Stealing is a crime.
And it applies not only to money, possessions and spouses(!) but even to intellectual property.
What is intellectual property?
A creation of our intellect, our sweat and blood, our latent skills and talent for which a set of exclusive rights are recognized.
Bhutan is a place breeding latent talent and resources. But it’s a pity that another person’s idea and talents are not respected.
This is evident even in the fledgling movie industry where pirated copies of movies and songs flood the markets of bordering Indian towns.
And talent hunt contests have no IR protection to prevent duplication.
Entertainment houses and radio stations continue to use songs indiscriminately with little intervention on the part of the song artists.
Abroad, stealing of intellectual property results in law-suits running into millions and controversies galore.
Fortunately, however, Bhutan’s intellectual property division (IPD) under the economic affairs ministry is finally making its presence felt by initiating a modicum of intellectual property rights.
Common types of intellectual property rights include copyrights, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights and trade secrets in some jurisdictions.
A “collective management organization” (CMO) will soon come into existence – an organization pioneered by the private sector where like-minded creators will collectively protect and promote copyrights.
This is a timely move at a juncture when more and more artists are creating and their inventions need to be protected.
And more importantly, Bhutan is drafting the National Intellectual Property Policy which will hopefully encourage creators, artists and authors to exercise their creative copyrights because what we are hearing right now is that the inventors themselves are too lax and laid back when it comes to protecting their ideas.
Statistics show that there are more than 1,000 trademarks registered with the IPD.
On Feb 1, the IPD office encouraged interested parties to come forward and register for their copyrights.
And just recently, in a milestone move for those who are after all interested in protecting their inventions, the IPD has established a registry for patents as mandated by the Industrial Property Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2001.
An encouraging fact is that the office has received the first two applications for patent registry – one from a local and another, a foreigner.
However, it is unfortunate that patent registry is territorial, that is a patent granted in Bhutan may not work in India.
Bhutan may be one of the few countries in the world which refrains from granting patents for natural plants.
Awareness needs to be created in this much hijacked plane of ideas because if we don’t, then credit would fail to go to the right person and this would eventually lead to the dilution and dithering of fresh ideas and innovations.
And especially in a country like Bhutan where fresh ideas take time to be spawned but where there is an acute need of creators who like a breath of fresh air will provide the necessary momentum needed to accelerate the country’s infant arts and creative industry to fame, the IPD’s recent initiatives are most welcome.
A genius may be born but if his ideas get stolen, the flame of his genius may soon be snuffed out.
Hence, it is always wise to tread the path of creating and protecting what one has created with caution.
Some critics argue that the public interest is harmed by ever expansive monopolies in the form of copyright extensions, software patents and business method patents but then depriving a creator of financial and social incentives would lead to dearth of innovations which would sound the death knell for creativity and progress.