Chaos over copyright
Most countries have a unified office for intellectual property, where people can get all services at a 'one-stop centre'. For a long time, we have demanded for a unified IP office to decrease people's sufferings. But the tug-of-war between the two ministries is the reason behind the prime minister's instruction not being fulfilled.
Due to conflicts between two ministries, the plan to establish a unified and independent intellectual property (IP) office to provide copyrights, patents, design, and trademark certificates has been stuck in limbo.
Currently, the cultural ministry's copyright office provides copyright certificates, while the Department of Patents, Designs and Trademarks (DPDT) -- under the industries ministry -- provides the other services.
The copyright office, located at Agargaon, was established in 1967. Since then, it was under different ministries and in 2000, a copyright law was formed. On the other hand, DPDT, which is at Motijheel, was formed in 2003 by unifying the British era's "Patent" and "Trademarks Registry" offices.
In 2010, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina instructed to unify both offices, and reiterated the direction on August 24, 2014, during a visit to the industries ministry.
A meeting held on October 19, 2015, presided by the then principal secretary, decided to establish the unified IP office. But despite several discussions and meetings, all efforts fell through due to the conflicts.
Officials then decided to build a unified software, through which the two departments could work together, the process to establish which is ongoing.
On August 4, a meeting, presided over by the principal secretary and officials of the two ministries, decided that they will only exchange data via the unified software. Secretaries of ministries of industries, cultural affairs, and law were present at the meeting.
"We met again on October 21 for discussions centring on technical issues. The meeting decided to form a committee, which will comprise the DPDT, copyright office, and ICT department," said Jafor Raja Chowdhury, registrar of copyrights at Bangladesh Copyright Office.
"We all decided to run activities under separate ministries," he told The Daily Star.
Contacted, ICT and Telecom Minister Mustafa Jabbar told The Daily Star that
from a user's perspective, it does not matter how many departments work for this purpose, what matters is whether people need to go to multiple locations to avail the services.
He said, "Most countries have a unified office for intellectual property, where people can get all services at a 'one-stop centre'. For a long time, we have demanded for a unified IP office to decrease people's sufferings."
"But the tug-of-war between the two ministries is the reason behind the prime minister's instruction not being fulfilled," he added.
Jabbar said when he was trying to apply for patents and copyrights for his "Bijoy Software", he faced lots of hassles. "If someone needs copyright, they may need a patent, trademark, and design certificate at the same time."
Asked whether the automation process will be able to ensure one-stop services, Md Abdus Sattar, registrar of DPDT, said nothing is final yet.
"We are trying to establish connections by developing an online system. The committee, which will be formed soon, will decide further developments," he said.
On the other hand, many people want both offices to stay separate. They say if the industries ministry gets involved in issues of creative and cultural endeavours, such works could get hampered.
"Songs, literary works, films, paintings, photography, along with other creative and cultural works, are connected with the copyright office. DPDT deals with issues of patent and design, and works with several industries, including those related with software," said AKM Fahim Mashrur, former president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services.
"It would be wise for us to start thinking about having a centralised national IP office for industrial IP and copyrights, under which departments providing specific services will work separately," said Barrister ABM Hamidul Mishbah, founder of Bangladesh Intellectual Property Forum.