A call for closer IP cooperation among global policymakers

Global policymakers need to come together to create a favorable environment for intellectual property rights protection in today's innovation era, according to experts and officials of international organizations who attended the Business of IP Asia Forum on Thursday and Friday(Devember 6 and 7).

Under the theme "Dialogue with IP Policymakers: The Roadmap for Global IP Ecosystem", international IP experts gathered at panel discussions during the Business of IP (BIP) Asia Forum held in Hong Kong.

Freddy Harris, chair of the ASEAN Working Group on Intellectual Property Cooperation (AWGIPC), said on the first day of the forum that there should be no manual registration for patents and copyrights over the next three to four years "because everything must be online".

Established in 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

"For the infrastructure of the office and the human resources - in some countries we still have a problem with the backlog," he said, citing a buildup of trademark registration and patent examination cases.

"So human resources must rise up and give some training or we add to the human resources in the office," said Harris, who is also director-general of intellectual property at Indonesia's Ministry of Law and Human Rights. "But the problem is the budget."

ASEAN should harmonize IP regulations among its 10 member states through international best practices, and the harmonization is about protecting local needs, traditional knowledge, genetic resources and simple patents in industrial design, said Harris.

He said his office in the ministry will focus on industrial design in the coming year to improve IT software and business process reengineering.

The utilization of data can bring opportunities for policymakers as data can take the internet of things and artificial intelligence forward in the era of Industry 4.0. Yet there are also challenges, said Harris.

For example, with the advancement of 3D printing technology, there are more opportunities for objects protected by patents or industrial design rights to be distributed in the form of 3D data.

Branding strategy

Noting that trademark serves as an important part of a branding strategy, Wang Binying, deputy director-general of the World Intellectual Property Organization, said the application growth of trademarks has grown for eighth consecutive years.

"It is worth mentioning that, in particular, growing economies such as China and Brazil today invest more in branding than high-income countries did when they were at a comparable state of development," he said.

"There are currently some 43.2 million trademarks in force across the world, and a conservative estimate suggests that global branding investment by companies in 2011 stood at $466 billion," said Wang. "This also shows how important the branding is."

Antony Taubman, director of the Intellectual Property Division at the World Trade Organization, said: "IP was initially seen as somehow the problem or an exclusion from trade, and it was gradually understood as part of the value-added that we find in trade and goods. "Ultimately, as economists and trade policy people began to understand the importance of the intangible components of trade, it was included as trading services," he said.

In 1994, IP rules were first introduced to the multilateral trading system with the WTO's Agreement of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

As trade is being redefined every day through new business models, it is key to understand the potential social and economic benefits that trade brings, and how it works together with IP, said Taubman.

Though people now realize that IP ownership is a critical factor in many merger and acquisition transactions, finding the appropriate jurisdiction to enforce IP rights globally is difficult, said Taubman. He hoped all parties can work together to adapt to new changes and improve the multilateral trading system.

Harris hoped that international standards can speed up to cope with the changes, which are not only in the form of hardware like equipment or new technologies, but also in the field of software that encourages product "servitization" and creating new markets will be a significant factor.

Cross-border enforcement is another challenge, said Harris. For example, when a product from Indonesia goes to another country, some problems might arise related to the trademark, patent and design.

Jacqueline Bracha, deputy director of the Israel Patent Office, also joined the panel discussion. The session was moderated by Winnie Tan, an international arbitrator and mediator as well as chairman of the Hong Kong Communications Authority.

Protecting IP abroad

The BIP Asia Forum saw about 80 internationally acclaimed speakers sharing their insights on various IP-related topics in areas including the Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

WIPO officials Lingfei Bai, head of PCT Operation Section 3, and Benoit Aperce, information officer of Madrid Information and Promotion Division, introduced WIPO's global services for protecting intellectual property abroad.

The Department of Justice of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region co-organized a panel on global IP protection strategy in a tech-innovative century that featured speakers, including Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, Zhao Meisheng, deputy director-general of IP Utilization Promotion Department of the National Intellectual Property Administration in Beijing, and Andrew Liao Cheung-sing, senior counsel and past member of the Executive Council of HKSAR.

H. Purushotham, chairman and managing director of National Research Development Corporation of India, briefed the audience on IP commercialization strategies of Indian research development institutions.

Other panelists also discussed challenges and opportunities in safeguarding brands in the new economy and conducting business online, open innovation and entrepreneurship and the journey from start to growth, opportunities for the IP industry under the BRI and the Bay Area, technology commercialization and industry collaboration, the new forces of artificial intelligence, protection of IP rights under international investment law, and new IP issues in data-driven innovation among others.

Prime Sarmiento contributed to this story.

(Source: China Daily HK Edition)