Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are one of the keys to attracting foreign investment, but they are not practiced properly in Bangladesh, experts have said.
Bangladesh has relevant IPR laws and policies but faces several challenges in ensuring appropriate protection of the rights, they told a webinar on IPR organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh (AmCham) on Tuesday.
"IPR can bolster our chances of attracting more foreign investments, encouraging and fostering innovations as well as generating new employment opportunities that will help us attain GDP growth and further advancement of our economy," said AmCham President Syed Ershad Ahmed who chaired the programme.
He said the challenges are inevitable, but "we need to act and work together towards a common goal for creating an effective and stronger IPR regime in Bangladesh."
The overall importance of IPR protection, encouraging innovation and technology transfer, and the level of awareness of stakeholders need to be strengthened, he added.
Showkat Ali Sarkar, country manager of Huntsman Bangladesh Pte, said companies following IPR are facing challenges in competing in the market as many others are importing fake products.
The speakers said strong and effective IPR protection is a particularly powerful incentive for firms to invest in generating new technology in sectors where the return on technological investment is very long-term, involves high risks, and is easy to copy.
They said IP rights provide a further impetus to innovation for an inventor who seeks time-limited protection to publish the knowledge embodied in a product or process.
Moreover, IP rights are essential to achieve market diversification and shift towards higher value-added products and services, they further said.
A well-balanced IPR system that takes into account a wider public interest is conducive to Bangladesh's current and future socioeconomic development, particularly in fast-developing sectors, such as textile and clothing, telecommunication, shipbuilding, leather, pharmaceuticals, construction, transportation, etc., they added.
Shilpi Jha, senior commercial specialist and IP policy advisor of South Asia at the US Patent and Trademark Office, emphasised the IPR policy for universities and publicly-funded research laboratories as the forefront of knowledge creation and innovation.
Jeff Dirks, commercial officer at the US embassy in Dhaka, said the enforcement agencies should have IPR protection as a top priority.
There have been gaps in this matter in Bangladesh, he said.
The speakers suggested forming an inter-ministerial committee on the enforcement of IPR laws, a copyright enforcement advisory council (CEAC), and an intellectual property appellate board (IPAB).
They also stressed the need for a centrally managed national intellectual property enforcement taskforce.
Among others, Chargé d' Affaires at the US embassy in Dhaka JoAnne Wagner, Registrar at the Department of Patents, Designs and Trademarks Md Abdus Sattar, IP Counsellor for South Asia at the US Patent and Trademark Office John Cabeca, and Managing Director of International Distribution Company Bangladesh Ashraf Bin Taj spoke at the event.
Barrister ABM Hamidul Mishbah presented the keynote while AmCham Vice-President Syed Mohammad Kamal moderated the discussion.