Vice President (VP) of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Lance Hinds, is urging those in the relevant authorities to update the Intellectual Property Law (IPL).
Hinds, in an interview with this publication, said that whilst the IPL refers to products or creations of human intelligence, Guyana’s current laws are not adequately defined to protect 21st century businesses that depend on these products.
He said, “What is attracting a lot of attention on the market is information technology, knowledge based industries and creative industries specifically with arts.”
“Now, if you are going to go down that road as a business in Guyana then you don’t have any real comfort that this output would be protected. The situation in our economical climate is such that if you design a costume for Mashramani, which we call your intellectual property, and someone takes your costume design to an agency and ask them to make it at a cheaper price, there is nothing you can do when that happens. Why? Because we don’t have the modern laws to take that person to court and get any sort of satisfaction. And this in itself, presents a problem for businesses that are driven by such creations.”
The VP added, “If you are going to foster innovation, you will need to provide that sort of comfort and build an environment where people could feel at ease and not worry and they know that should anything happen there is proper legal ways that could be used to achieve some sort of justice.”
He explained that if we hope to do, for example, high-end information processing for an international company, “one of the things they are going to need to be comfortable with is that if you walk around with any of their information in our legal environment they can go to court and get satisfactory results. But again, we don’t have the mechanisms for that and that affects the ability of some companies to be able to partner with other companies at that level because they would not be comfortable with taking such risks.”
In short, the current IPL, he said, severely affects business growth in those areas that have the potential to bring in significant revenue.
“There is legislation but the trouble is that it has not been modified since 1956 and the problem with that is that if you photocopy a book then it falls within the current statute, but the things which I have spoken about are not even categorized in this statute or exist in this Act. It does not provide for it. So the Act clearly needs to be updated.”
Hinds indicated that while it may sound quite simple to get it amended and done with, he strongly suggested that awareness be raised about the importance of the IPL as he believes that the Guyanese culture is not oriented in such a way that everyone respects and understands intellectual property rights.
Moreover, the VP highlighted that the GCCI has called on agencies and individuals to assist them in understanding and documenting the effects of the current statute on businesses to further reinforce their case.