In 2008, the local agent of the world famous Samsonite Corporation in Bangladesh initiated a criminal proceeding under the Penal Provision against a trader who imported counterfeit ‘Samsonite’ products.
The agent carried out investigation in the local markets through their own investigator and found counterfeit products in a famous market ‘Shahbagh Biponi Bitan.’ Accordingly, the agent informed the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB, special law enforcement battalion in Bangladesh) of this. The RAB team investigated the place and found the allegation to be true. It conducted raid on February 27, 2008 and arrested three people with a large number of counterfeit ‘Samsonite’ products.
The local police lodged criminal action under the penal provision. The infringers found no other alternative but to surrender to the local agent and accordingly disclaimed all the seized items, which included 310 big suitcases.
The matter was disposed of in February 2010 on the basis of out of court settlement.
This was one of the rare incidents where the intellectual property right (IPR) has been ensured in Bangladesh by the court. In the legal system of Bangladesh there is a strong structure of IPR law but because of the lack of proper enforcement it has become a practice to infringe IPR from different sectors, including piracy, using in different formats.
Bangladesh inherited the British Copyright Act-1911. In Pakistan it was amended in 1962 and after Independence in Bangladesh, Copyright Act-1974 was passed. It was further amended in 1978 and finally Copyright Act-2000 was introduced in 2000. This was further amended in 2006.
Related laws include Trade Marks Act 2009 and Trademarks Rules 1963, Copyright Act 2000 and Copyright Rules 2006, The Patents and Designs act 1911 and The Patent and Designs Rules 1933. The Patents and Design Acts, 1911, lay down the conditions of, and the procedure for, granting a patent, known as Letters Patent, for an invention.
The Trade Mark Act, 1963 governs the conditions and procedures for registration of trade mark. A Trade Mark may be registered only in respect of particular goods or all the goods included in a particular class of goods. The Bangladesh laws also make provision for effective means of enforcement of the interest of the IP right holders. The Bangladesh Penal Code, 1860, identifies a number of activities as criminal offences to enforce the right of the IP holders. Copyright office is administered by a Registrar under The Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
An affected copyright owner can seek remedies both in the form of civil and criminal action against an infringement of copyrights in Bangladesh according to the copyright Act –2000 (amended in 2005).
The constitution of Bangladesh 1972 in its article 40 and 42 also guaranteed the citizen’s right to property. And within the general definition of the property, property produced through creative thoughts can also be included.
The problem however is that these IP laws in Bangladesh are in a very premature form and a vast area of IP rights cannot be protected because of this. All these laws, specially, the patent law, don’t specifically describe the inventions that will be given protection. The implementation tools don’t seem to stand in a satisfactory level leaving the IP rights a poor protection. The registration of trade mark is also not compulsory.
Besides, the technological invention efforts in Bangladesh are negligible, so there is a strong opinion that, if a country has no meaningful technological activity then for that country, intellectual property rights are irreverent and will through economic burden on the country.
Because of these reasons, piracies in different sectors mostly go unabated. The lack of response is also evident in that the creative industry has been unable to establish a Collective Management Organization (CMO) which would further the interest of creators in protecting their rights. Thus, people involved in piracy are taking the advantage of this lack of co-ordination in Bangladesh’s creative industry and are continuing to sell counterfeit products.
One of the major hurdles with regard to stopping piracy is the lack of awareness among the creators as well as the general public. Most creators don’t have a comprehensive idea about their rights and their innocence regarding this issue is exploited by the corrupt people who are engaged in piracy.
Very few people understand that the pirated material they purchase is an act of crime, and a punishable offense. The general perception among people about pirated material is that these are cheap and are sold in front of law enforcement agencies openly; thus it is not a crime and considered a norm.
Therefore, what is required is a collective effort to trigger a paradigm shift both in terms of perception and practice to ensure IPR in Bangladesh.