The solution to the problem can come through with effective law enforcement and education


Oct 04 - 10, 2004





Pakistan is known internationally as a market place that offers a conducive environment to the counterfeit trade. Investors feel wary of coming to Pakistan as they believe that the authorities in the country are tacitly allowing this business to thrive in the hope of keeping people off the streets and kick starting growth by way of an underground economy. An otherwise attractive market thus looses out as prospective investors are deterred due to lack of law enforcement support offered to them to curb the crime.

The current situation is that Pakistan has been placed on a priority watch list earlier this year because the 'overall piracy and counterfeiting problems have been worsening rather than improving', said the United States Trade representative in its 2004 report.

It is important to note that the TRIPs provision of the WTO is very clear on the issue and countries that are not TRIPs compatible will face serious consequences in terms of retaliatory actions from the WTO panel.

At this point it becomes crucial to understand the current scenario in its totality and to access the risks involved on both macro and micro levels. Dangerously spread to cover all parts of the country, clones of every nature, in every possible product category, can be found in the most sophisticated forms imaginable. Starting from cosmetics, to auto parts, medicines, a well organized supply chain is operating that travels the entire market place using the smallest retail outlets to large departmental stores.

The reason of the successful operation, one can immediately point to is the lack of law enforcement facilities. It is difficult and time-consuming to obtain a search warrant while the low prosecution rates and minimal penalties in terms of jail terms and fines do not make for good deterrents.

The attitudinal perspectives of both the government agencies and the individual customers in viewing the crime are also important to take account of. Government agencies in the country must view the crime as a serious public policy issue rather than the problem for rights owners. It must be understood that forgeries bring about both social and economic damage, as it costs the nation significantly in terms of tax revenues (sales tax, excise duty, income tax not paid on the products) and threatens jobs while putting its citizens to the risk of harm. Individual consumers are often unknowing and unwilling victims of counterfeit. However, sometimes there are incidents of deliberate purchase when purchase incentive is the cheaper price tag, placed on these products. Many consumers neither understand the seriousness of the violation nor the need to respect trademark rights.

Counterfeiting today accounts to 5-7% of world trade and thus is not a problem restricted to Pakistan alone. It is, however, important that Pakistan is not viewed as a hopeless case and thus must not suffer in terms of trade growth opportunities.

The solution to the problem can come through with effective law enforcement and education. Pakistan must develop projects and information material that enhance public awareness in the fight against counterfeiting, piracy and other IP rights infringement. It will help the country if common man is informed of the detrimental consequences to his health in buying and consuming substandard products and he must be given guidelines so that he can make a careful purchase.



In terms of law enforcement, unproblematic and efficient access must be guaranteed to implement protective laws and serious charges must be placed on groups violating laws. An IP specialization judiciary could prove very advantageous so that judges can be relied on to make intelligible decisions in intellectual property cases.

According to legal definition, a counterfeit trademark is a "spurious trademark, which is identical with, or, substantially indistinguishable from a registered trademark." This means that all forms and levels of infringement must fall within the protection. The range of infringement starts from the true counterfeit (i.e. all products that use the original name and form, so as to appear as original), to look-alikes that duplicate the design of the original but do not use its name, to cover the look-alike packages and finally the replicates that are a reproduction to a close but not exact copy, the associative counterfeit.

A concerted effort between both public and private sector in the form of an anti-counterfeiting taskforce should be put together to consist of members from various industry associations, government officials and NGOs to make an all-inclusive study of the extent and nature of counterfeiting in Pakistan. Private investigations should complement government initiatives to catch the culprits for an urgent solution to the serious issue.

Without a rigorous effort at the highest level, the rights owner, the individual consumer and the economy will continue to be cheated, robbed and abused of health, safety and money.