IPO Pakistan functioning without head officer for over a year

Cabinet committee to interview shortlisted candidates for post of chairman IPO soon, sec MoC says

ISLAMABAD: The Intellectual Property Organization (IPO) Pakistan has been functioning without a chief for over a year as the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) is yet to finalise the recruitment of a new chairman of the organization, Profit learnt on Monday.

The post has been vacant since June 2021 when former chairman Mujeeb Ahmed completed his term. Though the ministry had advertised the post in August 2021, it has yet to complete the recruitment process. Insiders privy to the matter informed that the ministry did not follow the due process in an apparent bid to hire a candidate of its choice. 

Sources claim that the change in the central government was also a reason for no progress on the matter. 

However, the Establishment Division, while noting a violation of rules, has objected to the process asking MoC to follow the due process.

The IPO Pakistan, which is an important department under the Commerce Ministry and responsible for effective protection of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) consisting of copyrights, patents and trademarks, is critical for attracting and retaining Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country.

Overseas investors have lamented that while the lack of government focus on protection of the IPRs is causing a major loss of revenue, top bureaucrats are least bothered about the organisation’s functioning.

Sources informed Profit that MoC had initially given the acting charge of chairman IPO to an additional secretary of the ministry for three months. However, at present, no one holds the charge and the organisation is being overseen by a director general of BS-20 grade due to which the overall performance of the institution is suffering.

When contacted, Secretary MoC Sualeh Faruqui claimed that a panel was submitted to the Cabinet after a competitive process. “The Cabinet has formed a committee to interview three finalists,” he said, adding that the process may take one week or ten days.

It is also relevant to note that a few potential candidates for the post had expressed concern over the lack of information given by the ministry regarding the age limit and required experience in the advertisement. They suspected that it was an attempt to facilitate a blue eyed candidate. They alleged that the age limit for the candidate, according to the MP Scale Policy 2020, should not be more than 62 years as they would complete the three year contractual term by the age of 65.

Insiders privy to the matter informed Profit that the panel of candidates finalized by the ministry included some retired federal secretaries who do not meet the age and criterion of relevant experiences. 

Furthermore, the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) IPR Survey conducted in late 2021 reflects the assessment of foreign investors on the state of intellectual property protection in Pakistan which is bleak at best.

Data collected through the survey shows that investors are facing various obstacles regarding the registration and resolution of IPR-related cases in the country. The survey shows that 37% of the respondents indicated that it takes one to three years to resolve a standard IPR dispute while 22% said that it takes more than five years to get other disputes resolved. Respondents also expressed concern regarding the penalty on IPR violation being insignificant and not sufficient to act as a deterrent. 

It may also be mentioned here that IP Tribunals are not fully functional in all three major cities of the country i.e. Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

 

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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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