I have been following the issues and developments of Intellectual Property Rights in Brunei over the recent years. I must say that the actions taken by the government through the BSB Municipal Department are something to be applauded as it has undertaken the responsibility of revoking licences of shops that have been allegedly involved in the selling of pirated music in Brunei Darussalam.
The revocation of licences albeit administrative and could still be subjected to legal challenge seemed to have worked well.
At this juncture, it is also understood that the BSB Municipal Department's decision to revoke the licences is solely based on the fact that the retailers have breached the conditions of their licences, ie, breaking the law of the country by selling pirated audio materials, which is one of the categories that fall within the ambit of Intellectual Property Rights.
Whilst such efforts merit compliments, it is also imperative for us to ask the question as to why such enforcement of the revocation of licences is only subjected to those retailers selling pirated audio materials.
We all know very well how rampant other fake luxury goods, which are found to be in abundance, are sold publicly in the malls and other shopping places in Brunei. These shops or retailers are also in blatant breach of conditions of their licences under the control of the Municipal Department. Why are the licences of these shops not put under scrutiny?
Why is there then such selective enforcement? This particular fact will only make Brunei as a laughing stock when it comes to our half-hearted way of enforcing Intellectual Property Rights. The selective enforcement actions by the Municipal Department may not look appropriate.
It is even worse to see how Brunei is made to look like it is at the mercy of certain people from Malaysia who recently applauded the Municipal Department's action in handling shops found selling pirated music in the country.
The statement that the person would put forward recommendations to the United States to take Brunei out of the watch list is an insult to the country. He made it sound as if Brunei's reputation is at his mercy and that our fate is in his hands.
Now that he has mentioned that, he was also quick to caution that his recommendation does not however guarantee that Brunei will be taken out of the watch list by the US despite the fact that he was giving the impression to authorities all this while of his influential position to lobby US on the issue!
Whilst it is important for the Brunei government to be serious about tackling the issues of Intellectual Property Rights in Brunei, it is important that matters should be looked at holistically. We must not only ensure that authorities do step up and take actions but at the same time also ensure that authorities are not taken for a ride by irresponsible business interests of certain parties, evidence of which is in front of our very eyes with the selective enforcement of the revocation of licences by the Municipal Department.
It is my humble opinion that other issues such as fake products involving public safety such as motor vehicles spare parts, food, and pharmaceutical products should also become our foremost priorities.