IP Mechanism

The arena of intellectual property laws is an intriguing one, especially in Pakistan. I say intriguing because on the surface, the matters of trademark registration and protection appear straightforward, yet when we delve into the rather intricate process, we realise that numerous complexities lay beneath the surface.

As with most laws and regulations in Pakistan, intellectual property regulations, too, are very eloquently drafted, laying out procedures and penalties. But the harsh reality is that those procedures are rarely adhered to, and, even if they are, the delays within the processes are a gargantuan cause for concern.

The clients rely heavily on the lawyers for results, and that, too, speedy results; but, with a system that is slow and meandering, the lawyer unfortunately loses credibility in front of the client.

I am by occupation a barrister and have taught law at numerous universities. I have, however, recently entered the realm of intellectual property laws in Pakistan, and I have to say I have been appalled at what I have witnessed.

There are hundreds of oppositions every month that are pending. Sadly, it has been years since this lapse. The consequence of these delays is that both local and foreign clients form a negative impression of the Intellectual Property Organisation (IPO) system in Pakistan. For this reason, I felt it pertinent to highlight some of the shortcomings within the present intellectual property structure, and to propose certain recommendations.

Intellectual property offices in Pakistan are, to put it bluntly, in a state of disarray. They are greatly understaffed and lack state-of-the-art equipment and technology. Furthermore, as mentioned previously, opposition cases have been pending since decades, and the tragedy is that more than half of these cases are based on incorrect information that has not been updated in the gazettes which then culminate into further oppositions which unnecessarily waste time and resources. With the increase in intellectual property applications both locally and internationally, the shortage of staff at intellectual property offices poses a serious issue.

Moreover, the trademarks registry requires more transparency and accountability; the purity of the registry has by and large collapsed. A perusal of any recent Trademarks Journal reveals that the majority of trademarks being filed in Pakistan are either filed directly by the applicant or through unknown practitioners having little or no expertise in intellectual property laws. The registry is aware of this. Such practitioners ought to be investigated and, if necessary, barred from private practice.

In addition, applications are not properly vetted and scrutinised thoroughly, thus resulting in unnecessary oppositions which puts extra burden on registered owners. The filing, acceptance, examination and publication process is immensely slow and obsolete, and requires serious overhauling.

Another massive cause for concern is the predicament of the nature of disposal of trademark oppositions where ironclad cases have been rejected with a mere short order. There is hardly any justification or basis for such orders and there is no justification as to why some cases are being heard and decided while others have been pending for considerably longer periods of time.

The trademarks registry should uphold a system of transparency and accountability, and should improve its filing, acceptance, examination and publication processes. It should speed up the pending oppositions, provide comprehensive justifications, and enhance technology and equipment.

The trademark registry should also improve the lacuna in the shortage of staff and embellish the skills and knowledge of its staff in order for them to speedily and diligently deal with the applications.

Pakistan’s position in the international market means trade has increased, and, as a consequence, counterfeit products are posing more of a risk than before.

In the light of this, it is of paramount significance for our intellectual property registration and protection services to provide remedy to inadequacies and shortcomings in order to once again provide credibility to both local and international clients and ultimately to ease the burden and indefatigable efforts of the intellectual property lawyers, who work tirelessly towards assisting their clients and to genuinely change the system for the best.

SANA PIRZADA

KARACHI

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