Govt to implement Geographical Indication Law after 18 years

‘Int’l brands are unabatedly selling Pakistan-origin goods due to non-finalisation of GI Law’

ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan is yet to implement Geographical Indication Law ever since it was drafted in the year 2000, the Ministry of Commerce is set to submit the draft law to the cabinet for approval before presenting it to the parliament for the same.

The GI Law, which is pending for a long time, was needed to protect commercial heritage of the country’s products, including basmati rice, Peshawari chappal, Multani halwa, Sindhi ajrak, Sargodha’s kinnow, Kasuri methi, Sindhri mango, Dir knives, Swati wild mushrooms, Nili-Ravi buffalo, Chaman grapes, Pashmina shawls, Gilgit Baltistan’s apricot etc.

Taking notice of the long pending draft law, Commerce Secretary Mohammad Younus Dagha has asked the relevant department and staff to submit the draft GI Law to Ministry of Law within two days so that it could be approved by the cabinet and subsequently by the parliament.

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The commerce secretary was briefed about the importance of the GI Law by Intellectual Property Organization of Pakistan (IPO-Pakistan) Chairman Mujeeb Ahmed Khan during a meeting on Wednesday.

According to sources, the meeting was informed that international brands were unabatedly selling Pakistan-origin goods due to non-finalisation of the GI Law, causing huge losses to the local producers/manufactures.

It is pertinent to mention that the Commerce Division has been working on the GI Law since 2000, but the law remained pending for the last 18 years due to “differences between influential lobbies”, leading to failure of marketplace regulation. Former prime minister Shahid Khaqqan Abbasi had also directed the ministry to speed up the process in finalising the draft law.

Member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) need to give protection to GIs under Article 22-24 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement. Unless Pakistan provides GI protection, it cannot obtain the same for its own goods in other countries that have the GI Law.

The GI Law covers a wide variety of products that include industrial, agricultural, and horticultural and others.

In the absence of the said law, Pakistan cannot claim exclusive GI of basmati rice. The Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan has long been demanding the government to approve GI Law as Indian basmati rice was fetching more prices in the European market as compared to the same products of Pakistan.

Pakistanis had put up a strong argument with EU as to how it was possible that a farmer only 40km away from an Indian rice grower could get a lower price for the same product. Later, India had agreed to enter into talks on GI for basmati rice in Geneva.

According to official sources, the commerce secretary has assured unflinching support of the ministry to IPO-Pakistan on all issues including the enactment of GI Law and Industrial Design Rules.

Younus Dagha appreciated IPO-Pakistan for successfully implementing ‘first come first serve registration system’ in trademark registry. He maintained that this would go a long way in bringing transparency and timely disposal of work for IP applicants.

During the meeting held at IPO office, Mujeeb Ahmed Khan presented a 3-year roadmap of the organization and apprised the secretary of numerous initiatives taken by his organization to facilitate and dispose of IP applications.

Giving details about the international treaties, the chairman stated that IPO has started working on the accession process on treaties related to international registration of trademarks and patents. Meanwhile, he added, the copyright office has been connected through a virtual network with all other offices of the organization.

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Ghulam Abbas
The writer is a member of the staff at the Islamabad Bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]
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