Illegal status of Intellectual Property Organisation

By: Karimullah Adeni

STRICTLY in legal terms, the Intellectual Property Organisation of Pakistan has been dead since March 31 last year. But that is legal status — the de jure situation.

The de facto story is that the IPO continues to function without any legal sanction and that is quite baffling for the entire business as well as legal community associated with the IP business.

The IPO was founded through an ordinance and it could not survive long without the parliamentary approval. The previous government had issued and reissued ordinances and no Act of parliament was ever prepared for their sustenance.

The IPO ordinance lapsed almost 10 months back and was amongst 35 other ordinances which were placed before the National Assembly under the directives of the Supreme Court. The said ordinance has not yet been passed.

The sad story, in fact, begins from the 1980s. Prior to that, there was an IP regime that was first-rate, and served the country quite well.

Pakistan inherited the trademarks laws from the British—the 1940 Trademarks Act, Patent Act 1911 and 1962 Copyright Act.

It was not bad at all, and Pakistanis understood it just fine.

In fact, the government, soon after the Independence, invited two renowned gentlemen from Kolkata and Mumbai to establish a trademark office in Karachi.

The two, Mr Ispahani and Mr Talib Ali Shah worked painstakingly to create the registry.

The way that office worked, gave a lot of confidence to our businesses and our trading partners.

The Peoples Republic of China had no trademarks office at that time, and one of these gentlemen, Mr Ali was invited to establish one there. We sure had a lot of respect due to our trade-mark practices.

When the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) suggested that the three IP offices should be merged into one, it made the three ministries fight among themselves.

The commerce ministry responsible for the trade-marks registry, the education ministry, in-charge of the copyright office, and the industries ministry responsible for the patent office were at daggers drawn against each other until the Establishment Division intervened and decided to take over the newly-established IP Organisation.

Since its creation, IPO-Pakistan has shown no positive results, despite its huge expenditure.

Today when the IPO has lost it legal existence, it is making illegal appointments and transfers without merit in the three statutory organisations of the Trademarks Registry, the Copyrights Office, and the Patents Office.

Hiring has been done in Islamabad on high salaries whereas the requirements are in Karachi where all these registries exist.

Even these appointments, without any legal authority, merit and criteria result in a big loss to the organisation. The situation is quite alarming.