Intellectual Property Rights Protection and Helpdesk for South East Asian Countries
The South-East Asia IPR SME Helpdesk (SEA IPR SME HD) is an initiative of the European Commission, which supports European Union (EU) small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to both protect and enforce their intellectual property (IP) rights in the region.
IP rights are a fundamental asset for SMEs, but companies often underestimate their importance. An effective IP strategy is crucial for EU SMEs to safely enter new markets and succeed in their internationalisation process.
The SEA IPR SME HD aims at providing SMEs with all the necessary information to develop and implement an effective IP strategy.
On the website you can find information regarding the 10 ASEAN countries (here), but also specific guides related to IP types (here) or various industry sectors (here).
The Helpdesk regularly hosts webinars, which are also available on the website here.
You can always contact the Helpdesk at email@example.com for a rapid response (within three working days) to any IP questions related to SEA.
The most common issues in SEA regarding IP are related to trade mark registration and protection.
IP protection in SEA in general, and trade mark protection in particular, operate under a ‘first-to-file’ system, meaning that the first person to file an IP application in the jurisdiction will own the rights once the application is granted. Bad faith registration is not uncommon: a third party can register your trade mark before you do and become its legal owner. This can have various consequences – from damaging your reputation, to completely excluding you from the market of that country.
In other words, trade mark registration is a fundamental step for IP protection and enforcement in SEA. It is therefore important that you register your IP at the first convenient opportunity, preferably before entering the market.
The costs of national registration for trade marks in SEA are not particularly high (ranging from EUR 50 to EUR 350 for a basic application, depending on the country). You can also take advantage of some international treaties to simplify the registration process, if you are interested in seeking protection in multiple countries.
Another common issue relates to the patentability of an invention. Not many SMEs realise that patents are strictly territorial. This means that if you patent an invention in one country the same invention cannot be patented in another. There are some exceptions to this rule, the most important ones are the Paris Convention, that provides a one-year timeframe (from the date of the first filing) in which a patent application can be filed in other countries, and the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) system, that allows you to start the international phase for the registration and enjoy more time to decide exactly where to register.
That said, every country in SEA has its own legal framework for the protection of IP. Some of the countries in the region already have a quite comprehensive IP framework, while others still need to adjust to international standards. The IPR SME HD can guide you through the diverse regulations and practices.
Author: Dr. Marta Bettinazzi, IP Business Advisor