Rumana Yasmin wants to see a national policy on intellectual property law
Photo: Sida/Ylva Sahlstrand
Intellectual property law contributes to sustainable development
The Swedish Patent and Registration Office (PRV) trains international participants in how to strengthen their countries’ intellectual property rights. One example is Bangladesh, where the government sees an opportunity to attract new investors to the country to create new jobs and increase economic growth. An important prerequisite is laws and policies on copyrights, patents and trademarks.
“We have laws in place on copyrights, patents and the registration of trademarks. Now, it is important to also implement a national policy on intellectual property rights.”
These are the words of Rumana Yasmin Ferdausis, who mentions the protection for the manufacture of textiles as an example. Jamdani-muslin is a thin cotton cloth that has been woven by hand since the 3rd century, a very time-intensive production that has its origins in the Bengalen of the time. The handicraft is now protected by UNESCO and is on the list of masterpieces in the intangible cultural heritage.
Rumana is one of 25 participants at an international capacity development programme with a focus on intellectual property rights in the global economy. The programme is being run by the Swedish Patent and Registration Office together with the UN body, World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), with support from Sida. The 2016 participants came from 13 countries and all of them took up difficult issues that can be linked to their own concrete projects.
Can create jobs and development
Rumana works for Bangladesh’s government and wants to see a national policy on intellectual property rights as a complement to the laws that exist on patents and copyrights.
“The University of Dhaka has initiated a policy for its own part, which will protect the research’s publications and results, but we need to take a national approach,” she says.
When a product, such as Jamdani-muslin, is protected, registered and patented, it can create jobs and contribute to economic development. Rumana works with an assessment of how legislation can secure a product or a method to thereby develop the policy work at a government level.
In her project, she has strong support from her mentor Kifle Shenkoru, head of the unit at WIPO that works with the world’s least developed countries.
“We see that a lot is happening in this area in Bangladesh. We are working to root the policy work with representatives from the government, business people and universities,” he says.
Kifle Shenkoru also sees that the issue of intellectual property rights is on the politicians’ agenda and there are ideas of a central committee in Bangladesh that can push the issues. With a strong textile and fashion industry, it is beginning to become increasingly urgent to bring order to what is original and what is a pirated copy.
Pirate copying can make people sick
Gabriel Pino at the Swedish Patent and Registration Office is the project manager for the current capacity development programme and he has seen the damage that a pirate copy can do in the food, cosmetics or pharmaceuticals industry.
“Pirate copying is counterproductive. Creams or medicines that are sold on the street can make people sick or injured for life. If a country has control and enables the registration of goods to get them out in the formal market, it contributes to a sound commercial climate, to jobs and income for the state,” says Gabriel Pino.
Rumana wants the textile market to grow, which could offer more sustainable jobs. Many of her course mates describe similar future scenarios and emphasise that knowledge is everything. More and more people need to become aware of intellectual property rights and the importance of patents and registration of trademarks.
“Leadership and political will are very important to push these issues forward. Here, countries differ, but we have several good examples of countries that are on the way to developing the national policy frameworks and realise the importance of these issues to economic development,” confirms Kifle Shenkoru at WIPO.
“The strong cooperation between PRV and WIPO, together with the participating countries’ institutions, is leading to the development of national systems for intellectual property rights,” says Sida’s programme administrator Michelle Bouchard.
Greater awareness of intellectual property rights
The programme for capacity development on intellectual property rights began in 2004 with support from Sida. Since the 1970s, the Swedish Patent and Registration Office (PRV) has worked with capacity development and the collaboration with the UN body, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has contributed to developing the programmes.
The goal is to increase awareness around systems for intellectual property rights and put them in place. Examples from the Ethiopian coffee industry show that when IP rights are taken seriously and laws and rules are introduced and followed, countries can draw greater benefit from their assets.
Bangladesh has good conditions to strengthen its intellectual property rights, not least the copyright, where quite a lot has happened thanks to the country’s strong writing tradition. Rights in the textile and fashion industry have become an increasingly important issue in pace with the industry growing in recent years.