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Intellectual Property Tribunals; Implementation in Pakistan

Aymun Najeeb
CGSS-LAW Intern at Center for Global & Strategic Studies (CGSS), Islamabad


With the major developments across the world in various fields such as arts, technology, medicine, law, etc. new and more innovative ideas have been emerging with each passing day. These ideas, made from the thinking processes unique to every individual, are the fundamental element of progressing into the future. However, it relatively difficult to protect these thoughts from being manipulated and fabricated by other people. It is very easy to protect the physical property that citizens may possess including land, car, house, or any such physically existing entity but the same can’t be said for the ideas, goals, and aims that a person may set out and develop from their minds. For this purpose, the term ‘intellectual property’ was coined.
Intellectual Property is the inventions, designs, names, symbols, artistic accomplishments, and any creation from the mind that an individual may develop. The law protects these ideas from exploitation by enforcing patents, trademarks, or copyrights. Generally, Intellectual Property Law can be categorized into three main types.
COPYRIGHTs can be imposed in the entertainment sector (movies, songs), publishing (books, articles, articles, magazines), fine arts (paintings, sculptures), and computer software. This allows the original owner of these ideas or inventions to control the copying, displaying, and presentation of their product.
TRADEMARKs are used by companies and organizations to protect their logos or symbols. For instance, the Apple logo on all apple products or the Starbucks insignia on cups is the trademark property of these respective companies, thus implying that no other business can use the same name or symbol for marketing their brand.
PATENTs are for new products on the market, inventions, or designs which are to be protected from any exploitation or fraudulent usage. The individual who owns the patent has the right to prevent any usage, distribution, importing, or production of his invention without prior permission and authorization.
Along with these three, service marks or trade secrets are also used to protect intellectual property.


The earliest known document which is still in effect, of the international law forum, is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. All rules and regulations for conducting international relations across the world have been derived from it. Under Article 27(2) of the Declaration, all persons have been granted the authority to protect their inventions and ideas whether it be of the scientific, literary, or artistic discipline from any fraudulent usage or manipulation. Through this, the World Intellectual Property Organization has been established which works to regulate all matters on patents, trademarks, and copyright claims across the globe. It was established through a Convention of the same name in 1967 and by now the organization is conducting intellectual property matters between 187 countries across the globe. Its main objective is to
“to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world through cooperation among States and, where appropriate, in collaboration with any other international organization.”


In Pakistan, intellectual property rights are dealt with by the Patent Ordinance, 2000 and Patent Rules, 2003. According to section 2(i) of said Ordinance, an invention can have a patent if it is ‘new and proves to be useful’. Similarly, the Trademarks Ordinance 2002 and Trademarks Rules made in 2004 govern the trademark laws and regulations within Pakistan. In 1962 the Copyrights Ordinance was established which contains provisions regarding the registering and granting of copyrights. With time there have been many amendments to the above-mentioned ordinance and rules to bring them up to par with the current regime. Along with this, there is also an Intellectual Property Ordinance of 2001 with an Act of the same name made in 2016.


In Pakistan, the Intellectual Property Tribunals were established in the 1990s. Pakistan is a signatory to the UDHR and the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Civil Rights both of which contain provisions for the protection of intellectual property. Thus, the tribunals were made to regulate all and any matters regarding the inventions made within Pakistan’s territorial boundaries. It was granted both civil and criminal powers through the Code of Civil and Criminal Procedures, respectively. All suits shall be filed with the tribunal if the issue is regarding infringement of a persons’ rights over intellectual property and thus dealt with accordingly.


Since these tribunals came into existence there have been many positive, affirmative changes in the system which need to be acknowledged. First and foremost, they have been appreciated to be a progressive change that would help the Pakistani nation in keeping up with the world. Special court procedures have also been planned out for regulating these matters while the decisions made are far more impactful.
Concurrently, there have also been many problems upon the establishment of the Intellectual Property Tribunals. Firstly, the judges in the office do not have adequate knowledge or expertise upon the matter presented before them. It should be the responsibility of concerned authorities to formulate a special bench of judges who have been specifically educated upon these technical issues. Though separate tribunals have been established, which is a landmark achievement, yet there should be adequate measures taken to ensure that the judiciary presiding over such cases are fully equipped for it. Secondly, the tribunals are mostly focused on copyrights they do not have much knowledge regarding the other types of intellectual property laws or rights. Thirdly, the patents that have been granted by the tribunal in the past years have been in contradiction to the public interest that prevails.
One such remedy for it is to make a separate division within the present courts to only deal with intellectual property matters. The personnel concerned with the granting and registering of these patents, copyrights and trademarks should be fully equipped with the necessary understanding and knowledge.
Another persisting issue is budget. Due to insufficient facilities and finances, it is difficult for the officials to conduct matters in a proper and efficient manner. The individuals who are granted posts within the Intellectual Property Departments must go through mandatory training. Cases should be filed and dealt with efficiently and quickly to save the parties from unnecessary wastage of time and money.
Till now the tribunals have only been established in major cities such as Karachi or Islamabad, which deprives the residents of other cities of acquiring this facility. Each province should have a separate tribunal within its jurisdiction with specifically trained personnel. Intellectual Property practitioners should be appointed in the office so that they may guide on how to conduct these matters with the expertise that they have.

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