IP: Need not a Desire


Dr Ali Hamza

Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property that includes intangible creations; product, art work, piece of literature, music, brand, logo, tagline etc. of the human mind.IP is a critical concept that underpins innovation, creativity, and economic growth in today’s knowledge-based society. It also fosters an environment where IP is protected to incentivizing creativity.

Established in 1967 the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a UN agency is responsible for promoting and protecting IP rights worldwide. WIPO administers a range of international treaties and agreements that establish standardized frameworks for the protection of various forms of IP, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, industrial designs, and geographical indications.

According to WIPO IP statistic report 2022, around 18 million trademarks, 6.8 million patents and utility models, 1.5 million copyright, and 63 thousand geographical indications were filed globally in 2021, reflecting a continuous surge in innovation-driven efforts facilitated by WIPO in last 5.6 decades.

Among 193 member countries, Pakistan joined WIPO in 1977 and IPO Pakistan is WIPO’s representing body in the country. A glance over WIPO’s latest report of 2022 discloses that among offices of middle-income countries Pakistan is having 26.5% increase in filing trademark application which is the highest in the given lot. It sounds promising but there are other numbers as well. For instance, Pakistan filed 993 patent applications that are close to African countries like Algeria. Whereas Indonesia, Turkey, Mexico, Russia, India, republic of Korea, USA and China have put up, 8476, 8800, 16161, 30977, 61573, 237000, 591000, and 1.5 million applications respectively in 2021 just for the patents. Considering the total amount of patent application filed globally in 2021; Pakistan’s share is 0.02%.

Since the adoption of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement) in 1994, which contains a section on geographical indications, this form of intellectual property (IP) has attracted increasing attention from policymakers and trade negotiators, as well as producers.GI is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. To put it commercially; GI provides royalty on your cultural or natural products.  This includes flora, fauna, minerals and culturally produced products: handicrafts etc. of a particular geographical land. Pakistan received the GI tag for its Basmati rice under its GI Act 2020. In WIPO’s 2022 report Pakistan applied for 1 GI, whereas almost in the same geography India has applied for 417 and Iran 584. Though the relevant ministry in Pakistan approved 10 products for registration as GI in 2021, include Chaunsa and Sindhri mangoes, Kinnow, Hunza Ruby, Swat Emerald, Kashmiri Tourmalin, Skardu Topaz and Aquamarine, Peridot Stone and Peridot Valley. ButPakistan has Peshawri Chappal (shoe design traced back to Pakhtoon culture), Ajrak (Sindhi traditional textile), Sajji (Baloch cuisine), Nachi goat (dancing goat of Punjab), Blue Poetry of Multan etc. that can be tagged under GI, but not yetpursued. Why not? On the other side of the border, as of 2023, there are over 400 products from India that have been awarded GI tags, ranging from agricultural to traditional food stuff, and handicraft to natural products i.e. Nashik Grapes(Agri product), Solapur Chaddar(type of shawl), Baluchari Saree(female dress),  Hyderabadi Haleem(cuisine)etc.

Application of IP offers economic growth and Market competitiveness. European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) revealed that industries reliant on IP-intensive assets accounted for approximately 45% of the European Union’s GDP and 63 million jobs in 2019. Moreover in 2019, royalties and licensing fees related to intellectual property generated over $1 trillion globally, showcasing the economic value generated through IP-enabled partnerships.

A study of US Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Center reveals that startups that secure patents are more likely to receive venture capital funding, with patent-owning startups receiving 53% more funding on average. Thus, IP stands as a cornerstone of modern economies, fostering innovation, creativity, and economic growth.Considering the context, IP should be taken as need not a desire, and for that few pragmatic actions need attention.

Firstly, this all is about investing for the long term. The IPO Pakistan should draft a new IPO National Strategy to remain competitive in the future. Secondly; The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) assists applicants in seeking patent protection internationally for their inventions. By filing one international patent application under the PCT, applicants can simultaneously seek protection for an invention in a large number of countries; 157 countries as of 2023 are contracting parties.Pakistan is not a Contracting Party to PCT. Therefore, IPO Pakistan must pursue it. Thirdly, launch a robust extension program to reach out to academia and industry, train them on IP lines, encourage them to participate, and show them real time benefits. Fourthly, there is no recommendation that is not under the mandate of IPO Pakistan, they just need to pull their socks.

The new chairman of IPO Pakistan Mr. Farukh Amil; a career diplomat, looks very energetic ad committed. He has already started working on extension program. Industry and especially academic heads must extend their cooperation to IPO and Prof Dr Nasim Ahmed; Vice Chancellor UVAS, Lahore has already realized the fact and opened its doors to IPO. This spirit is needed from others too.