The arena of intellectual property laws is fascinating, especially in Pakistan. I say intriguing because at first glance the issues of trademark registration and protection seem simple, but when we delve into the rather complex process, we realize that many complexities lurk beneath the surface.
As with most laws and regulations in Pakistan, the IP regulations are also written very eloquently, setting out procedures and penalties. But the harsh reality is that these procedures are rarely followed, and even if they are, delays in the processes are a gargantuan cause for concern.
Clients rely heavily on lawyers for results, and that too, fast results; but, with a slow and winding system, the lawyer unfortunately loses credibility with the client.
I am a lawyer by profession and have taught law at many universities. However, I recently entered the field of intellectual property laws in Pakistan, and I must say I was appalled by what I witnessed.
There are hundreds of objections every month that are pending. Unfortunately, it’s been years since that mistake. The consequence of these delays is that local and foreign customers have a negative impression of the Intellectual Property Organization (IPO) system in Pakistan. For this reason, I thought it relevant to point out some of the shortcomings of the current intellectual property structure and to offer some recommendations.
The IP offices in Pakistan are, to put it bluntly, in a state of disarray. They are sorely understaffed and lack state-of-the-art equipment and technology. Also, as mentioned earlier, opposition cases have been pending for decades, and the tragedy is that more than half of these cases are based on incorrect information that has not been updated in the gazettes, which then results in new oppositions that waste time and resources unnecessarily. . With increasing demand for IP both locally and internationally, the shortage of staff in IP offices is a serious problem.
In addition, the trademark registry requires more transparency and accountability; the purity of the register has largely broken down. A review of any recent Trademarks Journal reveals that the majority of trademarks filed in Pakistan are either filed directly by the registrant or through unknown practitioners with little or no expertise in intellectual property laws. The registry is aware of this. These practitioners should be investigated and, if necessary, excluded from private practice.
Additionally, applications are not properly vetted and thoroughly reviewed, resulting in unnecessary objections that impose an additional burden on registered owners. The filing, acceptance, review and publication process is extremely slow and outdated, and needs a serious overhaul.
Another massive cause for concern is the predicament of the nature of trademark opposition elimination where ironclad cases have been dismissed with a simple short order. There is virtually no rationale or basis for such orders and there is no rationale as to why some cases are heard and decided while others have been pending for much longer periods of time.
The Trademark Registry should maintain a system of transparency and accountability, and should improve its filing, acceptance, review and publication processes. It should expedite outstanding objections, provide full justifications, and improve technology and equipment.
The Trademark Registry should also address the shortcoming of understaffing and enrich the skills and knowledge of its staff so that it can process applications quickly and diligently.
Pakistan’s position in the international market means that trade has increased and therefore counterfeit products pose more risk than before.
In this context, it is of paramount importance for our IP registration and protection services to address shortcomings and gaps in order to restore credibility to local and international clients and ultimately to ‘ease the burden and tireless efforts of intellectual property lawyers, who work tirelessly to assist their clients and truly change the system for the better.
Posted in Dawn, September 3, 2022