Intellectual Property Right

Letters to the Editor: Karimullah Adeni
Published on: March 11, 2000 - DAWN, KARACHI

ALL of a sudden we are living in a new intellectual property world – a world full of warnings and raids. This has taken the business sector by surprise. For them, it is very strange that the government is giving so much importance to the issues like copyright protection when there are other far more important problems to address.

Not that intellectual property right protection is an unimportant matter, but the very fact that the government machinery is disregarding even fundamental rights of the people to protect IP rights of foreigners is surely a matter of concern for an average Pakistani.

Recently a representative of a multinational software corporation has issued threatening letter to everybody in the industry. The law firm representing the US giant, Microsoft, has issued legal notices to a large number of companies in Pakistan asking them for the license numbers of the Microsoft products that they may have been using. But the law firm in question cannot exactly claim that the companies it has warned against any unlicensed use of Microsoft products are actually using such software. It is all its assumption that the addressees are infringing Microsoft’s IP rights.

Usually, the practice among the legal community is that we do not issue a legal notice unless we have solid evidence against the other party that they are violating our client’s rights. Basing our threats on assumptions is rude and unprofessional, to say the least. No wonder, the entire industry is feeling harassed by this action of the mentioned law firm.

And now the powers that be are trying to establish the new IP order. The raid on Rainbow Centre is a clear evidence of how hotchpotch the new approach is. Instead of preparing grounds for an action, the authorities opted to favor one party on the assumption that all the people involved in that market are pirates and thieves. The result is that the complainant is in no position to press charges.

The Copyright Act of 1962, as amended in 1992, has a clause that these zealots are using. It states: “Any police officer, not below the rant of sub-inspector, shall, if he is satisfied that an offence under Chapter XIV in respect of infringement of Copyright in any work has been, is being, or is likely to be committed, seize without warranty all copies of the work and all plates and recording equipment used for the purpose of making infringed copies of the work, whether found, and all copies, plates and recording equipment so seized shall as soon as practicable, be produced before a magistrate.”

What everybody is pointing out is that the law gives the authorities the power to take action without even bothering to go for a warrant. What nobody is bothered about is the fact that even this clause, defective as it may be, wants the police officer concerned to be “satisfied that an offence” has been, is being, or likely to be committed before he take any step. The fact that a mere complain should not be enough to satisfy a police official is often disregarded.

Can the law enforcement agencies be allowed to barge into “any household or office without any warrants and start threatening innocent people?” We all know what purpose such raid serve. None besides creating a profitable opportunity for those who are only too willing to make good of any such instance.

Fundamental rights should always be above any commercial interests.