ASEAN Economic Community: impact on IP

International

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is working to establish by 2015 an economic community (the AEC) for its 10 nations, to promote the free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labour and capital. There are a number of possible IP impacts.

Until now, ASEAN IP policy was guided by the ASEAN IPR Action Plan 2004-2010 and the Work Plan for ASEAN Cooperation. Big challenges arise from the different stages of economic development ranging from super-modern Singapore to newly opening Myanmar. In the middle, there are even significant differences between, for example, resources-focused Indonesia and technology investment-savvy Thailand.

To achieve the AEC, ASEAN is now (in addition to the above plans) working on:

  • establishing a centralised designs filing system for ASEAN;
  • all 10 members to accede to the Madrid Protocol (so far only three have);
  • building IP rights enforcement cooperation systems; and
  • developing traditional knowledge, genetic resources and cultural traditional expressions.

However, other perhaps unintended impacts are expected, such as the following:

  • E-commerce is to be promoted, but without mention of copyright in the rules, likely leading to difficulties with content providers.
  • Customs tariffs are to be dropped to open regional free trade. However, Customs have corruption problems in some ASEAN countries and smuggling is rife. Meanwhile, the IP world is trying to encourage the implementation of IP border protection systems. Some ASEAN countries see IP border protection as a potential barrier to free trade, while others see it as a bright new area for Customs to focus on.
  • Small and medium enterprises are to be encouraged. That will lead to greater pressure to improve IP systems, since these companies will want protection, which is often not well afforded in the region at present.

Nick Redfearn, Rouse, Indonesia

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