IP Scenario in Bangladesh & Its Economic Impact

Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs and symbols, names and images used in commerce. IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create.
By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.

Since 2000, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has been holding its World Intellectual Property (IP) Day every year on the 26th of April. The World IP Day is being celebrated over the globe. For this year the main theme of the day declared by WIPO is ‘Innovation-Improving Lives’. In response to the increasing importance of IP toward the economic development of the country, in 2012, Bangladesh Government declared 26 April as National IP day. Intellectual property Association of Bangladesh (IPAB) also observes the day in Bangladesh.

Intellectual Property Association of Bangladesh (IPAB) was established in 2005 as a non-profitable welfare association with a view to facilitating Intellectual Property rights (IPR) in the country. The major social welfare works of the association are raising public awareness against IPR violation (counterfeit products, copyrights infringement, smuggled products, duty evasion etc.), legal enforcement support and policy advocacy.

Last year IPAB had run a campaign with the slogan NOKOL RUDHBO, CHORACHALAN RUKHBO, RAJOSSHO BARABO, DESH GORBO against IP violation and to raise public awareness about the issue with a view to assisting IP stakeholders, consumers as well as the government.
It is a matter of great regret that IP infringement has been a common practice over the years. Even mass people do not know that IP infringement is an offence and they have no idea about its long run impact on the economy as well as society. A recent survey shows that over 12% of medicines, over 30% of agrochemical products, over 50% of cosmetics and over 70% of electronic appliances sold throughout the country are either fake or substandard or unauthorised. However, it may be a roughly estimated figure but we cannot deny the worse scenario of the duplicated, infringed or fake products in the market. Such malpractice is continuously posing a threat to the prosperity of the economy and tarnishing the brand image & profitability of several brands. Worst of all, customers & general public are in great risk of using such substandard products. It is widely assumed that our govt. is losing more than 7,000 crore BDT revenue every year due to IP violations. On the other hand, if we can protect intellectual property rights of 28 sectors then it will add more than BDT 50,000 Crore to our overall economy. IPAB is working to identify the exact loss, problems, and possibilities of different sectors.

Considering IP violation’s adverse impact on economy, recently IPAB has decided to adopt three crucial projects which are ‘Intellectual Property Digitalisation in Bangladesh (IPDB)’, ‘Project Made in Zinzira’ and ‘Project Jamdani’. Successful implementation of these projects will improve our lives as stated in WIPO’s IP day’s theme as well as will lead our country to achieve middle income country status and Sustainable Development Goals by 2021 and 2030 respectively.

Intellectual Property Digitalisation in Bangladesh (IPDB): We know that our present government is working for a digital Bangladesh by the year of 2021. So bringing together all probable sectors under the digitalisation process is one of the prime concerns of the government where people will have access to the information and to be benefited through using modern technology even from a remote area of the country. To aligned with government vision, this year the association has decided to focus on digitalisation process of intellectual property and its related services for a multidimensional use and benefits. Digitalisation process is essential for IP right protection. IP right protection will encourage the publication, distribution and disclosure of the creation to the public, rather than keeping it secret while at the same time encouraging commercial enterprises to select creative works for exploitation. Digitalization process will decrease the incident of malpractices like counterfeiting, illicit trading and copyright violation in the field of art, literature, music and manufactures also. IP registration is compulsory for every product, art and others creation which has an asset value from the concern departments (DPDT, COPYRIGHT DEPT.) of the Government so that they have a database of registered products and creations.

With the ever-increasing ease of information, protecting Intellectual Property through the use of modern digital technology should be priority for all. Observing such a scenario, IPAB has chosen its steps wisely, with deep understanding, long term vision, and calibrated ambition and designed a much sought service of ‘Intellectual Property Digitalisation in Bangladesh (IPDB). The programme aims at providing the following services.

Firstly, we will develop an anti-counterfeit technological hub under the project IPDB, for registering any intellectual property digitally making it retrievable for easy detection of fake products.

The primary reason behind the growth of counterfeit products is the consumer’s lack of awareness and lack of facilities to sort out the difference between fake and original products. IPDB tends to bridge that gap by creating a unique technological solution through which customers or consumers can check the originality of any branded product and report any infringed copy.

IPDB will work as an arbitrator & shall create a bridge between any organisation, the government, the consumers, and the legal authority to expedite such issues easily and create a pathway to economic prosperity faster, together and make the dream of SDG come true.

Under the project IPDB, Intellectual Property Association of Bangladesh (IPAB) will provide international standard technological support and solution for the mass people as well as will avail a mobile app for the consumers so that they can check the product or service whether it is original or infringed before purchasing it. This type of solution will be based on web, mobile apps and SMS to prevent infringement (counterfeiting) and smuggling of products including violation of copyrights. Establish a ‘Control Cell’ for monitoring infringement activities which will facilitate legal enforcement both for the manufacturer and consumers. IPDB will ensure strong authentication of products and supply chain security which will give confidence to the general consumers and other stakeholders.

Project Made in Zinzira: Objective of this project is to influence local manufacturers to create their own brand instead of copying other brands. Many of the local manufacturers are duplicating the popular local and multinational brands, even having capability of creating their own brand. We know that the concept of reverse engineering is not a rare case even in the developed countries. This project aims at educating them and bringing them under a formal framework. This will obviously contribute to our economy in the long run.

Project Jamdani: Jamdani is a traditional fabric of the country which has got the recognition as a first Geographical Indication (GI) product of Bangladesh. It is one of the most important sectors which represents our heritage and history of weaving. IPAB has also taken significant plans for the sake of this cultural heritage of humanity alive under the aforesaid project. IPAB thinks every year on IP day (26th April) wearing Jamdani sari would be a collectively best attempt from our women for this traditional craft and craft artists which would definitely create an extra value to our economic growth.

Small and medium enterprises will largely be benefited from this type of initiatives because a systematic digital package of solution and its proper implementation will work as safeguard for these industries against the duplication and infringement. Moreover, this initiative will facilitate further steps to achieve the vision of our digital Bangladesh and make significant contribution to the national economy of the country.

Finally, Intellectual Property Association of Bangladesh (IPAB) is a social body of dedicated individuals, professionals and corporate houses that have true passions and interest in the field of intellectual property rights. After all, we think it is high time to fight unitedly against the violations of IP rights and to promote intellectual property rights in Bangladesh. We are looking forward to see all of IP stakeholders, consumers, and govt are working together under a common platform for their own betterment, for the sake of revenue increase, for a sustainable development goal and subsequently for govt promised digital Bangladesh.

The writer is the Director General of Intellectual Property Association of Bangladesh (IPAB), Co-Chairman, IPR Standing Committee of FBCCI and Council Member of ICSB. The writer can be reached at: aziz@ipab.org.bd