Intellectual property (IP) encompasses the human intellect's intangible creations, which is usually expressed or translated into a tangible form. IP is valuable because it represents ownership and an exclusive right to use, manufacture, reproduce, or promote a unique creation or idea. For this purpose, it has the potential to be one of the most valuable assets an individual can own.
In the era of globalisation, IP rights must be protected at a local level as well as international level. Currently, in Bangladesh, the prevailing laws in regards to safeguarding IP rights are Trademarks Act, 2009; Copyright Act, 2000; and Patents and Designs Act, 1911.
In 1985, Bangladesh participated in the convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Bangladesh became a party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property in 1991 and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works in 1999.
Department of Patents, Designs & Trademarks (DPDT) under the Ministry of Industries (MOI) and the Copyright Office under the Ministry of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) administers the country's IP Law. Bangladesh is also a signatory of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Many international brands have come to Bangladesh to conduct business in recent years but are not getting proper IP law protection. The IP law components contribute to the social, economic, and human development of a country. The implementation of substantial IP rights raises disputes because of the negligible technological efforts in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has relatively elaborate IP laws but is not inclusive of adequate protection for international brands.
However, as these IP laws were enacted during the British colonial era, they have become obsolete and subsequently requires immediate amendments. There also is not adequate protection for international brands. These laws, especially the patent law, do not accurately describe the inventions which are meant to protect. Besides, in many cases, the implementation process is not adequate.
Following the liberation of Bangladesh, hardly any measures were taken to exclude the anomalies. The purpose may be that the amount of technological invention in Bangladesh is negligible and demands no attraction. Moreover, the fact is that TRIPS is not a mere legal document. It encompasses economic, environmental, social issues, and specific measures necessary to cope with IP issues, TRIPS Agreement, and WTO obligation. However, with the emergence of the TRIPS Agreement, it has become an absolute obligation to reform IP laws.
Additionally, our trademark registration process is slow. The reason could be that Bangladesh is not a member of the international trademark protection regime, including the Madrid Union, the Nice Agreement, and the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks.
Our neighbouring India has joined the Madrid union recently, which acquiesced to the protocol in 2013. As per the Madrid system, trademark registration can be forwarded to other member states, and there are 105 member countries in the Madrid Union. Furthermore, according to article 4 of the Paris Convention, an international registration will be entitled to the "right of priority." In the Nice Agreement, the international classification of goods and services is prevalent.
Also, the Singapore Treaty aims to standardize the procedure of trademark registration on the Law. Forty-nine countries are state parties to the Singapore Treaty, and 88 countries are state parties to the Nice Agreement. Intellectual property law includes the Hague Agreement concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs and the Patent Law Treaty, which is an essential international instrument on IP Law.
For instance, Canada is the latest entrants in the global trademark regime. According to the government of Canada, after joining the Singapore Treaty, the Madrid Protocol, and the Nice Agreement, their businesses and innovators now have access to efficient means of protecting their trademarks in various jurisdictions around the world.
The United States Department of State says that countries protect IP because, "they know safeguarding property rights fosters economic growth, provides incentives for technological innovation and attracts investment that will create new jobs and opportunities for all citizens." In the United States, 50 percent of exports from the US now depend on some form of IP protection compared to less than 10 percent fifty years ago.
Many foreign brands may find it difficult and perhaps be discouraged to open up shop in Bangladesh without adequate protection of trademarks and other additional intellectual property rights. We have some updated laws on the point, but still, they are not sufficient for comprehensive protection. It is certain to discourage potential foreign investments that the Bangladesh government is seeking to court ever so earnestly.
Tazmim Hossain Mim is a Research Associate at Bangladesh Forum for Legal and Humanitarian Affairs (BFLHA).
Bangladesh Forum for Legal & Humanitarian Affairs (BFLHA) is a non-profit organization that works in the field of social justice by promoting human rights, providing pro bono preliminary legal aid, fighting for rule of law, conducting extensive legal research, & organizing humanitarian campaigns.