Handling of your Trade Secrets in South-East Asia

MP900285073[1]Many European SMEs are thinking about bringing their technology to South-East Asia, but are concerned about IP issues. In today’s blog post, we discuss another IP protection measure – namely trade secrets. Trade secrets are a valuable but often overlooked means of IP protection that SMEs wishing to bring their technology to South-East Asia should be aware of, as good trade secret protection can be the key to successfully bringing your technology to South-East Asia. 

What are Trade Secrets?

Trade secrets are a highly valuable form of intellectual property that nearly all businesses in all industries and sectors possess. However, they are frequently overlooked by businesses, partly because there is confusion about what actually constitutes a trade secret. So what is a trade secret?

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), any confidential business information that is of considerable commercial value to businesses and that provides an enterprise with a competitive edge may be considered a trade secret. In practice, this could be:

  • sales methods
  • distribution methods
  • consumer profiles
  • advertising plans
  • pricing strategies
  • lists of suppliers and clients
  • manufacturing processes

In other words, more often than not trade secrets are the ‘know-how’ that a business builds up over time. Typically, the longer the SME is in business the more valuable its trade secrets will become, and the more its business grows the more its competitors will seek to discover this valuable working knowledge. Therefore, it is increasingly important to take steps to protect trade secrets.

Unlike some other forms of IP rights, such as patents and copyrights that have a finite term, trade secrets can theoretically enjoy an infinite term of protection, so long as the trade secret remains just that – a secret. Furthermore, to be enforceable by law it is generally required that as well as not being known to the public and providing economic benefits to the holder, the secret should be subjected to reasonable efforts to protect it (and there should be evidence of these efforts). Continue reading “Handling of your Trade Secrets in South-East Asia” »

Handling Trade Secrets in China: IP Case Study

MP900387752In today’s blog post we are taking a closer look at a rather overlooked means of IP protection, namely trade secrets. Even though, trade secrets are a type of IP that does not require formal registration, there are still some aspects to pay attention to when using trade secrets to protect your inventions in China. We’ve chosen a case study involving a Dutch SME to highlight some of these aspects. 

Trade Secrets in China 

Nearly all businesses in all industries and sectors possess trade secrets. Trade secrets are a valuable and highly useful form of intellectual property that are nevertheless often undervalued and overlooked by their owners. This is not least the case in the service sector where the relative value of trade secrets as intangible assets can be extremely high. For example, a logistics firm may not hold any patents or few trade marks and substantial copyrights, but the value of its operations could heavily derive from information contained within client lists and standard procedures.

A considerable advantage for trade secrets is that unlike some other forms of IP rights, such as patents and copyrights that have a finite term, trade secrets can theoretically enjoy an infinite term of protection so long as the trade secret remains just that – a secret. The main difference between protecting something by patent or as a trade secret is that, while technical information is publicly disclosed in patents, it is kept away from the public eye in trade secrets. A trade secret can last forever as long as the confidentiality measures that protect it continue to work. An invention patent typically expires after 20 years.

On the other hand, legal protection of trade secrets is easily lost. Once the information becomes public information, it no longer enjoys any legal protection. As a result, prevention is the golden rule when it comes to protecting your trade secrets, because once your secret is out, there is usually very little that you can do about it. China, like most other countries, provides a legal framework for the protection for trade secrets, and the law provides for remedies in the event that your trade secrets are unlawfully disclosed. Continue reading “Handling Trade Secrets in China: IP Case Study” »

Patent 101: Things you need to know before patenting in Singapore

shutterstock_166598477Thinking about filing a patent in Singapore? Then this blog post for you, as today we give you a comprehensive overview of Singapore’s patent regime. Today’s blog post has been kindly drafted for us by Ms. Chan Wai Yeng who is a patent specialist at Taylor Vinters Via LLC. She was assisted by AsiaLawNetwork.com content strategist Ling Yuan Rong. Ms. Chan Wai Yeng explains the process of filing a patent in Singapore and discusses the considerations that everyone should to take into account before filing a patent application.

This article has been first published by Asia Law Network and you can find the link to the original article below at the end of the article.  

Eureka!

You have just created a great new product, UX, or developed an improved manufacturing process with significant reduction in production time. You know your invention has tremendous commercial value, and you are keen to share your idea with a potential business partner. But hold on for a minute. Before you disclose your invention to anyone, you may want to take steps to secure the ownership and protection of your brainchild by patenting your invention.

What is a Patent?

A patent is a right granted to the owner of an invention to enable him to exclude others from using, copying or making the invention without his consent in the country in which he has obtained patent protection.

The rationale behind patents is to encourage innovation by preventing competitors from copying an innovator’s novel idea. Incentives like this are essential because research and development can be very expensive and if an innovator is unable to at least recoup the cost of developing his innovation (and profit from it to some degree), the innovator is unlikely to embark in the effort. Patents also promotes diffusion of ideas and information which may have positive effects in the long run. Continue reading “Patent 101: Things you need to know before patenting in Singapore” »

Dealing with Partners and Employees: Writing a Good Manufacturing Non-disclosure Agreement in China

MP900438585There are various ways in which European SMEs can protect their IP. The most obvious way is to register IP in the country where SMEs do business in. At the same time, another, sometimes overlooked, way to protect IP is using well-written contracts. The people and companies that SMEs do business with in China, and therefore contract with, will often use the European SMEs’ IP to varying degrees. Therefore, it is also very important for the European SMEs to protect their IP with well-written manufacturing contracts. Today’s blog post gives some  practical tips on how to write good manufacturing non-disclosure agreements for doing business in China. 

Defining protected information: keeping everyone on the same page

NNN agreements should clearly define which rights are being disclosed or licensed, their nature, and their scope. Clear mechanisms for identifying and marking, accounting for, and maintaining secrecy for this information (or indications of who will bear these responsibilities, what general types of information should be considered confidential, or processes for retroactively marking material as confidential) should be present. If desired, additional clauses can also outline what types of information will not be considered confidential. Naturally, before these types of information can be identified, an SME should first understand just what its trade secrets are. Conducting an IP assessment and audit can identify key IP which was otherwise taken for granted or not fully appreciated by the SME and can assign a value to the IP which will make calculating contract damages much easier.

While the contract is in force, these rules should be strictly followed. Over the course of the contract, additional IP may be generated as a result of the work of employees or independent innovations on the part of the manufacturer. NNN agreements can also include clauses which dictate that all such IP belongs to the SME and can thereby avoid future disputes. Note, however, that China places restrictions on the export of some technology—meaning that agreements automatically granting new IP to the SME could be struck down in court. Continue reading “Dealing with Partners and Employees: Writing a Good Manufacturing Non-disclosure Agreement in China” »

IP Protection in Thailand for the Tourism Industry

shutterstock_85716494As the summer is fast approaching, many European companies engaged in tourism industry are looking for opportunities to expand their business into South-East Asian countries. Thailand, for example, offers many promising business opportunities for the European SMEs in tourism industry as tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in there. However, European SMEs should not let the summer’s heat take their focus away from IP protection when planning their move to Thailand, because IPR infringements are still commonplace in Thailand. Today’s blog post, thus, discusses IP Protection in Thailand, focusing particularly on the tourism industry.

Tourism industry in Thailand continues to offer many lucrative opportunities to European SMEs as Thailand remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Asia Pacific region due to its white sandy beaches, abundant tropical nature, inexpensive accommodation and well-developed transport and communication infrastructure. Underpinned by government’s and private sector stakeholders’ recent efforts to market Thailand around the globe, the industry has grown to become one of the country’s most productive and sustainable industries, contributing a total of EUR 69bn towards the economy in 2014, making up more than 19% of the GDP of Thailand.[1]

SMEs engaged in tourism need to pay special attention to protecting their intellectual property (IP) rights, because despite recent improvements in Thailand’s IP legal framework, IP infringements are still relatively common in the country. IP rights are a key factor for business success and neglecting to register them in Thailand could easily end SMEs’ business endeavor in the country. Thus, a robust IPR strategy is needed, when entering the lucrative market of Thailand.  Continue reading “IP Protection in Thailand for the Tourism Industry” »