EDITORIAL: Saving the brands

Protecting IP and trademark will attract more investments, encouraging people to come up with innovative ideas

Stealing the Intellectual Property (IP) rights, which include copyright, trademarks, design rights and patents is one of the biggest problems in most developing countries, including Nepal. Most products of international brands are being locally produced and sold at the local market showing them as branded ones in violation of the IP rights due to absence of effective law protecting the IP. Such unscrupulous practices have given rise to unethical business discouraging the foreign investment and putting the brakes on developing innovative ideas within the country. Since the restoration of democracy in 1990s Nepal has adopted a policy of attracting foreign direct investment in the productive sectors aiming at giving a boost to national economy. However, the country has failed to yield any desired results, mainly due to lack of appropriate laws protecting the IP and trademark. One of the major reasons for Nepal not being able to do so is the absence of effective law related to IP. Knockoffs are rampant — be it food, soft drinks and beverage, footwear, clothes, candies or other items.

The Design and Trademark Act, enacted in 2022 BS, which is supposed to protect IP and trademark, has failed to address emerging challenges faced by domestic and international brands. The knockoffs have not only hampered the businesses of the branded companies but also are fleeced consumers, resulting in loss of state revenue and discouraging the innovation and entrepreneurship within the country. In order to protect the IP and trademark of domestic and foreign brands, the government is all set to bring a new law on Industrial Property. The Industrial Property Bill is set be tabled in Parliament. Once signed into law, this will replace the old Act. This is expected to protect IP and trademarks of all companies, even if they are not registered in Nepal. Anyone stealing IP of other company by any means—sounding or looking similar and giving false impression of association with some individual or company — will  be punished with a fine of up to Rs one million and such knockoffs will not be allowed in the local market. Such counterfeits also will be seized by customs officials during import or export.

The bill, which will be compatible with the IP of World Trade Organisation, has also proposed to put a ban of showing geographical indications as a trademark of any product. But locals can use them as their local brands. Creativity and entrepreneurship is the key to promoting one’s own business with quality assurances. Human civilisation has come to this stage because of creativity. Domestic or foreign companies will think twice in investing in a country where IP and trademarks are not well protected by law. These are the creative works treated as an asset of any person or a company which provide quality products and services to consumers. They cannot be infringed upon. General people will also be deprived of getting quality goods or services if low quality goods are allowed to be sold in markets. It is the duty of the government to protect IP of domestic or foreign companies. Protecting the IP will mean encouraging person(s) to come up with innovative ideas in businesses or services.

Protect street children

Violence, family breakdown, death of parents and other socio-economic factors drive many children to streets. Street children while go through psycho-social problems, they also become vulnerable to abuse and harassments. Then there are chances of these children getting into drug addiction. According to the Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB), children who live with single or step parents and those abused by alcoholic parents often run away from home. Similarly, poverty, drug addiction, lack of affection and peer pressure also force children to flee their homes.

Actual data on street children in Nepal are not available, but around 873 street children have been rescued from the streets in the last two years, according to CCWB. Though there are foster homes around — there are 533 in the country — they lack financial and human resources. Street children need counselling as well as open spaces to play and engage in creative activities. Government agencies and non-governmental organisations must take measures to address the plight of street children and uphold their rights. Like all other children, street children also have the right to health, shelter and education and freedom from violence and harassment.