With its significant geopolitical position in South Asia that provides the country with convenient access to the international market, Pakistan is nestled in the cradle of the historical Indus Valley civilization, which dates back at least 5,000 years. In a more contemporary context on the legal scene, Pakistan maintains a relatively comprehensive regulatory and legislative system for the protection of trademarks, patents, designs, and copyright.
When it comes to cyberspace, however, Pakistan has been ranked 76th out of 100 countries on the Inclusive Internet Index 2020 released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), falling into the last quartile of the global index overall. By way of background, the annual report is commissioned by Facebook and benchmarks countries on the Internet’s availability, affordability, relevance and the readiness of people to use it.
Despite this gap in connectivity and access to the worldwide web, online counterfeiting is widespread in Pakistan due to the country’s strategic location bordering China, India and Afghanistan. This means that a high volume of trade in goods, both internationally and locally, is expected to be in transit at any given moment in Pakistan. With that said, this does not mean that the authorities concerned in Pakistan turn a blind eye to illicit activity, even when users think they are anonymous online. It is possible to file legal proceedings in front of an IP Tribunal to obtain an injunction against the unauthorized registration and use of a domain name by an infringer or counterfeiter. Courts in Pakistan also have the jurisdiction to issue restraining orders to block access to infringing websites that are offering counterfeit products for sale.
In case an infringer or counterfeiter has succeeded in registering a .PK domain which infringes a registered or well-known trademark, the rights owner has two options: (1) To initiate a Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (URDP) complaint, which may result in the domain being removed or transferred to the complainant; and (2) To file a suit for infringement or passing off against the opposing party before the IP Tribunal with an application for interim injunction against continued operation of the domain. This order shall then be served on Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and Pakistan Network Information Centre (PKNIC), which manages the .pk ccLTD, to block access to the infringing domain. It is worth noting that if the domain name does not end in .pk, then option 2 is not available.
The rights owner may file a criminal complaint through the local police, or the Federal Investigation Agency, against merchants selling counterfeit products online. Action will be taken by a written complaint filed with a proof of ownership of the intangible rights. The offense is persecuted under the Copyright Ordinance 1962 (amended in 2000), the Trademark Ordinance 2001 and the Penal Laws of Pakistan. Investigations, anti-counterfeit raids, destruction of fakes and the arrest of the infringer. The case will then be transferred to the Criminal Court for further trial under the Criminal Procedure Code of Pakistan.
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