Response by Hon. Premila Kumar, Minister for Local Government, Housing & Community Development on Bill No. 47 of 2020 – “Designs Bill 2020”.
Mister Speaker Sir, I rise to contribute to the debate on the Designs Bill 2020.
2. Mister Speaker Sir, the Fijian Government recognises the importance of protecting the intellectual property rights and designs of our entrepreneurs and aspiring Fijians in a competitive business environment.
3. Mister Speaker Sir, the intellectual property whether it’s a design for eg brand name, invention, photos, books, movies or songs have been prone to theft. Intellectual property is everywhere but we don’t know how to protect them. Unfortunately, the current law in Fiji requires the owners of designs in Fiji to register in the United Kingdom through a certification of registration process.
4. However, the process of having to register one’s intellectual property design in the UK is cumbersome and costly for Fijian businesses, especially the micro, small and medium enterprises.
5. Mister Speaker Sir, through the introduction of this new Bill, this Government will now make it possible for the Fijian people to protect their designs and encourage creativity in the development of designs.
6. The Bill provides a modern business regulatory framework for the registration and protection of designs. It also makes provision for any international arrangements that Fiji may be party to under Clauses 22 to 26 of the Bill. This will create linkage and traceability between the national and international treaty on designs.
7. Mister Speaker Sir, It is pleasing to note that the Bill will give the registered owner the exclusive right to use the design in their respective line of business without worrying that someone can steal their creation.
8. To promote exclusivity of the rights for new and original designs a protection period of 5 years will be granted initially, with provisions available for further extensions. This incentive not only provides a sense of security to registered owners but also protects their ingenuity and innovative business models.
9. Mister Speaker Sir, the Designs Bill will assist in the protection of our traditional designs. Designs that belong to Fiji and to our ancestors. Apart from protecting traditional designs, the protection will also be given to any new, creative, contemporary designs.
10. Mister Speaker Sir, counterfeit designs and instances of duplication poses a major threat not only to businesses but to consumers in Fiji.
11. From the Ministry of Local Government perspective, there have been cases of Architectural, Engineering and Building design duplications submitted by firms. These cases had been flagged for duplication by Municipal Councils and the Ministry over the years promoting the need to be vigilant.
12. Mister Speaker Sir, by having a legal framework that protects designs, we will be able to see more modern, environmentally friendly buildings being designed. No more copy and paste. With such protection, we will be able to see growth of new pools of talent and skills.
13. The Bill aims to address the issue of stealing the design by way of having enforcement provisions that empowers the Commissioner (Solicitor-General) to issue fines and institute court proceedings against the offenders.
14. Mister Speaker Sir, additionally, the Bill offers provisions that are suited to the local context and aligns very well with the best international practices for Design registrations. Some of the provisions that depict best practices include:
a) The issuance of registration certificate;
b) Compulsory license requirement for interested party to use a registered design;
c) Transfer of registration design to an authorized person;
d) Third party rights for the State to use registered designs for public benefit; and
e) Register kept by the Commissioner on all registered designs in Fiji.
15. Mister Speaker Sir, the Bill will safeguard the investment ideas of our up coming young entrepreneurs who will contribute to the economic development of this country in the future.
16. This Bill will certainly set a bench mark for other Pacific Island Countries and will positively contribute towards Fiji’s Ease of Doing Business.
17. Mister Speaker Sir, I support the Designs Bill 2020. Thank you.