Growth is driven by protecting what is ours

IPR need to be strengthened to progress.

Saad Amanullah April 20, 2014
Knowledge needs to be protected so that the true beneficiary of an idea is the person who has used his knowledge and expertise to create something new, innovative or something which provides a sustainable stream of financial benefit.

KARACHI: Global economic growth over the last two centuries has been a function of three key factors, a) capital accumulation, b) productivity improvement and c) Proper utilisation of knowledge and resources.

The last one is what gives any economic idea a true top spin. Proper utilisation of knowledge and resources has turned developing countries into leading economies of the world. Knowledge needs to be protected so that the true beneficiary of an idea is the person who has used his knowledge and expertise to create something new, innovative or something which provides a sustainable stream of financial benefit.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is the name given to the legal right that belongs to the person who has created, identified or invented a new idea, product or service. IPR laws provide individuals exclusive rights for their outputs and ideas, which they can use in the future to help create economic benefits for them or their companies. The most common types of Intellectual Property Rights are copyrights, patents, and trademarks.


It allows the inventor the right to exclude other from using, selling, making, and importing an invention for a limited period of time, provided there has been an appropriate legal registration and proper public disclosure of the invention.


It gives the creator of an original work exclusive right to it, also for a limited time. No one can replicate, use, copy, etc this work without approval of the creator and owner.


This is a recognisable sign, design or expression that distinguish products or services of a particular trader from similar product or services of other traders.

One of the reasons Pakistan is not doing well is that it has failed to create a knowledge reservoir which could then be utilised to create value-added products and services. If one goes back to the 1800s, it was all about who could build the most efficient farming methods. With the industrial revolution, the 1900s were all about who could build the most efficient factories. The current  millennium is all about who can assimilate the most knowledge and utilise it in the most innovative and original manner to help create products and services. It is what we call the knowledge economy era.

Pakistan has a unique opportunity to do well. Firstly, the amount of investment required to win in knowledge economy is much lower than what was needed in the previous industrial economy. Secondly, barriers to entry are low, the world is flat when it comes to the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. Thirdly, education, a strong ICT infrastructure and a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, is critical for winning now.  Even for countries that are behind in the race, making inroads and gaining competitive advantage is easier due to lower barriers to entry. Pakistan has a huge population with a DNA which I believe to be extremely intelligent and innovative, but not properly educated and groomed — our biggest shortcoming.

The World Bank Institute has carried out a study to measure knowledge in various economies of the world. The tool they used is called “Knowledge Assessment Methodology (KAM)” which had 4 pillars namely,

1. Economic and institutional regime

Country must provide incentives for the efficient use of existing and new knowledge and the flourishing of entrepreneurship.

2. Education and skills

People need education and skills that enable them to create and share.

3. Information and communication infrastructure

A dynamic information infrastructure is needed to facilitate effective communication, dissemination and processing of information.

4. Innovation systems

The country innovation systems – firms, research centers, universities, think tanks, consultants and other organisations – must be capable of tapping the growing stock of global knowledge, assimilating and adapting it to local needs and creating new technology.

One can see the result of this study for Pakistan and India using radar charts. Key observation is that both countries are below 50% – only exception being rule of law and patents where India is marginally over 5; and for Pakistan computer access which is the only one which touches 5. Pakistan is stronger on the information infrastructure front, while India is better in the regulatory and Institutional regime as well as innovation systems.

In order to put the matter in proper perspective, for Malaysia all indicators are above 5, with only Gross Secondary Enrollment being around 3. For Pakistan there is huge opportunity to improve on these indicators.

Intellectual Property Rights play a dual role in a knowledge economy. First benefit is the obvious one —protection of people’s inventions, ideas and design. Second benefit is that if IPR laws exist and are implemented properly, it creates a conducive environment for innovation, entrepreneurship and investment into the private sector.

If we are to progress, we must strengthen our IPR regime. In Pakistan it falls under the Intellectual Property Organisation of Pakistan (IPOP). The IPOP Act was passed in 2012 but we are still waiting for the Policy Board to be constituted.

We need to harness and use existing and new knowledge to improve productivity and the welfare and standard of living of the common man.

The writer is the Intellectual Property Rights Committee chairman

Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st,  2014.

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Babar Khan | 7 years ago | Reply

Agreed. Unfortunately this will take time and the regulatory authorities need to be brave in enforce the rules. A well reputed business school that preaches ethics was recently pitched a digital business idea by one of its students. The B-school in question executed the idea without acknowledging the student or compensating him. Should the student challenge the school and risk expulsion? Should employees challenge the higher ups and risk demotion/dismissal? Now we need labor laws!

Haroon Rashid | 7 years ago | Reply

This article particularly before the WIPO day on April 26, this year is of value to the country, businesses, science and technology, The Chair IPR Committee Chair, Pakistan should be honoured to his contribution to a begining, where we see increase in issues every day when we get up. Sincere thanks to the writer, and please do grace the WIPO Day in Karachi.

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