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
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
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.