Unique and scaleable business ideas are often the only intrinsic capital for young entrepreneurs, as a typical startup barely possesses massive asset or human resource; hence most of the value of a startup often derives from their intellectual property rights. It has been estimated that on average, over 80 percent of the value of a startup company is based on their IP portfolio, making the protection of the intangible property a prerequisite for a startup venture to be successful.
“The entrepreneurial journey of startups is quite painstaking,” says Tina Jabeen, the investment advisor of Startup Bangladesh. “When entrepreneurs start working on their unique business ideas that they are always optimistic about, their prime focus initially revolves around ways to actually start giving shape to the venture,” she continues. “In the midst of dealing with the numerous substantial procedures to build a startup from scratch, the term ‘intellectual property’ along with the protection it needs is frequently ignored or undermined.”
In this backdrop, Startup Bangladesh-iDEA organized an intellectual property clinic for local startups at Dhaka’s ICT Bhaban on Monday. The workshop brought legal experts on intellectual property rights, copyrights and patent, senior officials from Department of Patents, Designs and Trademarks (DPDT) and Office of Copyright, and startups together to engage them in a three-hour-long lively discussion with a view to eliminate the negligence of budding startups when it comes to protecting their IP rights.
Mustafa Jabbar, Minister Posts, Telecommunication and Information Technology was present as the chief guest of the event. Founder of Bangladesh Copyright and IP Forum Barrister ABM Hamidul Mishbah, Supreme Court advocate Anita Ghazi Rahman, founder and CEO of Startup Dhaka Mustafizur Khan, North South University professor M Mahboob Rahman, Registrar of Copyright Office Jafor R Chowdhury, Deputy Registrar of Department of Patents, Designs and Trademarks Obaidur Rahman, and founder of idea agency BetterStories Minhaz Anwar were present as speakers at the workshop.
Thanking Tina Jabeen for her passionate efforts to secure proper sustenance for the budding startups in the country, Mustafa Jabbar took a trip down the memory lane to elaborate the upward transition of the ICT sector in Bangladesh. “Back in our time there was no procedure to register a software, but when there is a will, there's way and I kept applying for the patent of my product despite repeated rejections. When I applied for the patent in 1992, there was not a single person in the responsible department who could examine the product,” he told the audience about his struggle to patent the iconic software Bijoy. “Fortunately for me, an official came to my rescue and took the responsibility to inspect. It was in 2004 when I reapplied and it took four full years for me to finally get the patent. However, things have drastically changed and the procedures are way simpler now,” he added.
Progresses have been made, yet there remain huge gaps in terms of policies involving protection of intellectual property, as the minister says, “The 1969 copyright ordinance was finally been adopted into a draft law in 2000. Unfortunately, it has been lying on the table of the responsible ministry since 2015 in the name of correction. The situation is worse when it comes to patent design. We are still governed according to the 1911 patent law, a law which provides guidelines on anything but ICT registrations.”
The technology entrepreneur turned minister then urged for immediate measures to reform the respective laws, while urging the young entrepreneurs to be attentive toward the intangible properties of their startups.
The importance of protecting IP rights for startups has been reiterated in the speeches of the experts throughout the sessions, which was followed by an interactive panel discussion and a one to one consultation opportunity for the startups regarding their products.