Exporters concerned over ‘headless’ intellectual property body

Published July 7, 2021
The commerce secretary is currently holding the acting charge of IPO chairperson.  — Photo courtesy IPO website
The commerce secretary is currently holding the acting charge of IPO chairperson. — Photo courtesy IPO website

ISLAMABAD: With the battle over Geographical Indication (GI) rights for basmati rice between India and Pakistan entering a new phase, the Intellectual Property Organisation (IPO) is a rudderless ship functioning without any management at this crucial juncture.

For the last one year, the government has failed to appoint a director general (DG) of the IPO. Last month, IPO chairman Mujeeb Ahmed too retired. The Ministry of Commerce has not even initiated the advertisement process to hire a new head for the organisation. A senior official of the IPO said the average time for the appointment of the chairman is three months after the release of the advertisement.

IPO is the authorised body to pursue cases related to GI tagging and lodging complaints against copyright violations etc at the international forum. However, currently the posts of both technical experts, including the DG and chairperson, are vacant.

The commerce secretary is currently holding the acting charge of IPO chairperson.

India has launched a legal offensive in the EU against Pakistan, claiming that basmati rice is the sole and exclusive agricultural produce of the country.

Pakistan had filed an appeal in the EU against the Indian attempt to register basmati rice as its sole produce, maintaining that this long-grain aromatic rice variety was grown in the region which included Pakistan.

The IPO official said the EU deadline for an amicable settlement between India and Pakistan expired in June.

Because of efforts of the Pakistani business community, the EU has granted additional time of up to September for the two countries to settle the issue regarding GI tagging of basmati rice.

“Currently, the consultants hired by Pakistan to pursue the case in EU were negotiating with the Indian teams for an amicable resolution that basmati belongs to both the countries and not just India,” the official added.

Meanwhile, rice exporters expressed concerns that a “headless IPO” could lead to India getting a free hand not only in the EU but also in other markets.

“Just like we know about the global and regional developments, the Indian side too is aware of the situation here,” said Taufiq Ahmed Khan, former vice president of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP).

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2021

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