Sri Lankaâ€™s trademarks office lethargy raises exportersâ€™ costs, risks
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s local intellectual property office has become a bottleneck for exporters seeking to register trademarks abroad, making it costly and time consuming, a new study has found.
The National Intellectual Property Office (NIPO) is “uniquely uncooperative in providing information and coming for stakeholder meetings,” said Nishan de Mel, Executive Director of Verité Research, a private think tank.
“We’re registering under 1,000 trademarks a year while there are about 5,000 applications a year,” he told a news conference. “There are five times as more applications to the local trademarks office as there are registrations.
”It means the local trademarks office has become a bit of a bottleneck for local organisations registering their trademarks and even going to register trademarks in other countries.”
A study by Verité Research found that countries like Bulgaria, Vietnam and the Philippines convert over 50% of applications to registrations every year, and other regional countries 70%.
“Other countries have moved ahead, delivering a better service to their companies in trademark registration,” de Mel said.
Delays in companies registering their trademarks, which help consumers distinguish one product from another and provide an important competitive edge for firms over similar products from their rivals, raises the risk of they being copied, he said.
Sri Lanka should accede to the Madrid protocol, which facilitates trademark registration overseas through the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), de Mel said.
The Madrid protocol enables companies to register their trademarks in several countries with one application, instead of having to make multiple applications in different countries which is costly and time consuming.
But to get the benefits of the Madrid protocol, companies should be able to register their trademarks without the delays being currently experienced.
“The path to Madrid lies through Colombo,” de Mel said. “Being able to register trademarks in Colombo quickly and efficiently is important but Colombo has become a road block.
“It’s like getting to the Southern Expressway which takes one hour to Galle,” he said, referring to a new highway to the southern port town. “But getting to the starting point is delayed by massive traffic jams.”
Exporters say that registering trademarks in Sri Lanka can take a minimum of three years, and some times as many as 5-8 years, creating uncertainty, and putting their business and trademark application locally and internationally into jeopardy.
“The block is in the Colombo office – they can’t get to the starting point,” de Mel said.
Indira Malwatte, chairperson of the Export Development Board, and a former exporter, said trademark registration “can be a nightmare” for small companies, which don’t have the resources of large firms.
“This is not cheap. We cannot continue like this. That’s why the Madrid protocol is important.”
She said the Cabinet of ministers had approved the accession and they expect to get it done by end-2017.
(COLOMBO, Feb 01, 2017)