Some 40 to 50 per cent of all medicines in Pakistan — including life-saving drugs — are counterfeit. Pakistan”s software piracy level is estimated to be in the vicinity of 90 per cent. More than 50 per cent of all cigarettes sold in Pakistan are an imitation of the real thing. Another study claims that nearly 65 per cent of goods being sold in Pakistan are counterfeit products.
What really is intellectual property? In the simplest of terms, intellectual properties are the creations of the mind; human mind. Inventions, artistic works, images, designs and symbols. Trademarks, copyrights, novels, poems, plays, films, musical works, drawings, paintings, photographs, architectural designs and television programmes.
The current World Economic Order has the United Nations at its centre with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) positioned in the UN”s inner orbit. The most recent addition to this orbit is the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO has 151 members and these member-states account for 95 per cent of global trade. In 1994, towards the end of the Uruguay Round, member-states negotiated the agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Conforming to the requirements of TRIPS — including a strong protection for all intellectual property rights — is a prerequisite for the membership of the WTO.
Pakistan joined the WTO in January 1995 and committed to abide by all the requirements of TRIPS — including a strong protection for all intellectual property rights — within an 11-year period. That 11-year period expired on January 1, 2006. Unfortunately, counterfeit medicines continue to be as common as they were 11 years ago. At least half of Pakistan”s population continues to take fake drugs resulting in prolonged illnesses and even death. Additionally, software piracy level is as high as it was 11 years ago and 50 per cent of cigarettes sold in Pakistan continue to be an imitation of the real thing.
There is a direct correlation between the level of intellectual property rights protection and foreign direct investment. This correlation is especially significant when foreign direct investment is sought into facilities that manufacture components or complete products and facilities that undertake research and development (R&D). To be certain, every creation is a creation whether it is tangible or intangible. Every creation must be protected. Every creation of the human mind has an origin. Every creation is the creator”s property. Every creator has the legal right to posses his creation. Every creator has the legal right to use his creation. Every creator has the legal right to benefit from his creation. Every creator has the legal right to profit from his creation. Every creation is a creation whether it has physical existence or not. And, every society must provide protection to every creator”s creation.
Societies that do not protect their innovators lose their innovators to societies that do provide intellectual property protection. At this juncture 151 member-states of the WTO represent 95 per cent of world trade. We can either be a part of that 95 per cent or we can be a part of the remaining five per cent. We can either be part of the World Economic Order or stand out in the wilderness — out in the cold.
Yes, fake drugs are killing Pakistanis. Yes, foreigners are not willing to transfer technology to us and, yes, foreign investors are not willing to invest into Pakistan. All because Pakistan has been failing to fulfil her commitments under TRIPS. I would like to raise just four questions: first, do we want to attract foreign direct investment? Second, do we want to upgrade Pakistan”s technology? Third, do we want to increase the wage level in Pakistan? Fourth, do we want to increase our competitiveness in the international market? In a nutshell: Pakistan would have to increase the degree of protection to intellectual property rights.
PS World Intellectual Property Day is observed annually on April 26.
The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: The News, 27/4/2008