KATHMANDU, Dec 18: The Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies has begun drafting the Intellectual Property (IP) Rights Bill.
The ministry is drafting the important law at a time when foreign investors have been asking the country to strongly enforce the intellectual property laws.
So far, the cases on violation of intellectual property right are governed by Patent, Design and Trade Mark Act 1965 and the Copyright Act 2002. Nepal enforced its first National IP Policy in March 2017.
“By enacting the intellectual property law, the government has aimed at incorporating all the issues related to intellectual property under a single legal framework,” an official at the ministry told Republica.
Officials say that the ministry felt the need for a separate law after realizing that old laws cannot address emerging cases related to intellectual property. “Foreign companies want the law protect even a simple design created by them,” a source at the ministry said, adding that the ministry has targeted to finalize the draft in the next one and half months.
The government has adopted the policy of attracting foreign direct investment to fill up the resource gap. In this regard, Nepal has introduced the Public Private Partnership and Investment Act, and the Foreign Investment and Transfer of Technology Act as part of policy reforms. However, the issue of intellectual property so far has been sidelined which has always been one of the concerns of foreign investors.
In the absence of intellectual property laws, many locally-produced goods are being sold using similar logo and name of reputed brands of multinational companies. Data compiled by the Department of Industry also shows that the cases related to intellectual property rights have been growing with each passing year.
Two years ago, Japanese company Kansai Paint and Kansai Nerolac Paints Nepal Pvt Ltd, a local firm, moved a court to settle their trademark dispute. In 2018, Nepali movie 'Kri' was accused of copyright violation for using music of an old movie in an unauthorized manner. The dispute was reportedly settled out of court for a payment of Rs1.1 million.
Similarly, the trend of doing business by imitating established foreign brands is on the rise. For examples, there are number of restaurants in Kathmandu valley whose brands resemble the American fast food chain – KFC. Similarly, a confectionary product named Center Fillz closely resembles Centre Fresh, and knockoffs of popular shoe brands Adidas and Nike are easily available in the local markets.
During the second Trade Policy Review of Nepal held in December 2018, the World Trade Organization had also pointed out slow progress of the country toward safeguarding the intellectual property rights. “Nepal should have a more effective enforcement of competition policy and protection of intellectual property rights,” stated the multilateral trade organization in its concluding remark of the review meeting.