Poor branding culture in the country has resulted in the intellectual property (IP) system not benefiting from potential products, designs and the business people in the country today.

Of more than 17,000 trademark applications filed with the IP department with the economic affairs ministry until this year, national applicants filed only about 204 trademarks, almost two percent against the remaining 98 percent international applicants.

Without proper branding, local products are vulnerable to being copied, which could hinder potential revenue from being generated.

These are some of the constraints discussed at a daylong workshop on enabling IP environment in Thimphu yesterday.

The workshop was held to strengthen business competitiveness through brands and designs involving SMEs, indigenous craft agencies and to enhance collaboration among the stakeholders to improve branding culture in the country.

According to a preliminary assessment conducted by official World Intellectual Property Organizations (WIPO), the country has incredible opportunities from branding.

WIPO consultant to Bhutan and a professor with Loyola University, Chigago Giulio Zanetti said the country despite having incredible opportunities thorough branding have missed several opportunities.

“The country is rich in culture, unique designs and textiles, handicrafts, and unique geographical locations with fantastic natural products. However, these are not translated into brands,” he said. “There is no focus on promotion and exports.”

He added that the products in the country today have no name, no packaging and no proper marketing.  “The products spotted are bit more traditional. The produces from SMEs have no recognised names,” said Julia Zanetti.

The professor joined by the director of regional bureau for Asia and the Pacific, Andrew Ong is in the country to help institutionalise a networked hub system to enhance branding culture among SMEs.

The products from Bhutan can become more competitive and bring more revenue for SMEs by linking reputation of the country like pollution free, good quality products, strong focus on green economy and bio products elements according to the professor.

Andrew Ong said the IP system lacks awareness and the misconception that IP systems are meant for big businesses still exist. “There is an issues of different government agencies starting fragmented programmes,” he said.

They supported the department’s plan to amend the IP Act 2001 and to include provisions of geographical indications and certification marks.

“If you don’t have geographical indication laws, you missed out a big opportunity. You cannot prevent other people from copying or from using some of your names strategically,” said Julia Zanetti.

Deputy Chief IP officer with DoIP, Binod Pradhan said the main constraints facing the IP system was the products not being able to penetrate international markets despite enjoying huge potentials. “This is because of our poor branding culture.”