South-East Asia IPR Basics Series: Malaysia, the ASEAN Economic Community, the TPP, and Intellectual Property

shutterstock_30496642_sMalaysia is a South-East Asian nation consisting of sections on the Malay Peninsula and on the island of Borneo, with the South China Sea lying between them. Malaysia’s population of over 30 million works in the world’s 20th most competitive economy (as of 2014-15), with a PPP GDP of $747 billion, making it the third largest in ASEAN and the 28th largest worldwide. Malaysia’s newly-industrialised market economy has consistently posted impressive gains, averaging 6.5% growth per annum over the period 1957-2005.

Intellectual property in Malaysia is governed by the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO) under the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives, and Consumerism, with the notable exception of plant varieties (which are governed by the Crop Quality Control Division of the Ministry of Agriculture). Malaysia has a fully modernised and comprehensive raft of IP laws in line with WIPO standards, and MyIPO regularly organises seminars and trainings to raise awareness of IP among the business community and general public.

In total, MyIPO consists of the following divisions and departments:

  1. Patent Division
  2. Trade Mark Division
  3. Industrial Design Division
  4. Geographical Indications Division
  5. Copyright and Layout-Designs of Integrated Circuits Division
  6. Planning and International Relation Division
  7. Management Services Division
  8. Information Technology Division
  9. Legal Advisory Unit
  10. Public Relation Unit
  11. Internal Audit Unit
  12. Corporation Secretary
  13. Intellectual Property Training Centre
  14. MyIPO Southern Office (Johor Bahru)
  15. MyIPO East Coast Office (Kuantan)
  16. MyIPO Northern Office (Penang)
  17. Sabah Branch
  18. Sarawak Branch

Malaysia is party to the following international conventions:

  1. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)
  2. The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property
  3. The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works
  4. The Agreeement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)
  5. The WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT)
  6. The Nice Agreement
  7. The Vienna Agreement
  8. The WIPO Convention
  9. The WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty

Malaysia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)

Malaysia joined early discussions around the TPP in 2008 and is still a party to the agreement, which awaits ratification. TPP clauses are designed to bring Malaysia into the developing international trade framework and to allow its service industry to compete on more even terms in major markets. For the Malaysian government, fair access to these markets will be a crucial component of transitioning Malaysia’s market away from commodities and raw resources and completing the country’s transition into a developed nation. Eliminated duties on a number of goods and new FTAs with American countries also promise to boost Malaysia’s electronics and semiconductors production.

TPP detractors point to the many new obligations which the agreement would impose on Malaysia, including worries over protection periods for drugs, the ability of foreign corporations to sue the Malaysian government, and the Malaysian government’s ability to guarantee the living standards of workers. Malaysia also would welcome China’s inclusion in the TPP, though China currently has little incentive to join.

Malaysia and the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)

The ASEAN Economic Community (sometimes referred to as AEC 2015 after its implementation date was advanced from 2020 to 2015) is a key part of ASEAN’s larger politico-economic goals. The initiative seeks to create a common market across all ASEAN nations, allowing for the free flow of goods and investment and for creation of more vibrant, competitive economies. When the AEC is formally announced on December 31, 2015, Malaysia will have already integrated itself tightly into the regional economy. Participation in the AEC promises Malaysian firms access to a market much larger than that of Malaysia itself, as well as new opportunities for SMEs which are flourishing under favourable government policies. In the future, Malaysian government policies will continue to include favourable regulations for Bumiputera, the disadvantaged majority group of ethnic Malays. These affirmative-action regulations find rough parallels in labour flow restrictions, laws which Malaysia is likely to maintain in order to prevent floods of immigrants from other ASEAN nations, despite its dedication to realising a common market.

Samuel Sabasteanski
Project Executive, South-East Asia IPR SME Helpdesk

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