Adam Houldsworth

  • Study shows trademark-intensive sectors’ contribution to ASEAN economies
  • Wages in trademark-rich sectors up to 30% higher than in other industries
  • Technology brands crucial for GDP, exports and productivity

A new study into the economic importance of trademarks in five Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries has provided compelling evidence that trademark-intensive industries make a vital contribution to gross domestic product (GDP), employment and productivity in the region. The report, commissioned by INTA, particularly highlights the role played by technology brands in regional economies.

Produced by Frontier Economics and launched in Singapore, the study considers the economic importance of trademark-intensive industries in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand – countries which together represent just under 90% of the total ASEAN economy. Defining as trademark-intensive those sectors which use above-average numbers of brand rights per employee, the research measures these industries’ direct and indirect contribution to national GDP, their share of total employment, and their proportion of overall exports. It also makes use of econometric analysis to quantify the “trademark effect” – the amount of value added per worker by the trademark-intensiveness of a sector – in each country.

The findings make for interesting reading, revealing a significant contribution by trademark-heavy sectors across the five economies as a whole, while also highlighting some intriguing differences between individual countries. To summarise the key points:

  • Brand-intensive industries comprise a varying proportion of the GDP in each nation, ranging from 17% in the Philippines to a more substantial 50% in Singapore.
  • Trademark-rich sectors have a positive indirect effect on other parts of the economy. However, the difference between their direct and indirect contributions to GDP varies among the states: in Indonesia and Malaysia the gap between the two figures is a substantial 30%, whereas it is only 5% in Singapore.
  • Industries with a high concentration of brand rights account for a large proportion of exports: 60% in both Singapore and Thailand; 55% and 47% in Malaysia and the Philippines respectively. Indonesia is an exception to this rule, with only 27% of its exports comprised by trademark-heavy sectors.
  • There is a strong “trademark effect” in four of the five economies: the study estimates that across the countries as a whole, between 57% and 90% additional economic value per worker is created by trademark-intensiveness. Indonesia, where there is no discernible difference between the value produced by brand-intensive industries and other sectors, is the anomaly.
  • Wage levels in trademark-rich sectors are between 12% and 30% higher than in other industries.

The differences between the countries can be observed below:

Direct contribution to GDP

Indirect contribution to GDP


Share of exports


























One notable finding is the significant economic contribution made by a small number of high-value, trademark-rich export industries, such as the manufacture of computers and electronics. These represent the lion’s share of the direct contributions made by rights-heavy sectors across the region, and account for much of their higher productivity. The absence of a “trademark effect” in Indonesia, the report suggests, may therefore reflect the country’s lower concentration of electronics and computing activities, and the domination of its manufacturing by the trademark-intensive but less valuable food and beverage industries.

Another interesting takeaway is that brand-rich manufacturing industries bring particular indirect benefits to the primary industries which dominate developing economies. Malaysian mining and quarrying activities draw significant benefits from the trademark-intensive petroleum industry, and Thailand’s agricultural sector is boosted by its brand-heavy food industries. Meanwhile, the highly prosperous Singapore derives significantly less additional indirect benefit from trademark-heavy sectors than the other countries studied.

While not yet available on the INTA website, the full study has been posted online by local media in Asia and is well worth a read. The report follows similar investigations by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the European Commission (albeit with a more specific focus on trademarks), which also demonstrated the crucial importance of IP-driven industries for GDP, job-creation, high wages and exports in the United States and European Union economies respectively. As such, it is another piece of the puzzle, helping build up a picture of the global importance of IP.


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