20 July 2016

Original or Chinese?

(Thanks to Donald Trump’s wife Melania Trump for giving me an occasion to publish my article that was written sometime ago. She has found her place in the headlines of all reputed news media for plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech. That’s how seriously Intellectual Property Right is taken beyond our neighbors.)

China makes some of world’s best products, but who cares? We only know her as the world’s biggest copycat. A common phrase, ‘Is it original or Chinese?’ says it all. The brand ‘Chinese’ is almost the opposite of the original now. It is not absolutely true and therefore unfair. But that’s how the world interprets it. The story is no better towards our south. We are literally sandwiched between two biggest copycats.

Do we want this to happen to our country? Aren’t we happy being a happy country? Intellectual property is taken casually in Bhutan. You can sing a stolen song and become a star, but if you steal a pair of shoes you will go behind the bar. We haven’t yet begun to comprehend the value of intellectual property and understand the rights.

Material property has a price, but we fail to understand that intellectual property is priceless. A book is to an author as building is to a landlord; both are fragments of their dreams upon which they have invested sweat and sleepless nights. The landlord knows that his building can house thousands of books but the author knows his book can house thousand buildings.

From the videocassette-days, Bhutanese perfected the art of piracy. First, an entrepreneur brought in pirated Indian cassettes and ran a hiring shop. His neighbor saw it and opened his version - another cassette shop. If it was even a dustbin outside their shops they would have fought over its ownership, but it was only a business idea, which got stolen. So, no one cared. Soon the town was flooded with cassette shops. How does it sound: Pirated cassettes business idea got pirated?

The story continued with telephone booths, pan shops, snooker rooms, beauty and gaming palours, Drayang, Bangkok shops, Dhaka sale, Bangkok wholesale etc. At times the copies became bigger than the originals. Customers loved more options only if they knew something about ethics.

It’s tolerable when the idea is copied into another town or at least hundred meters away, but people have the guts to replicate just next door. Look at carwash business; it’s everywhere now. Some are ten senseless meters away from the first one. Coffee cafés, gyms, Karaoke, handicraft shops, furniture stores, etc. are emerging ideas that are duplicated daily. I call these people proud thieves!

In schools, assignments are replicated from class to class and batch to batch; some assignments are passed down across generations. The geography practical assignment our batch copied in 2002 is still reproduced today. That’s because we are assessed on our correctness and not on the originality.

Let’s go to Facebook. I created a group called B-Bay- Buying and selling second hand Stuffs. When the brand B-Bay became so popular, people started copying it and the worst was when people reproduced my group, and also its name word for word. Even if they couldn’t create anything original, I wish they had named their group differently, something like C-Gay; at least they would have something to call theirs. But the very intentions were wicked; they simply wanted to mislead people.
B-Bay Imitations
First, it’s about respect and integrity. Any person with his self-respect intact would never steal; be it an idea, a piece of writing, work of art, a brand or a product. He would rather ask, borrow or buy. And second, for a small nation to develop into a knowledge society, it should be conducive for creativity and innovation to flourish, not stolen.
One Fake BBay, and People behind it (Mostly anonymous)

What gives us so much courage to take this serious issue for granted? Obviously it is our careless and forgiving Bhutanese nature and the same forgiving Bhutanese laws protecting it. Intellectual Property Office in Thimphu has staggering 15,000 plus IP Rights registrations; sadly, almost all are from outside Bhutan. We neither protect our own intellectual property rights nor care about others’. The department that is entrusted with the task of educating and protecting intellectual property rights is hardly empowered to discipline our careless citizens.

Across the world Intellectual Property Right is a serious business, they invest as much in protecting a product as they do in producing the product. The whole concept is based on mistrust. People make fortunes illegally as much as legally. They think like a thief and build the protection.

We can choose to be different. We can educate our society into a place where protection is not even needed. If every Bhutanese develops appreciation for the intellectual property rights and intolerance against any form of piracy, eventually the few bad people will have to give up.


  1. Informative. You are right in every sense. "You can sing a stolen song and become a star, but if you steal a pair of shoes you will go behind the bar," loved it.

  2. I agree with you word to word on this....

  3. War about ur b bay passu is it not pirated too.....heheeh

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Wholeheartedly agreeable & inspiring too.
    People should feel guilty while taking credits for the idea created by others.

  6. Kudos Acho Passu. Could not agree more. As u have mentioned, it is high time we revere intellectual property and not just take things for granted. I hope the write up will stir some thoughts and receive attention from the concerned authority.

  7. That has become a real problem, law makers and those who should have been protecting are less bothered, and those Copycats are everywhere. Plagiarism has received its share in every corner and in every daily tenure, but are yet ready to get that corrected? or are we as a whole in the nation still waiting for the Government or who else may be responsible come and do something, nagging and making fouls on others being a doormat ourself.
    I think, we have so much of that "lazy" with all the facilities being provided by our government yet our satisfaction is never quenched. But people trying to be so smart without cleverness becomes a big Donald trump in our society.
    Aue Passu, I am at least glad that you are initiating this further where many are reading and realizing. I hope we stand together to make those two giant duplicators within our society realize that they have no more space. Heads up Aue, Thank you for being a role model and inspiring many.

  8. Plagiarism has received its share in every corner and in every daily tenure, but are *we.....

  9. For me it's a mirror image I have to look at every time from my business space.
    You know what I am saying.

  10. Thank you very much. Its Very informative as I hav never known about the intellectual property rights. But looking at our context copying bussiness idea is getting viral. There for this article will spark some aweraness for those proud thives la...

  11. Well articulated. So, now you have said it, people will know which one is which. Keep going! People are listening.

  12. "Made in China" is a cliche during shopping. You simply reminded me those school days.

  13. Very true, Passu Sir.... I could not agree with u more on this subject. The copyright issues must be taken up really seriously. It is a real threat to the success of our business in such a small market like ours. The best thing for us to do at this moment is to register whatever intellectual property we create with the Intellectual Property Rights Division of MoEA so that we can rightfully claim the copyright of the product.

  14. B-Bay seems to be pirated by Ebay too. Or should we call it inspired??

  15. B-Bay seems to be copycat of E-Bay. Let us just call it inspired.

  16. B-Bay seems to be pirated by Ebay too. Or should we call it inspired??

  17. B-Bay seems to be pirated by Ebay too. Or should we call it inspired??

  18. @Dorji Tenzin, bBay's name is sure inspired by eBay and it has been credited and acknowledged. Because back then eBay used to be the biggest name in online market.
    bBay is however a Facebook classified group, total contrast to eBay that is web-based auction site...

    Now compare that with another Facebook group copying bBay with same name? Same icon, at time same ad?


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