Intellectual Property Rights in Pakistan

By Barrister Ahmad Farooq Malik, Partner AFMalik Law.

Intellectual Property is the type of property which emanates from human intellect. Typically, the word ‘property’ denotes something that is tangible and is either money or money’s worth e.g. land, car, clothes etc. However, IP is the form of property which starts in an intangible form and is subsequently transformed into a tangible form e.g. idea for a logo drawn onto a piece of paper, a music composition written down, a unique process of introducing new aspects of technology put to industrial use.

In a typical tangible property, it is not necessary that the owner has created that property himself. A person can become the owner of a car after paying its price. It is not necessary for him to be the creator of the car also to claim proprietary rights in it.

However, in the case of intangible property i.e. intellectual property, in most cases, the owner of the intellectual property is also the creator of that intellectual property, though it is not necessary in all cases. The exception, broadly speaking, is where a person creates an intellectual property for someone else during a course of employment. In such cases, the intellectual property has been created by one person, whereas the proprietary rights in that intellectual property belong to another. Similarly, once intellectual property is created by a person, it can be, like tangible property, assigned/transferred to someone else. Hence, the proprietary rights in that intellectual property gets transferred to the other person.

There are various rights a person enjoys, being the owner of a tangible property. A similar concept is applicable to intangible property. The most important of such rights are the exclusive use and disposal of the intellectual property and to stop others from violating these rights. The existence and assurance of Intellectual Property Rights, which are protected through various IP legislations in Pakistan (Trade Marks Ordinance, 2001, Copyright Ordinance, 1962, Patents Ordinance 2000 and Registered Designs Ordinance, 2000) pave the way to several benefits for the IP owners. IP rights are contested and protected through the recently formed Intellectual Property Tribunal or superior courts as well as before the administrative and quasi judicial parts of the Intellectual Property Organisation which is the umbrella organisation for the Trademarks Registry, Copyright Board, Patent and Designs Registrars.

IPR have been protected and fought for since many years now in Pakistan; the first reported case dating back to 1956. Since then, the field of IP protection has strengthened over time with evolution of IP principles and doctrines through judicial precedents as well as revision of the regime of the old IP laws, making them more comprehensive and effective in light of Pakistan’s obligations under the several international treaties it has signed.