IP legislation revamp back on track

Indonesia

After almost a year’s delay, the Indonesian government’s long-anticipated overhaul of the IP laws is back on track.

Andy Sommeng, the director general of IP rights of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, is expected to finalize his proposed changes to the Trademark Law before shifting his attention to the patent, design and copyright laws. One of Sommeng's top priorities is to improve speed and efficiency at the IP Office and the Commercial Court.

Currently, it takes about two years to register a trademark. This means that businesses have to plan well ahead when launching new products. Once the new law is passed, it should take only one year to register a trademark, thus halving the waiting period for companies.

Sommeng also plans to speed up proceedings before the IP courts. Non-criminal IP cases are handled by a specialist IP court, the Commercial Court. Typically, it takes judges around four months to hear and decide a case. Compared to a lot of countries, this is very fast. However, Sommeng plans to cut this by a month.  

In addition, Sommeng intends to increase all the criminal penalties for breaches of IP laws. Importantly, the police will be able to detain an alleged counterfeiter for up to 60 days before trial. This is good news for trademark owners. Currently, the police can shut down a factory or business that is running a pirating operation, but cannot detain the owners. This makes it difficult for the police to complete investigations - and, in particular, to obtain evidence.

Moreover, there is a long list of small - but important - changes that will improve the trademark registration process.

 
Sommeng recognizes that even small changes to the Trademark Law will affect business. Therefore, there will be further public consultation before the draft law is finalized and submitted to the House of Representatives for debate. The exercise will then be repeated for the remaining IP laws. It is hoped that the new laws will come into force in the second half of 2010.

This overhaul of the IP laws is the latest in a number of recent promising developments in Indonesia. After a slow start, the team set up by the president to tackle IP infringement has been quite active. As well as a series of public outreach programs, the team is planning to bring the police, public prosecutors, the IP Office and Customs together in January to discuss how the four agencies can better cooperate.

The quality of court decisions is also steadily improving. The Commercial Court continues to handle an increasing number of complex IP cases, proving wrong the perception that Indonesian judges do not understand IP law. In particular, the court has relaxed its strict rules to make it easier for trademark owners to take action against pirates and counterfeiters.

If this momentum keeps up, Indonesia could soon shake off its reputation as the 'Wild West' of the IP world.

Brett McGuire, Rouse, Jakarta

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