resources have been secured for the operation of the IP system. Equally important, the revenues generated by the IP Offices are now retained by them in their entirety. This means that more highly-qualified personnel may now be recruited by the IP Offices because of upward revision of pay scales.
New initiatives are being taken at the policy level as well. An exercise is under way to formulate a comprehensive national IP strategy. This would identify measures required for effective utilization of the IP system in achieving developmental goals, including recommendations for policies to promote innovation, to strengthen intellectual asset development and management, to support protection and management of research results and to stimulate cultural industries.
WIPO is actively cooperating with IPO-P in a number of these areas. A technical assistance project, largely financed by the European Union, has been undertaken to strengthen IPO-P’s operations. The project includes the following activities:
- Preparation of an advisory report on “Integrated Management of IP in Pakistan,” with a focus on the organizational aspects of managing IP.
- A Roundtable, held in August, on challenges and best practices pertaining to the management of “unified” IP Offices. Participants to the Roundtable included senior officials of selected, “unified” IP Offices as well as a broad range of users of the IP system from within the country.
- Preparation of a working paper on a National IP Strategy, which will serve as an input to IPO-P’s exercise in formulating such a strategy.
- Formulation of a comprehensive automation plan for IPO-P and its constituent IP Offices. The plan offers recommendations for integrating the automation systems of the hitherto separate offices and building common information technology platforms for further services. In line with the plan, some automation equipment is also being provided.
- Technical advice in certain priority areas, including measures to prepare for accession to the Madrid system and the establishment of a viable system for the protection of geographical indications.
A notable feature of this project is that it is being implemented in close cooperation with the European Commission and a United Nations agency, the International Trade Center. This is in keeping with WIPO’s goal of establishing partnerships among different developmental agencies in order to pool resources, work together and reap greater benefits. The ultimate objective of WIPO, and all project partners, is to ensure that Pakistan’s endeavors to strengthen its IP system meet with continuing success.
Area: 796,095 km2
Population: 161.1 million
Official language: Urdu (English widely spoken)
Main industries: construction materials, food processing, paper products, pharmaceuticals, textiles and apparel
Strategically situated between Afghanistan, China, India and Iran, Pakistan follows the Indus River, stretching from the Himalayas down to the Arabian Sea. The major cities are Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi, which served as Pakistan first capital while Islamabad was being built.
The state of Pakistan, a part of British India until 1947, originally had two parts: east (became Bangladesh in 1971) and west. The country experienced decades of internal political disputes, resulting in low levels of foreign investment. However, foreign assistance and renewed access to global markets since 2001 have generated solid macroeconomic recovery over the last three years. GDP growth, spurred by double-digit gains in industrial production over the past year, has lead to less dependence on agriculture.
Sources: The United Nations, www.infopak.gov.pk, www.nationsonline.org