Bangladesh urgently needs to assess the possible implications of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to overcome the challenges during the post-LDC graduation, eminent economist Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya has said.
He said the IPR issues should be actively embedded in the country's LDC transition strategy, looking beyond the pharmaceutical waiver facility under the TRIPS Agreement of the World Trade Organisation.
Now only market access for exports and pharmaceutical waiver-related issues are getting overwhelming focus in the country's LDC graduation discourse, the distinguished fellow of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) said in an interview with UNB on Wednesday.
Bhattacharya said in the post-graduation phase Bangladesh will have to maintain standards providing protection to patents, copyright, industrial designs and undisclosed information, among others. The country will have to provide remedies against such infringements, he said
But the IPR-related concerns remain the most under-stated in the discussion despite the knowledge that economy will be the future of the country and also the world, he added.
Available IPR expertise in Bangladesh is possibly least mobilised in the context of articulating smooth LDC transition strategy, he said pointing to the huge challenge in case of losing duty-free quota-free market access and pharmaceutical waiver during its post-graduation era after 2026.
"Though important IP-related initiatives are seen in both the public and private sectors of the country, these progressive efforts are yet to be connected to LDC graduation fallouts," said Dr Debapriya, a former Bangladesh Ambassador to WTO.
He said no IPR issue beyond the pharmaceutical waiver facility under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) has attracted attention in Bangladesh. "Even here, we pursue a benign defensive strategy asking for more transition time, not a constructively operative strategy to prepare the country for the post-transitional phase with necessary ISMs."
Alongside the assessment of IP implications, Bangladesh should identify IP issues for availing international support measures (ISMs) for its graduation from the group of least developed countries (LDCs), he said.
"It is essential to embed IP dimensions in transitional strategy and form a dedicated team under the national task force to find out the ways to address the IP-related challenges," said the economist.
Bangladesh also needs to identify IP stakeholders clearly and organise them to address the IP concerns, said the public policy analyst.
While the National Task Force responsible for designing the country's graduation strategy has a sub-committee on IP, it is important to have a more open and wide-ranging discussion with stakeholders in this regard. The proposed IP related need assessment would also benefit from such an inclusive approach.
About the country's IP progress, Dr Debapriya mentioned that National Innovation and Intellectual Property Policy 2018 was framed, the copyright law was updated to bring it in line with the digital environment and IP institutions like Bangladesh IP Forum were established.
Besides, a discussion started to get the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) and Madrid System membership under the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for international protection of trademark. There is a growing interest regarding IP issues amongst IT start-ups and tech entrepreneurs; he went on.
However, Bangladesh needs to create an integrated IP governance system in the country by reviewing the mandates of the copyright office and trademark office as well as taking on board new issues like intangible products and IT-based products, he suggested.
Dr Debapriya, a member of the United Nations Committee for Development Policy (UN CDP), said IP intensive goods and services are now an important component of exports and imports in the world. This aspect has to be kept in mind as we articulate our LDC transition strategy.
He said intangible capital like technology, hardware and software and branding contributes twice as much as tangible capital to the total value of manufactured goods, while average workers in an IP-intensive industry can earn some 46 per cent more than counterparts in a non-IP industry, he said adding that the charges for the use of IP were total US$ 409 billion across the world in 2019.
All the recently concluded bilateral and regional trade agreements across the world had IP-related clauses in them. The recently concluded Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) includes a chapter on intellectual property rights-related issues. As Bangladesh prepares to ink a number of bilateral free trade agreements, the country has to be prepared on how to go about IP protection issues in these prospective treaties.