Several general principles are important for the effective management of intellectual property (IP) rights in Pakistan. First, it is important to have an overall strategy to protect your IP. Second, IP is protected differently in Pakistan than in the U.S. Third, IPR needs to be registered and enforced in Pakistan, under local laws. It is important to note that there is no such concept of international IP rights. In most cases, IP is a territorial right and you only get IP protection in a a country where you have applied for and obtained your IP. For example, your granted U.S. patents and registered trademark will not protect you in Pakistan. Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends on national law. However, most countries do offer copyright protection to foreign works under certain conditions, and these conditions have been greatly simplified by international copyright treaties and conventions.
Obtaining patents and registering trademarks is on a first-in-time, first-in-right basis, so you should consider applying for trademark and patent protection before disclosing or selling your products or services in the Pakistan market. Companies must understand that intellectual property is primarily a private right and that the U.S. government generally cannot enforce rights for private individuals in Pakistan. It is the responsibility of the rights’ holders to register, protect, and enforce their rights where relevant, and they are advised to retain their own counsel and advisors. Companies may wish to seek advice from local attorneys or IP consultants who are experts in Pakistani law. The U.S. Commercial Service can provide a list of local lawyers upon request.
While the U.S. government stands ready to assist, little can be done if the rights holders have not taken the fundamental steps necessary to secure and enforce their IP in a timely fashion. Moreover, in many countries, rights holders who delay enforcing their rights on a mistaken belief that the U.S. government can provide a political resolution to a legal problem may find that their rights have been eroded or abrogated due to legal doctrines such as statutes of limitations, laches, estoppel, or unreasonable delay in prosecuting a law suit. While the U.S. government provides assistance to U.S. companies in navigating the intellectual property landscape in foreign markets, in no instance should U.S. government advice be seen as a substitute for the obligation of a rights holder to promptly pursue its case.
It is always advisable to conduct due diligence on potential partners and ensure any contractual arrangements clearly identify intellectual property provisions, inclduing in the handling of confidential business or trade secret information. Negotiate from the position of your partner and give your partner clear incentives to honor the contract. A good partner is an important ally in protecting IP rights. Consider carefully, however, whether to permit your partner to register your IP rights on your behalf. Doing so may create a risk that your partner will list itself as the IP owner and fail to transfer the rights should the partnership end. Keep an eye on your cost structure and reduce the margins (and the incentive) of would-be bad actors. Projects and sales in Pakistan require constant attention. Work with legal counsel familiar with Pakistan laws to create a solid contract that includes non-compete clauses, and confidentiality/non-disclosure provisions. The Intellectual Property Organization of Pakistan is the government of Pakistan’s focal point for IP issues.
In any foreign market, companies should consider several general principles for effective management of their intellectual property. For background on these principles please link to Protecting Intellectual Property.
IP Attaché Program Contact
The U.S. Commerce Department has IP Attachés and Counselors positioned in key markets around the world. Contact information for the IP Counselor covering Pakistan is available below:
John Cabeca, Intellectual Property Counselor for -South Asia
Embassy of the United States of America
American Center, 24, Kasturba Gandhi Marg
New Delhi 110 001, India
Tel: +91 11 2419 8000
To access Pakistan’s ICS, which includes information on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, visit the U.S. Department of State Investment Climate Statement website.