No spe­cific laws to pro­tect tra­di­tional cul­tural ex­pres­sions and de­signs

Business Bhutan - - Front Page - Dechen Dolkar from Thim­phu

There are cur­rently no spe­cific laws on pro­tect­ing Tra­di­tional Cul­tural Ex­pres­sions (TCEs) such as the Kushuthara and other wo­ven tex­tile pat­terns in the coun­try.

This has be­come a con­cern es­pe­cially in the wake of adul­ter­ation of the Bhutanese wo­ven tex­tiles and pat­terns made and pro­duced by the In­dian com­pa­nies in the Bhutanese mar­ket.

A sim­i­lar pat­tern of the Bhutanese wo­ven tex­tile, es­pe­cially the Kira and Gho, is be­ing pro­duced in the mar­ket to­day at a much cheaper price.

Mean­while, the De­part­ment

of In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty (DoIP) un­der the Min­istry of Eco­nomic Af­fairs is re­spon­si­ble for the reg­is­tra­tion and ad­min­is­tra­tion of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty in the coun­try. The ob­jects of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty are the cre­ations of the hu­man mind and the hu­man in­tel­lect.

The In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Of­fi­cer from the DoIP, Kuenga Dorji, said there are no spe­cific laws cur­rently pro­tect­ing TCEs.

“Even at the in­ter­na­tional or global stage, there is no spe­cific mul­ti­lat­eral le­gal in­stru­ment pro­vid­ing for the pro­tec­tion of TCEs such as tra­di­tional tex­tile pat­terns although the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has been work­ing to­wards an in­ter­na­tional frame­work since 1967,” he said.

Mean­while, the in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights pro­vide the own­ers with the ex­clu­sive le­gal rights from ex­ploita­tion of their work or prod­uct and reap ben­e­fits from their in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty.

How­ever, the is­sue of a glob­ally ac­cepted and ap­pli­ca­ble regime for reg­u­lat­ing TCEs in IP law re­mains un­re­solved to date. The gen­eral char­ac­ter and modes of cre­ation of TCEs place them at an am­bigu­ous po­si­tion vis-a-vis the IP law, which re­quires dis­tinct modes of au­thor­ship of pro­tected works, tan­gi­bil­ity, fix­a­tion and du­ra­tion of rights.

Kuenga Dorji said since our tex­tile de­signs and pat­terns are an in­trin­sic part of our rich cul­tural her­itage, this is­sue has been of grow­ing con­cern to the de­part­ment and that they are work­ing to­wards ex­tend­ing cov­er­age ei­ther through the use of ex­ist­ing pro­vi­sions in our laws or by adapt­ing our IP laws to in­clude pro­tec­tion for such works.

One pos­si­ble area of such pro­tec­tion could be through the use of Geo­graph­i­cal In­di­ca­tions (GIs) for our dis­tinc­tive pat­terns such as the Kushuthara and Mathra pat­terns, which are well­known as re­gion­ally spe­cific in ori­gin. The newer de­signs and pat­terns could, per­haps, be reg­is­tered un­der the ‘copy­rights’.

Mean­while, such prac­tices have also af­fected our weavers, who are at­tempt­ing to de­velop qual­ity prod­ucts and de­velop and sus­tain mar­kets for them both lo­cally and else­where. They now com­pete against cheap ma­chine-made coun­ter­feits, which some buy­ers and con­sumers er­ro­neously as­sume are more de­sir­able.

Kuenga Dorji said the de­part­ment is very con­cerned and is look­ing at both pol­icy and le­gal op­tions to study how the val­ues and prin­ci­ples of IP law could be adapted and per­haps even re­de­ployed for new sub­ject mat­ter and for new ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

The Na­tional In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Pol­icy, 2018 re­quires pro­mo­tion and pro­tec­tion of TCEs from mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion by unau­tho­rized third par­ties. The pol­icy also re­quires an in­creased en­gage­ment and par­tic­i­pa­tion in var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional for de­vel­op­ing in­ter­na­tional in­stru­ments for the pro­tec­tion of TCEs.

“The de­part­ment will also carry out fo­cused aware­ness rais­ing pro­gram and dis­cus­sions with the rel­e­vant agen­cies in or­der to work to­gether to set an over­all di­rec­tion for a suitable frame­work,” Kuenga Dorji said.

The DoIP has also writ­ten to a com­pany in France with re­gard to sell­ing fab­ric ma­te­ri­als of Kushuthara pat­tern in France with­out any con­sent.

The Royal Tex­tile Academy (RTA) also strives to pre­serve and pro­mote the unique cul­ture and tra­di­tions of Bhutan, and weav­ing be­ing one of them.

RTA of­fi­cials said they have a weav­ing school where they wel­come stu­dents from all back­grounds (both lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional) to learn the art of thagzo; weav­ing. Be­sides, it also con­ducts Na­tional De­sign and Art Com­pe­ti­tion through which the ac­tual ar­ti­sans along with the pa­tron/ de­sign­ers are rec­og­nized.

“It is through these en­deav­ors that pro­mo­tion and preser­va­tion of our tex­tiles is high­lighted; mak­ing peo­ple re­al­ize how spe­cial and val­ued they are,” RTA of­fi­cials added.

How­ever, lo­cal weavers feel that it will ul­ti­mately de­pend on the cus­tomers’ choice be­cause peo­ple go for qual­ity and some pre­fer cheaper prices.

Gagyel Lhen­drup Weav­ing Cen­ter said though the In­dian made would be cheaper, how­ever, many peo­ple pre­fer only hand wo­ven tex­tiles.

The prices of hand wo­ven tex­tiles range from Nu 10,000 to Nu 100,000 and the ma­chine-made ranges from Nu 3,500 to Nu 7,000.

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