• Tuesday, Nov 29, 2022
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Debapriya: Bangladesh must assess post-graduation IPR implications

  • Published at 01:10 pm July 15th, 2021
Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya
File photo of Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya Collected

Currently, only market access for exports and pharmaceutical waiver-related issues are getting overwhelming focus in the country’s LDC graduation discourse, the distinguished fellow of CPD said in an interview with UNB on Wednesday

Bangladesh urgently needs to assess the possible implications of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to overcome challenges during the post-LDC era, advised eminent economist Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya.

He recommended that IPR issues should be actively embedded in the country’s LDC transition strategy, looking beyond just the pharmaceutical waiver facility under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement of the World Trade Organization.

Currently, only market access for exports and pharmaceutical waiver-related issues are getting overwhelming focus in the country’s LDC graduation discourse, said the distinguished fellow of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) in an interview with UNB on Wednesday.

Bhattacharya mentioned that in the post-graduation phase, Bangladesh must maintain standards providing protection to patents, copyright, industrial designs, and undisclosed information, among others. The country will have to provide remedies against infringements of intellectual property.

However, IPR-related concerns remain the most under-stated in the discussion despite the knowledge that this economy will be the future of the country, as well as the world, he added.

Also Read - Momen seeks incentive-based package for LDC graduation

Available IPR expertise in Bangladesh is possibly the least mobilized in the context of articulating smooth LDC transition strategy, he informed, pointing to the huge challenge in case of losing duty-free and quota-free market access and pharmaceutical waiver during its post-graduation era after 2026.

“Though important IP-related initiatives are seen in both the public and private sectors of the country, these progressive efforts are yet to be connected to LDC graduation fallouts,” said Dr Debapriya, a former Bangladesh Ambassador to WTO.

Unfortunately, no IPR issue beyond the pharmaceutical waiver facility under the TRIPS Agreement has attracted attention in Bangladesh. “Even here, we pursue a benign defensive strategy asking for more transition time, not a constructively operative strategy to prepare the country for the post-transitional phase with necessary ISMs,” he continued.

Alongside the assessment of IP implications, Bangladesh should identify IP issues to avail international support measures (ISMs) for its graduation from the group of least developed countries (LDCs), suggested the economist.

“It is essential to embed IP dimensions in transitional strategy and form a dedicated team under the national task force to find out the ways to address the IP-related challenges,” he said.

The public policy analyst also advised that Bangladesh needs to identify IP stakeholders clearly and organize them in order to address the IP concerns.

While the National Task Force responsible for designing the country’s graduation strategy has a sub-committee on IP, it is important to have a more open and wide-ranging discussion with stakeholders in this regard. The proposed IP related need assessment would also benefit from such an inclusive approach.

About the country’s progress in IP, Dr Debapriya mentioned that the National Innovation and Intellectual Property Policy 2018 was framed, the copyright law was updated to bring it in line with the digital environment, and IP institutions like Bangladesh IP Forum were established.

Also Read - TRIPS flexibility extension for LDCs - What does this imply for Bangladesh?

Additionally, a discussion was initiated to get the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) and Madrid System membership under the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for international protection of trademarks. There is a growing interest regarding IP issues amongst IT start-ups and tech entrepreneurs, he stated.

However, Bangladesh needs to create an integrated IP governance system in the country by reviewing the mandates of the copyright and trademark offices, as well as taking on board new issues like intangible products and IT-based products, he suggested.

Dr Debapriya, a member of the United Nations Committee for Development Policy (UN CDP), said IP intensive goods and services are now an important component of exports and imports in the world. This aspect has to be kept in mind while articulating the LDC transition strategy.

He further revealed that intangible capital like technology, hardware and software, and branding contributes twice as much as tangible capital to the total value of manufactured goods, while average workers in an IP-intensive industry can earn some 46% more than counterparts in a non-IP industry. In 2019, the charges for the use of IP were a total of $409 billion across the world.

All recently concluded bilateral and regional trade agreements across the world had IP-related clauses in them — like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which includes a chapter on intellectual property rights-related issues. 

As Bangladesh prepares to ink a number of bilateral free trade agreements, the country has to be prepared on how to go about IP protection issues in these prospective treaties.

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