The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) observes the World Intellectual Property (IP) Day on April 26 every year to recognise the role that IP plays in encouraging innovation and creativity.
The day raises awareness of how copyrights, patent systems, trademarks, and designs contribute to economic growth and innovation.
This year, it has been themed to explore how a balanced and robust IP system can contribute to a green economy and encourage climate-friendly innovation to shape a net zero future.
On April 24, ICC spoke with Bertrand Piccard, founder of Solar Impulse Foundation, and Dr David Nabarro, special envoy to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about Covid-19.
Piccard discussed 1,000 clean and profitable solutions that create jobs and help address the climate challenge.
According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), international patent filings for green energy technologies grew to 16,940 applications last year, representing a 1.3 percent increase from 2018. Despite this year-on-year increase, patent filings for alternative energy technologies have dropped by 18 percent since 2013.
Dr Nabarro released a special video message to the ICC Commission on Intellectual Property, which emphasised the importance of IP rights in protecting against the manufacturing and dissemination of counterfeit essential medical supplies, such as facemasks and medicines.
In Bangladesh, according to the Copyright Act 2000, copyright claims can arise for literary works, dramatic works, musical works, artistic works (i.e. painting, sculpture, drawing, engraving or a photograph, a work of architecture and any other work of artistic craftsmanship), cinematographic films and sound recordings.
A trademark is a sign that can distinguish the products or services of one enterprise from those of others. In the ancient times, craftsmen used to put their signature or "mark" on their goods. The Trademark Act 2009 and Trademark Rules 2015 are the key guideline with regard to trademark.
A registered trademark in Bangladesh is valid for an initial period of seven years from the date of filing the registration and renewable thereafter for successive periods of ten years.
As a booming economy, Bangladesh is now home to emerging businesses and many brands. But the question remains whether all these brands are safe from a potential IP threat.
The answer is no in some cases.
IP is an old concept. According to Zythophile, after the enactment of the Trademark Registration Act of 1875, when applications to apply for trademark registration opened on January 1, 1876, a Bass employee was sent to wait overnight outside the registrar's office the day before in order to be the first in line to file to register a trademark the next morning.
That is why in 2013, Bass Pale Ale was renamed Bass Trademark No 1.
The world has seen very big fights over intellectual property. For example, In the famous Da Vinci Code court case of Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh vs The Random House Group Limited, Baigent and Leigh alleged that Dan Brown, author of the bestseller Da Vinci Code, infringed the copyright of their non-fiction work "Holy Blood, Holy Grail".
Because Brown had not copied the text of the earlier book, the claim was based on "non-literal" copying—Baigent and Leigh asserted that Brown told his story in the same "manner" in which they had expressed historical facts in their book.
The claimants' case was dismissed in 2006 with the judgment stating in part that "...there is no copyright infringement either by textual copying or non-textual copying of a substantial part of Holy Blood, Holy Grail...".
While other countries are trying to safeguard their intellectual property, the picture in Bangladesh is gloomy.
Bangladesh became a member of the World Intellectual Property Organisation in 1985, but is not a member of the Madrid Union, the Nice Agreement, and the Singapore Treaty.
In the early 1990, Arsenic – the new menace – shattered the notion of tube-well water as "safe" in Bangladesh. The extent and severity of the problem is particularly heavy in Bangladesh: out of 64 districts, water in 61 has arsenic concentration above the safe limit and up to 77 million people have been exposed to arsenicosis – a disease caused by chronic arsenic poisoning.
A major breakthrough came when Dr Abul Hussam, a Bangladeshi chemist based at George Mason University in the United States, developed a simple and effective filter to remove arsenic from water in 2001. It is estimated that by 2010, as many as one million people in Bangladesh have been benefitting from Dr Hussam's "SONO" filtration system.
The SONO filter is patented as the "Arsenic Removal Filter" (Patent No 1003935, 2002) with the Department of Patents, Design and Trademarks of Bangladesh.
Two international patent applications for the combination of active materials in the system have been made under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), and a patent in the United States is pending as of 2010.
While Bangladesh is a member of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, its non-membership in the global trademark regime is a disadvantage for businesses.
Another reason can be attributed to the lengthy and confusing process of getting copyright and trademark registration. Trademark registration in Bangladesh is performed through the Department of Patents, Designs and Trademarks. Any person claiming to be the proprietor of a trademark already in use or proposed to be used in Bangladesh may apply in writing for registration of a trademark in the prescribed manner. This can take up to two years.
Bangladesh is a booming economy, and the lack of international standardisation may put off potential foreign investors from entering the Bangladeshi market. It would be difficult for many foreign brands to open shops in Bangladesh without adequate protection of trademarks and other intellectual property rights.