Karachi business leaders are advocating for a strong intellectual property rights (IPR) system in Pakistan, supported by technology, to harness the country’s resources and expand its wealth.

President of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Mohammed Tariq Yousuf, welcomed Chairman of the Intellectual Property Organisation (IPO), Farrukh Amil, stating that due to global integration, a competitive environment and technological advancements, the role of the IPO is critical for the country’s economic development but there is a need to ensure strict enforcement of IPR laws at the grass root levels. “A strong foundation for a vibrant IP system is needed to increase national wealth,” he said.

The IPO chairman expressed his commitment to simplifying IP procedures through digitalisation under the IPO’s long-term strategy. He emphasised the need to simplify cumbersome IP procedures to allow individuals and companies to register their products, services, and other exclusive material using their smartphones, as is done in developed countries worldwide.

According to Arif Habib Commodities CEO Ahsan Mehanti, “IPR rules are less effective in Pakistan due to lax punishments and incompetent law enforcement agencies.” He added that implementing stronger IPR laws will benefit small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and multinational enterprises (MNEs) by attracting talent and promoting a long-term business mindset. Mehanti also noted that well-known brands like Pepsi and Coke and prescription medications have been violated in the past, but implementing IPR rules will reduce pressure from citizens and civil rights organisations and increase foreign direct investment (FDI).

Lasbela Chamber of Commerce and Industry EFP President, Ismail Suttar suggested that Pakistan learn from other countries’ IPR systems, particularly South Korea, which excels in all spheres of society. He cited a delegation’s visit to South Korea 19 years ago to learn about the IPO’s wonderful system, which he believes will benefit Pakistan.

Recently, President of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, demanded that the government establish a world-class and central intellectual property house to better protect the intellectual property rights (IPRs) of the R&D fraternity, manufacturers, and exporters. He also highlighted the importance of Trade-related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to penetrate deeper into the EU, UK, Australian, Japanese, South Korean, and North American export markets.

The IPO chairman acknowledged that intellectual property is a neglected subject in Pakistan as many people are unaware of the significance of trademarks, copyrights, and patents. He believes that introducing an IP-related curriculum in schools is necessary, as is done in many other countries. Currently, only Pakistani university students who choose to pursue specialised courses or degrees and the legal fraternity are aware of the importance of intellectual property, while the general public remains unaware.

He further emphasised the critical need for strict enforcement of IPR laws, including heavier fines and stricter punishments to protect producers’ interests and save the public from counterfeit products. He noted that even fake medicines and foodstuff are widely produced, putting the lives of poor citizens at risk. Heavier fines and dire consequences for breaking the law will act as a huge deterrent to counterfeiting.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2023.

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