The role of Intellectual Property in the development of a green future in the ASEAN countries

The COVID-19 pandemic hitting the entire world has provided big challenges for 2020. But this new problem should not make us forget the bigger picture, and the even bigger challenges: Climate change is now a reality, and we are all called to act to prevent the worst scenarios.IPday2020_Profile_picture_Social_Media_2

This is why this year the WIPO has decided to dedicate their World Intellectual Property (IP) Day 2020 to a green future, focusing on innovation — and the IP rights (IPR) that support it.

The IP community should work together to foster green innovation, especially in developing countries.

In this examination, we are going to try to understand the current role of green technologies in the ASEAN countries, and at the same time, see how IP can fit into the picture.

It’s no secret that in recent years, Asia has based its economic growth on a ‘grow now, clean up later’ model. Economic success has come at a high environmental cost. Taking Indonesia as the main example, we can see that deforestation and peatland burning are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions and drivers of biodiversity loss. While an increasing number of countries have committed to phasing out unabated coal use, Indonesia’s 2014 National Energy Policy envisages nearly doubling it by 2025 (compared to 2015 levels) to achieve an affordable electricity supply for all.

Pollution is not just putting pressure on the natural capital of the country, but could ultimately put the economic development and the wellbeing of its citizens at risk.

This is not just unacceptable from a moral standpoint, it’s also highly inconvenient from an economic point of view.

This is why we are starting to see a slight change in attitude towards green technologies from the peoples and the governments of the ASEAN nations.

According to a report by Clean Energy Pipeline (quoted by Intern Asia), investments in solar projects in Southeast Asia increased at an annual growth rate of 8 % between 2010 and 2014.

Since there are still 70 million ASEAN citizens without access to reliable electricity, the potential for renewable energy is huge — and solar energy is one of the best solutions.

Energy production is one of the main focuses of green development, but it’s not the only one. Waste management, water purifying, clean building and smart cities are among the top priorities. There is also an increase in demand for ‘green’ products from consumers that are developing an environmental consciousness.

This huge demand for new technologies and innovative solutions also provides an opportunity for SMEs to contribute to a greener future.

As the WIPO suggested, ‘Transitioning to a low-carbon future is undoubtedly a complex and multi-faceted endeavour. But we have the collective wisdom, ingenuity and creativity to come up with new, more effective ways to shape a green future and the IP system has a pivotal and enabling role in supporting us on this journey.’

IP alone cannot ‘make the innovation happen’, however, without IP an innovation framework would be doomed to collapse.

It cannot be doubted that fostering and protecting innovation is one of the main functions of IPR. Without IP protection, investments in intangible assets would be less secure; these assets could not be claimed, protected or traded. In other words, if any competitor can use intangible assets without an investment, no investor will be willing to risk their capital.

This is especially true for patents. Patents ensure inventors have the exclusive right to exploit an invention; this form of commercial reward can potentially encourage companies to invest in new, clean and efficient technologies. On the other hand, patented technologies are disclosed to the public, this ensures that the technical knowledge surrounding invention research is publicly accessible and can inspire further innovation. The WIPO and many IP offices around the world, including the European Patent Office (EPO), have implemented better databases to promote the dissemination of information regarding green tech and, in the end, the development of new inventions.

Patents are also pivotal in the business strategy of many green companies; they do not just attract and secure funding, they are also a source of revenue (through patent licensing and technology transfer agreements, non-commercial licenses and other arrangements).

Collaboration between government and startups has been seen to help meet climate challenges while growing small businesses. It’s not a huge surprise, but it’s still worth noting, that US-based startup patents in green-tech development tend to rise by 73 % when there is a collaboration with government behind them.

However, when it comes to the international exploitation of patents, some caution is needed.

IP protection is territorial, this means that your patented invention is not automatically protected in the world, while it’s disclosed worldwide. Therefore, preparing a good international patenting strategy and/or putting in place additional protections, for example wrapping your technology in Non-Disclosure Agreements, is of paramount importance.

Also keep in mind that free technology transfers are not always encouraged by ASEAN governments that prefer to keep some form of control over them, for example by imposing registration obligations on contracts.

Moreover, according to the TRIPS Agreement (here), national laws can provide exceptions to the exclusive rights conferred by a patent, as long as they are not unreasonable and properly balance the expectations of the patent owner and those of third parties. Some countries, including Indonesia, have taken advantage of this provision to impose some form of compulsory licenses.

As mentioned, instead of patents you can rely on trade secrets to protect your new technologies. This is particularly useful for SMEs as trade secrets don’t need to be registered, so they don’t have cost implications or time limitations. However, trade secrets provide weaker protection, and the best strategy is probably to combine patents with trade secrets.

As a general rule, a good IP strategy is not limited to patent protection — and the green sector is no exception.

Design protection can, for example, play a very important role in providing protection from copycats and cheap reproductions. A small change in the design of a product can significantly change its performance in terms of energy use (for example in vehicles or aircraft). In ASEAN countries, protection for industrial designs is quite sophisticated and is usually less constrained and easier to obtain than patent protection.

Software and, in particular, Artificial Intelligence have, and will have, an important role in the development of new solutions for a green world (for example, helping to measure and regulate demand, and offering energy-optimizing resource use).

From the traditional viewpoint of IP law, software is protected as a literary or artistic work under copyright. This is not the time nor place to discuss if copyright is the best way to protect software and the problematic topic of the patentability of computer-based inventions. Let’s work with what we have.

The good news is that thanks to the Berne Convention copyright does not entail any formal registration process and arises automatically upon the completion of the work. This protection should be ensured in every country that is a member of the convention (including ASEAN ones). However, registration is advisable as it provides proof of ownership in potential conflicts.

As mentioned, the green economy also means that greener options are available to consumers. In ASEAN countries, the middle class is developing an interest in healthier foods. This includes many European Geographical Indications (GIs), as they are perceived to be natural and good. GIs, as well as attracting consumers, also provide a good way to uphold sustainable production standards.

Finally, do not forget the power of branding! Your trade mark is your value and your reputation, if you manage to build a strong bond with your consumers and market yourself as a legitimate ‘green brand’ you will acquire more and more customers that share your values.

However, do not forget that the best trade marks are the distinctive ones. Simply adding ‘green’ to your name might convey a good message, but it can be deemed to be a descriptive element and hinder your trade mark protection. It’s always better to choose trade marks that, as well as being connected to green topics, have a more distinctive flavour. Think about plants, animals or even rocks … be creative!

It’s worth noting, that if you claim to be green and clean you should be. Otherwise, you will not just be betraying the consumers’ faith, but also breaking consumer protection laws.

Protecting your brand and registering your trade marks is even more important when doing business in areas like SEA where counterfeiting is rampant. Registering a trade mark early is the first, and sometimes also the most effective, step towards protecting yourself.

To sum up, a good IP strategy can foster growth in every sector, in particular in fast-developing industries like green tech. Be ready and do your bit.

Happy IP Day!

 

South-East Asia IPR SME HD: https://www.southeastasia-iprhelpdesk.eu/

 

WIPO World Intellectual Property Day 2020 – Innovation for a Green Future: https://www.wipo.int/ip-outreach/en/ipday/2020/green_future.html

 

AIPPI Report on Intellectual Property and Green Technology, 2014: https://aippi.org/enews/2014/edition38/images/reports.pdf

 

OECD Green Growth Policy Review, Indonesia 2019: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/1eee39bc-en/index.html?itemId=/content/publication/1eee39bc-en

 

ASEAN fast becoming a renewable energy hub: https://theaseanpost.com/article/asean-fast-becoming-renewable-energy-hub

 

Eurocham Vietnam Greenbook: https://www.eurochamvn.org/node/16988

 

The Role of IP Rights in Green Technologies Innovation: http://metispartners.com/2019/11/22/the-role-of-ip-rights-in-green-technologies-innovation/

 

Green technology in Asia: https://www.internasia.com/Green-technology-Asia

 

Environmental issues are top priority for Asia’s youth: https://www.eco-business.com/news/environmental-issues-are-top-priority-for-asias-youth/

 

Compulsory Licensing Procedures in Indonesia Revised: https://www.rouse.com/magazine/news/compulsory-licensing-procedures-in-indonesia-revised-again/

Design Rights Protection in South-East Asia

shutterstock_385731427In today’s blog post, we are discussing the protection of design rights in South-East Asia. You’ll learn how to protect the aesthetic aspects of your products or how to protect some aspects of your product packaging. The article also gives an overview on how to enforce your rights once an infringement has occurred.

It is essential for SMEs doing business in South-East Asia to protect their intellectual property rights, as poor IP strategy often leads to the end of business endeavor in the region. Design rights are useful, but oftentimes overlooked means of protecting IP in South-East Asia.

An industrial design right, also known as a design patent in certain jurisdictions, is an exclusive right, which protects designs which give a competitive edge to the owner over competitors due to their aesthetic appeal. Industrial designs can take the form of either two- or three-dimensional shapes, configuration or patterns. Prominent examples include the iPod, shape of the Coca Cola bottle, computer icons, and even the design of mobile applications.

To obtain industrial design protection, SMEs must file an application to register the design in all the countries they foresee business activities, since design rights like other IP rights are territorial. Like patents, protection for industrial rights lasts for a limited period and the duration can vary from country to country. Generally, protection lasts for at least 10 years. Continue reading “Design Rights Protection in South-East Asia” »

Protecting the Interior Design of Shops in China

6. Fashion and DesignIn today’s blog post we are taking a closer look on how European SMEs could protect the interior design of shops in China, as it is not unprecedented that even the design of your shop may get copied. You’ll  learn more about trade dress, copyright and design patent protection as viable options for protecting the interior design of your shop. 

When Brent Hoberman, founder of online interior design and furniture store Mydeco.com, made a trip to China one man was particularly keen to meet him. When they met, the man explained that he wanted to launch a web business but had no idea how to do it until he found Mydeco.com and copied it. He only wished to express his appreciation personally to Mr Hoberman.

In 2011 the residents of Kunming, a city in the South-Western region of China were delighted to find an IKEA shop there. The copycat store is an enormous, multi-level shop that sells modern IKEA-like furniture and even copies the distinctive blue and yellow branding. The residents realized it was a fake, but have little choice as the closest real IKEA is in Chongqing, 940km away.

Store layouts, colours and designs become synonymous with a brand, so imitation of a store interior is very damaging to companies. At times it is increasingly difficult to separate the real from the fake.

There is a saying in China, 山高皇帝远 (shāngāo huángdìyuǎn), which means the mountains are high and the emperor is far away, a saying that perfectly encapsulates the reason why some counterfeiting still happens in China, particularly in faraway places such as Kunming. Continue reading “Protecting the Interior Design of Shops in China” »

IP Considerations in Fashion, Design and Lifestyle industry in South-East Asia

fashion2In today’s blog post we are discussing IP protection in fashion, design and lifestyle sector, as this sector is offering more and more business opportunities to  European SMEs in South-East Asia. You’ll learn how to protect your brand in South-East Asia as well as how to protect your design and other creative works.  

The fashion, design and lifestyle sector is a significant driver in South-East Asia’s creative economy. The global fashion industry has traditionally been one of the most lucrative industries, with sales generated in the trillions globally. This is especially true in South-East Asia, where consumers gravitate towards fashion and do not shy away from paying top dollar for luxury fashion products. Singapore, for instance, holds a 2% share of the world apparel market and their fashion industry generates sales of USD3.6 billion[1] (approx. EUR3.1 billion). In Indonesia, it contributed about USD49.3 trillion (approx. EUR42.8 trillion) to the GDP, with the fashion industry alone accounting for 28% of total earnings in the creative economy[2].

Among the South-East Asian countries, the design and lifestyle industry is classified as emerging industries especially in Singapore where, an ad hoc organization, the Design Singapore Council, was established in 2003 to help develop the nation’s design sector, following the Economic Review Committee’s report which identified the creative industry as one of the three new sectors for economic growth of the country.  Similarly, the Thai government is making investments to further strengthen its fashion industry, as for example it is actively supporting the “Bangkok Fashion City” project launched in February 2004, which aims to turn Bangkok into a fashion hub in the South East Asia region and into a world fashion centre.[3]

Given the potential for growth in the fashion, design and lifestyle economy in the South-East Asia region, there is tremendous value in understanding how SMEs can protect their intellectual property in the region. Even though, IP laws and regulations have been considerably improved in most South-East Asian Countries, counterfeiting and other IP violations are still commonplace in the region and thus a comprehensive IP strategy is needed before starting business in the fashion and lifestyle industry in South-East Asia. Continue reading “IP Considerations in Fashion, Design and Lifestyle industry in South-East Asia” »

IP Considerations in Singapore for Healthcare and Medical Technologies Sector

insurance-1991276_1920In Today’s blog post we are taking a closer look at the IP protection in Singapore’s healthcare and medical technologies sector that has been offering promising business opportunities for the European SMEs for a few years now. You will learn about what types of IP are connected to the healthcare industry and how you can best protect these types of IP in Singapore.

Underpinned by both raising disposable income and progressively aging population, Singapore offers various promising business opportunities to European SMEs engaged in healthcare and medical technologies sector, whose topnotch technology is increasingly sought after. Furthermore, Singapore’s healthcare expenditure is expected to grow about 10% by 2020 and the government is committed to offering better healthcare to its citizens as it has dedicated a budget of 2.64 billion EUR to developing the health and biomedical sciences sector in Singapore over the next 5 years.[1]

European SMEs who are engaged in developing medical diagnostics tools, especially in the areas of immunochemistry, point-of-care devices, and molecular diagnostics, or developing medical solutions catered towards functional ageing and fighting obesity-related and chronic diseases, can expect to find plenty of business opportunities in Singapore, as these areas are currently developing fastest in the country. Similarly, SMEs that are engaged in digital dentistry, can expect to find promising business opportunities, as there is rising interest in digital dentistry in Singapore.[2] As Singapore aspires to become Asia’s digital healthcare hub, European SMEs can also use Singapore as a gateway to other South-East Asian countries, whose demand for healthcare technologies is similar to Singapore.

Intellectual Property Rights are very relevant in the healthcare and medical sector as companies operating in the field heavily rely on technology, software, and brand reputation. Not only a way to help protect innovations and new products from competitors, IP assets can also be an important source of cash-flow through licensing deals or selling IP, as well as a significant pull-factor when attracting investors. European SMEs should, however, not forget to pay attention to protecting their IP and implement a strategy tailored to their needs. Well-managed IP is often a key factor for business success and neglecting these rights could be costly. Thus, a comprehensive IPR strategy is needed, when entering Singapore’s market, says Valentina Salmoiraghi, IP Business Advisor. Continue reading “IP Considerations in Singapore for Healthcare and Medical Technologies Sector” »