Bangladesh is a developing country. In order to turn it into a developed one, the protection of trademark plays an important role in its cultural, industrial and economic uplift. But it is a matter of great concern that counterfeit products have recently started to flood the market, and it has become a big threat to the economy.
The availability of counterfeit products is a common feature in the country. The products include cosmetics, medicines, electronic goods, mobile phone handsets, etc. As for example, unscrupulous traders are importing substandard mobile handsets from China or elsewhere and are selling those bearing the logo of reputable brands.
The most terrifying picture is encountered at the medicine market. It is a matter of grave concern that fake medicines are widely found in the wholesale drug market, later to be sold at a number of drug stores across the country. The whole activity poses a great challenge to the innocent people’s health. Apart from this, the customers are being cheated frequently when the pharmacies sell the spurious medicines to them.
Things have taken this hazardous turn due to legal loopholes and inaction of the watchdog bodies, regulators and law-enforcement agencies. The latter, however, sometimes take stringent measures against trade in counterfeit and substandard medicines.
The number of unscrupulous traders and manufacturers dealing with various products is on the rapid increase because of unauthorised use of registered trademarks or protected marks. Bangladesh has legal mechanism to protect different products and their marketing. The current legal basis of trademark protection are the Trademark Act, 2009 and Trademark Rules, 1963. As per the meaning of Section-2(8) of the Trademark Act, 2009, the term ‘trademark’ denotes a registered trademark or a mark used in relation to goods or service or a mark used or proposed to be used in relation to any service or goods indicating a connection in the course of trade between the goods and the person having the right, either as proprietor or as registered user, to use the mark.
The object of Trademark Law is to promote business of manufacturers or proprietors by preventing counterfeit products from being available in the market and ensure a better protection of trademark for goods or services. Above all, the prime object of the trademark law is to prevent the use of fraudulent marks on goods and services by alerting the public about being cheated as to the origin or quality of a product or a service. A trademark should be registered to get protection under the Trademark Act, 2009 which gives the registered proprietor of a trademark in respect of any goods the exclusive right to the use of the trademark in relation to those goods. In case of infringement and other violations of the legal provisions, the trademark law provides for severe penalties, including imposition of fines and imprisonment.
There are some difficulties in implementing the trademark law in Bangladesh, notably weaknesses of the authorities and that of the monitoring cells; registration difficulties and lack of awareness of people, low price of counterfeit products etc.
Trademark protection plays a vital role in smooth industrial development of a country. It becomes a tool for economic development, when it is used in the context of well-articulated national, regional or enterprise-based strategies, to encourage and support innovation and creativity. As for example, there are more than 50 varieties of rice developed in Bangladesh, but any country may register the Intellectual Property Right (IPR) for these varieties, if we fail to register on time. In order to strengthen the trademark protection in the country, the following measures should be taken:
Firstly, awareness among the people of all classes about the trademark law and the bad impact of counterfeit products should be raised through public campaigns or by some other means.
Secondly, a trademark registry office should be introduced in each divisional city to scrutinise the trademark-related matters swiftly and to assist in the industrial development.
Thirdly, the online trademark application system can be introduced to expedite the procedure of trademark registration due to the shortage of trademark registry offices.
Fourthly, the number of officials and employees at the relevant offices should be increased because the number of applications for trademark registration is increasing every year.
Fifthly, the officials at the trademark registration centres should be well-trained having sufficient knowledge of necessary provisions of laws, notably of the Trademark Act, 2009, along with international agreements (Paris Convention and TRIPS Agreement) as regards trademark protection.
Sixthly, Trademark Protection Courts in the divisional cities should be introduced in order to expedite disposal of suits regarding trademark infringements.
Besides, the government should take several steps which can make the trademark registration offices speedier and help them implement the present trademark laws effectively. Different forms of trademark, service mark, certification mark or collective mark should be updated to keep up with the digital-based times. Although the trademark laws contain adequate numbers of standard provisions to deal with these matters – such as protection of registered or unregistered marks, steps against infringement on and falsifications of them, due to lack of awareness of the people, administrative inefficiency, and age-old rules (Trademark Rules, 1963), it turns out to be tough to implement the present law (Trademark Act, 2009) and ensure exclusive protection for the trading community and manufacturers. By removing the existing problems, a better trademark protection scenario can be ensured in the country, which can attract entrepreneurs from home and abroad. We have strong reasons to be optimist over the fact that Bangladesh has every potential for becoming an industrially developed country in the near future.