Bhutan: Lack of awareness and resources hinder intellectual property growth

THIMPHU (Kuensel/ANN) - Considering the use and application of Intellectual Property (IP) assets in the country, the growth and awareness on IP system remains at a nascent stage to date.

According to the department of intellectual property’s annual magazine, 2018, a total of 16,938 trademark applications were filed with the department out of which, only 180 were Bhutanese applications until 2017. Almost 99 per cent of trademarks application filed were from international applicants.

Of the total 41 applications filed for patent with the department, the number of applications filed by Bhutanese inventors was 16, which is about 39 percent of the total number of applications filed.

Patent is one of the four intellectual property rights that provide protection for the inventions. It also provides incentives to an individual by offering them recognition for their creativity and reward for their marketable inventions.

The highest international patent application was received from India followed by the Netherlands and Austria. The majority of international patent applications were filed as prioritised under Paris convention.

Bhutan became the member of Paris convention for the protection of industrial property in 2000.

The trademark registration system generated more than Nu 100 million (US$ 1.369M) this year and also earned Swiss Franc of CHF 1.67 million from international trademark applications.

The first Bhutanese invention approved patent was given to Jigme Namgyel for the invention of Grounding Electrode Earthing Slab.

However, his invention will not be granted with the  protection abroad because Bhutan is not yet a member of the international patent filing treaty called Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) that facilitates patent protection for invention in multiple countries.

Officiating Chief at Industrial Property Division Tempa Tshering said the membership for international patent filing treaty was no reliable considering the least inventive ideas that occurs in the country. “Some inventions that applied for the patent could not be approved because of low inventive steps and lacked novelty,” he said.

He said that low industrial base and lack of awareness on IP, weak branding culture and absence of IP professionals hindered the growth of IP in the country.

“IP system encourage progress and well being of humanity through innovation and creativity. The legal protection encourages the commitment of additional resources for further innovation, enable economic growth, create new jobs and enhance quality of life,” said Tempa Tshering.

Other challenges faced in trademark registration were lack of adequate in-house skills to examine Trademark applications, assisting right holders in commercialisation process and economic utilisation of their trademarks.

With only 19 industrial design applications received from 2009 to 2018, the application for industrial designs unlike other IP applications was low. However, the registration is expected to increase with the rise in industrial design products according to the department.

Since the department started Voluntary Deposit and Registration System of Copyrights in 2012, it registered 163 works of literary, derivative, music, and arts and generated Nu 35,300 (US$ 483) as fees.

The registration is done on voluntary basis as mandated by the Berne Convention that requires member states to protect copyright without undue formalities and administration.

Bhutan became the member of the Berne Convention for the protection of literary and artistic works in 2004.

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