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Cablegate: Ipr in the Maldives: Lots to Do in Little Time

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PP RUEHZC
DE RUEHLM #1078/01 3310816
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 270816Z NOV 09 CTG NUMEROUS SVC ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0854
INFO RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 2110
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 9138
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 7384
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 3536
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 9699
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI 2601
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 0468
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE 0101
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 6990
RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR 0384
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 001078

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

TREASURY FOR USTR MICHAEL DELANEY;
COMMERCE FOR USPTO KRISTINE SCHLEGELMILCH
DEPARTMENT FOR EEB/TPP/IPE JOELLEN URBAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KIPR ECON PGOV CE
SUBJECT: IPR IN THE MALDIVES: LOTS TO DO IN LITTLE TIME

REF: COLOMBO 984

COLOMBO 00001078 001.23 OF 002


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Maldives does not currently have
legislation on the books protecting intellectual property
rights (IPR). The Maldives is expected to graduate from the
list of least developed nations by 2011, necessitating
passage of WTO-compatible intellectual property legislation.
Since 2008's successful transfer to a pro-Western democracy
following 30 years of dictatorial rule, the Government of the
Maldives (GOM) has worked to implement and modernize its
shaky regulatory and statutory regime. In the past year, an
intellectual property unit has been formed in the Ministry of
Economic Development and numerous training, capacity
building, and public information campaigns have taken place.
Despite its early efforts, the GOM has much to do in little
time and is working closely with the World Intellectual
Property Organization (WIPO) to ensure implementation of
appropriate legislation prior to the end of 2010. END SUMMARY

LITTLE PROTECTION NOW

2. (U) EconOff met with Mr. Ahmed Mumthaz, director of the
Intellectual Property Unit (IPU), and Solih Hussain, director
of the Ministry of Economic Development on November 15 to
discuss progress in developing, passing and implementing a
new IRP regime. While admitting that the Maldives does not
currently have any law specifically protecting intellectual
property, Mumthaz did point to the country's consumer
protection law, which could be used to prosecute producers or
suppliers of pirated goods should an individual be harmed by
a faulty knock-off. While he quickly pointed out that the
current situation is "completely insufficient," Mumthaz noted
that the Maldives is going through a difficult transition
now, with the first democratically-elected government in 30
years attempting to pass major constitutional, electoral, and
administrative reforms.

MALDIVES DEVELOPING NEW IPR REGIME

3. (SBU) Mumthaz conceded that progress was "officially"
slow, but emphasized that much ground work was being laid.
The country is expected to "graduate" from least-developed
country status in 2011 and must pass WTO-compatible IPR
legislation by the end of 2010. Hussain said that both the
President and the Minister of Economic Development understand
this and will add the legislation (much of which has already
been drafted with assistance from WIPO) to its legislative
calendar once "more pressing matters" are resolved. Another
serious problem slowing passage of IPR legislation was a real
lack of knowledge and understanding of IPR issues among the
country's new political and policy elite. "IPR issues are
complicated, and no politician wants to admit to not
understanding anything," sources said.

4. (U) Since its establishment last year, the IPU has run
numerous training, capacity building, and outreach programs.
Awareness seminars have been conducted with students, the
music industry, bookstore owners, police, and business
people, and more seminars are in the pipeline awaiting
funding. A number of industry organizations are also being
established to assist in enforcement and outreach campaigns.
IPU officers, with WIPO assistance, participated in the WIPO
Asia-Pacific Regional Capacity Building Workshop on
Formulation and Implementation of IP Development Plans in
June, 2008 and in the WIPO Regional Colloquium on
Intellectual Property Education, Training, and Research in
November 2008. In October, 2009 the IPU itself organized a
two-day conference in Male' for key stakeholders to discuss
IP rights and enforcement issues.

5. (U) The IPU is expected to morph into a full IP office in
2010, including additional staff and resources.
Unfortunately, there are very few people in the Maldives with
experience or expertise in the IP field; indeed, no one in
the country has an advanced degree in IP, and even basic
technical expertise is lacking. Significant

COLOMBO 00001078 002 OF 002


capacity-building is sorely needed. The IPU is currently
coordinating with the Faculty of Sharia to launch an IP
module for law school students in 2010, however neither the
government nor the school has any teaching materials to
provide and only one professor is available to teach the
course. As Mumthaz aptly stated, "having an IP office...
with an unprepared staff will not help protect IP rights in
the Maldives. If piracy is a problem here, investors won't
come, and our economy won't develop and diversify."

6. (U) A WIPO team visited the Maldives from August 31 to
September 4, 2009 to develop an action plan for works to be
carried out to implement the IPR regime. According to the
action plan, the Copyright Law should be submitted to
parliament for ratification by the end of 2009 and additional
IP legislation should be drafted by March 2010. On the
administrative side, the IPU hopes to hire additional staff
and obtain needed equipment in the first quarter of 2010.
Staff training and awareness seminars should occur in the
second quarter. By the end of 2010, the basic legislation
would be translated into the local language and submitted to
Parliament for ratification. In 2011, regulations would be
implemented, with additional training for judges, customs
officials, police, and other stakeholders planned.

MALDIVES REQUESTS ASSISTANCE

7. (U) Mumthaz asked if it would be possible for the U.S. to
provide experts and offer training sessions on IPR issues
with key GOM officials and parliamentarians, perhaps in
coordination with WIPO experts. He also requested
significant assistance with supporting the home-grown faculty
module as well as staff capacity-building exercises.
Finally, Mumthaz noted that having an IP rnational standard,
but the government is making a real and concerted effort,
hindered by difficult political and financial realities. The
government is working to open the country to international
trade and investment (reftel), and recognizes the need for a
strong IPR regime to ensure continued growth and economic
development. Post's commercial section has already received
a number of requests from potential American investors for
information on the Maldives' IPR regulations. In addition,
Post is working with other Missions in Sri Lanka with
interests in the Maldives to develop a coordinated assistance
response, and Department of State and Department of Commerce
(USPTO) ideas would be warmly welcomed. END COMMENT.
FOWLER

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