Petition seeks protection of Pakistani products’ identity

ISLAMABAD: While the government has already taken steps to challenge Indian application for exclusive Geographical Indication (GI) tag for basmati rice before the European Union, a petition has also been filed in the Lahore High Court (LHC) seeking the protection of Intellectual Property (IP) of Pakistani products in international markets.

Dissatisfied with the arrangements made by the Ministry of Commerce to protect the copyrights, trademarks and GI tag of growers, traders and exporters of Pakistani products, petitioner Muhammad Azam Khan, alleged that the concerned ministry and institutions lack the basic requirements for ensuring the rights of the stakeholders. The Ministry of Commerce, Intellectual Property Organisation (IPO) Pakistan and Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) have been listed as respondents in the petition.

The petitioner has contended that immediate action is required to designate and appoint a registrar of GIs under the GI Act with special emphasis on resolving the currently pending basmati rice issue before the EU as the limitation for opposition expires on December 11, 2020.

He contended that immediate steps must be taken to regularise and organise local and international registration. Furthermore, a task force is needed to identify pending issues and safeguard future protection of GIs involving all stakeholders of the various indigenous and local agricultural products and processes.

The petition said that the Ministry of Commerce has yet to designate a department or body that will oversee the ownership of the GIs alongside the IPO.

The petitioner said that the lack of action from respondents would certainly result in massive loss of trade name, business, intellectual property, heritage and indigenous processes. This would then turn into massive layoffs, unemployment, and reduced revenue for the government while the country is already in a recession, and such outcomes would further destabilise several industries, he added.

He further said that carelessness at this crucial stage could result in loss of competitive advantage of Pakistani agricultural products in the international market and subsequently, result in loss to farmers, producers and traders nationwide.

The petitioner contended the shortcomings of the respondents have left the farmers and affected parties of GIs without the necessary information, knowhow and knowledge of essential legal requirements. Immediate steps are required by the respondents to not only create awareness but correct their ineptness by calling for expeditious registrations of GIs both locally and internationally.

He contended that the respondents are shirking from their respective responsibilities under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, EU Quality Schemes Regime and various regulations pertaining to GIs.

A committee should be set up to check and supervise timely adherence to the various legal regimes to protect the intellectual property of the country.

He insisted that immediate intervention and supervision of this court is required; otherwise the citizens, traders and farmers of Pakistan, and the nation itself would suffer irreparable economic loss and reputational injury.

It is worth mentioning here that the Ministry of Commerce had announced last week that Pakistan would oppose India’s claim of GI tag of basmati rice in the EU. A Pakistani legal team will file its formal opposition with the EU with proof that Indian claims did not have solid grounds.

This was decided during a meeting chaired by Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood. The meeting was attended by secretary commerce, chairman IPO-Pakistan, representatives of Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) and the legal fraternity.

During the meeting, REAP representatives were of the view that Pakistan is a major grower and producer of basmati rice and India’s claim for exclusivity is unjustified. Dawood categorically stated that Pakistan will vehemently oppose India’s application in the European Union and restrain India from obtaining exclusive GI tag of basmati rice.

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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