According to the World Trade Organization, services represent the fastest growing sector of the global economy. Tourism acts as one of the key players in international commerce and one of the main sources of income for a number of countries. Contrary to popular belief, there is a strong link and significant overlap between intellectual property and the tourism sector. Many countries in the world have a system in place for the protection of intellectual property, promoting innovation and creativity and resulting in economic growth and prosperity.
Pakistan has a lot to offer in terms of tourism. It is blessed to be a geographically and ethnically diverse country with abundance of natural beauty, historical heritage and cultural diversity. However, despite the natural and historical riches of the country, the repeated transfer of the tourism industry from division to division over the past years has resulted in a crisis of leadership and led to adverse effects in the effectiveness and efficiency of the tourism industry. Additionally, Pakistan does not have a good international image. The country’s image is one of extremism, intolerance and insecurity.
Countries are like “brands” and we therefore need to form a unique selling proposition around our country for international tourists and brand our country as a lucrative destination. Destination branding has become one of the central aspects of IP protection in the tourism sector, examples being the Tourism Malaysia campaign of ‘Malaysia, Truly Asia’, the Swiss resort St. Moritz using the tagline ‘Top of the World’, ‘Kerala – Gods Own Country’ registered as a trademark in India, China National Tourist Offices campaign ‘China like Never Before’. Similarly, Dubai and Egypt represent authentic Arab culture.
Intellectual Property is often the most valuable and least protected asset. Pakistan must leverage its rich cultural heritage and biodiversity and improve its tourism environment so that it may reap the benefits of intellectual property rights. Additionally, even though Pakistan is signatory to a number of international agreements and there are a number of laws in place relating to trademarks, geographical indications, industrial designs as well as other intellectual property rights such as copyrights and patents, the enforcement of these laws remains weak. There is an urgent need to create awareness about the different types of intellectual property rights and the procedures for registering them. We need to form agreements and frameworks on geographical indicators (dresses, food, products, cultural practices) in order to fully protect and benefit from these creations. Strengthening IPR legislation and institutional and legal arrangements for their enforcement will promote investment and innovation, which in turn will create job opportunities for locals and boost the economy of our country.
by Leena Nishtar