networking event held in London 31st October 2012 @ Intellect Office with: ADM Hamidul Misbah, Abbas Nokhasteh Enamul Hoque, Lipi Begum and Sorwar Ahmed
Article written by Ruhul Abdin & Maher Anjum, Photography by Rukia Begum
An emerging economy like Bangladesh requires focused strategy and implementation of that strategy. The strategy must find the balance between international demand, competition, and the country’s ability to ‘add value’ through quality, design and innovation. The purpose is ‘value addition’ to key sectors which will create new employment, provide new skills training and growth of industry through domestic and export markets.
Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) protect inventions, literary and artistic works, industrial designs, commercial symbols, images and nomenclature from piracy. The IPR in totality stipulates the protection of intangible assets, that is, intellectual property. Intellectual property is intangible property because it cannot be felt or touched like physical property. The current debate regarding Geographical Indicators and India’s marking of various products, such as Jamdani, Nakshi Kantha, Fazlee mango, provided the platform for a discussion looking towards the future for Bangladeshi produced designs and items.
This article really aims to be a probing one, asking questions to the readers, requesting that people engage in this line of thinking to better improve the value that Bangladesh brings to the world stage.
The five panelists were asked to discuss this issue, but really bringing in their specific specialization.
The panel discussion looked to address the issues surrounding the role that intellectual property rights and design can play in shaping the economy of Bangladesh. The five speakers brought forward some interesting perspectives, starting with Abbas Nokhasteh of Openvizor discussing the role of collaborative practice between local, sub-national, national and international issues related to the arts and cultural rights of communities. This really set the tone then for Lippi Begum, Senior lecturer at various Arts institutes, including the London College of Fashion, to present the case for Bangladesh to really engage with the process of design. Misbah articulated the need to engage more effectively, and the audience raised very important issues.
Murad Qureshi, AM, enquired why although Bangladesh is known for work in other areas e.g. – international development, climate change, how is it we can transfer the knowledge and expertise of this sector to others? The crucial outcomes of this strong, engaging discussion was that whether it was architecture, fashion, urban development, food, Bangladesh needs to appropriate and implement a set of laws that will benefit the nation in the long term. Time and gain, the issues of collaboration, innovation and design was raised, and the need to educate, not just at the primary level, but at the level of academic research is crucial. Shaheen Westcombe MBE addressed the issue of the built environment, how architecture should be allowed to play a stronger role, by developing better material and construction processes, to engage better with the public and cities in Bangladesh will ultimately need to be designed with more thought. The discussion was really unpacking the notion of what is relevant to Bangladesh’s future, and Misbah joked, ‘how can Dhakaiya Jamdani, or Fazlee mango have possibly originated from India? The name alone says its origin!’ Although a very serious legal issue, GI’s are yet to be made into law in Bangladesh, Misbah is hopeful it will be law soon, and the 73 items they have highlighted so far, will then be registered as products of Bangladesh.
The discussion gave us plenty of questions to go away and contemplate upon, what is needed to answer them are definitely further discussion and dialogue. What is also ALSO necessary is strategic formulation of policies and research that can enhance Bangladesh’s capabilities to both be a creative hub for the future, and a sustainable economy. What was most enlightening was that the audience and the speakers all wholeheartedly agreed that the way forward included one of collaborative practice, rather than any reliance on the government, on business or any other body, and it was clear that there is no need to be dependent on any one body or institution. Policies need to be developed and implemented, but they require support and need to be adopted to be effective. Most now agree that top-down initiatives will be damaging and hinders the whole idea of a design-process led development.
A key issue raised was that we know there is a lack of knowledge and understanding of what IP, copyright, trademark etc is and people / communities need to be involved and engaged from the beginning, but really, how do we go about creating and establishing a collaborative and open process? Another key issue raised was that the link and values of the chain can only be understood and mapped if people/ communities come together and create their own space and own stories. This begs the question, who facilitates such a process?
These are critical questions, which we hope are going to be answered by the likes of Misbah and Lippi, their academic and research work is creating awareness and a need for further research and investigation. Dissemination is a key strategic component, and the more the public becomes aware of the current ability to protect their intellectual property in Bangladesh, the better the future will be for Bangladesh.
To sum up, the role of GI, Intellectual Property Rights, as well as design is crucial to creating a sustainable and thriving Bangladesh economy. Against this is the backdrop of a rapidly urbanizing country which is struggling to meet the demands of both its people and the wider global supply of products. Being able to protect its intellectual property effectively will provide an impetus for both Bangladeshi’s within and external of Bangladesh to invest more time and energy, and the most valuable of all, creative energy, as they will feel they have the protection needed to flourish within the country. Although this article raises more questions than answers, it also poses the potential that already exists within Bangladesh, learning from other sectors, learning from international peers and academics and the ever increasing access to a digitized Bangladesh means that there is a potential of a new generation that will be able to harness the opportunity to implement good design. So to end on a positive note, good design can create good spaces which can create more innovative and productive work places thus generate more business and ultimately:
“Design is what links creativity and innovation. It shapes ideas to become practical and attractive
proposition for users or customers. Design may be described as creativity deployed to a specific end.”
Cox Review, Sir George Cox, former Chair Design Council, Design Council website