IDEAS organised a seminar entitled Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in the ASEAN Economic Community: Challenges and Potentials. The seminar consisted of two panel sessions that discussed the importance of IP in ASEAN, and Challenges in Commercialising IP in ASEAN. The session’s panellists involved experts from Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Australia, and Pakistan. They were Timothy Siaw, Jesus B. Varela, Seth Hays, Professor Dr Sinclair Davidson, Ganesh Muren, and Dr Raza Ullah Khan. Generally, most panellists were in agreement that IPR is important for a nation to grow and emerge as a knowledge-based economy. A brand, for example, plays an important role in providing a signal to the consumer to make choices in the market. Almost all big brand achievement today like Apple and Starbucks started with protecting their IPR.
The panellists mostly agreed that to empower Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in ASEAN, it is important that the regulatory bodies come up with the right regulatory framework for IPR and ensure its efficient implementation. SMEs play a vital role in many economies around the world where it generates millions of jobs and contributed billions of dollars to GDP.
One of the examples highlighted during the seminar was regulations on plain packaging. Prof. Davidson shared that in Australia, plain packaging rules that were imposed on tobacco companies did not achieve its policy objectives of reducing the number of smokers and protecting public health. Smokers simply shifted to illicit tobacco that is arguably more harmful than legal tobacco products sold in the market. Not only does plain packaging infringe upon the company’s IPR, its policy objectives were also not achieved. Prof. Davidson strongly urged for measures like plain packaging to be revised.
Commenting on the seminar, Ali Salman, Acting Chief Executive Officer of IDEAS says, “besides generating growth in the economy, IPR will strengthen the SMEs and empower them to generate employment and help them to grow bigger in the world market. With IPR, the entrepreneur will be incentivised to keep pushing for new advances in the face of adversity.”
Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is the catalyst for nations to enhance innovation and competitiveness in the economy. In every high-income nation, IPR is well protected, and there is a positive correlation between IPR and economic growth. Stronger protection of property rights will drive Malaysia’s aspiration towards becoming a high-income nation. The 2017 International Property Right Index (IPRI) ranked Malaysia second amongst the ASEAN-5 countries. The ASEAN-5 countries had a significantly varied performance where Singapore was ranked highest (7), followed by Malaysia (32), Philippines (64), Thailand (66), and Indonesia (68).