Recent IP developments in some ASEAN countries

Property rights protection of both physical and non-physical/intellectual — trademark/logo, copyright, patent, etc. — is among the cornerstones of dynamic, mature and market-friendly economies. Individuals and enterprises develop new products and services via innovation and they create new value, new wealth for society.

I am reposting some developments on IPR in the ASEAN. Thanks to the Property Rights Alliance (PRA) for the bi-weekly IP updates.
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Intellectual property protection a ‘key element of Thailand 4.0’
The Nation, October 02, 2017

There’s a role for intellectual property protection in the Thailand 4.0 vision and initiative, and the national government’s Intellectual Property Department sees a role for itself promoting innovation through offering increased knowledge sharing and more convenient services.

“We are a key mechanism in protecting new technology and innovation vital to economic development, and we do this by motivating new developments,” said Thosapone Dansuputra, director-general of the department.

Thailand to accede to the Madrid Protocol
Lexology, October 04, 2017

As of November 2017, Thailand will accede to the so-called Madrid Protocol as member no. 99. This entails cost savings compared to previously when trademark proprietors are to register their trademarks in Thailand. The Madrid Protocol is an international system through which trademark proprietors may apply for protection in several countries through one basic registration.

Website blocking in Malaysia has reduced online piracy, says film makers body
The Edge Markets, October 10, 2017

Website blocking in Malaysia has significantly reduced online piracy, with a 74% fall in traffic to pirate websites recorded in the six months after the government initiated its sixth effort to block such sites in June 2016, says the Motion Picture Association (MPA). As pirate websites generate income through advertising revenue, a disruption to their business model can help stop online piracy, said Oliver Walsh, regional director at the Asia-Pacific hub for Motion Picture Association International (MPA-I).

Trademark protection awareness, registration remain low in Laos
XinhuaNet, September 19, 2017

The number of trademark registrations is lagging in Laos as many businesses lack understanding of their rights and fail to register to protect their intellectual property, according to the Intellectual Property (IP) Department under Ministry of Science and Technology on Monday.

Laos Struggling with Trademark Protection
PRA, October 6, 2017

According to a study by the Intellectual Property (IP) Department of the Ministry of Science and Technology, only about 40,500 trademark applications have been filed in the Southeast Asian country since 1991. This is a relatively low number of applications for trademark protections for a country of 7 million and an economy with a GDP of $37.3 billion.

Brunei’s Patent Examination System to Increase Efficiency Through Agreement with Japan
Lexology, October 11, 2017

On August 28, 2017, the Brunei Intellectual Property Office (BruIPO) signed an agreement to introduce a new patent examination initiative – the Patent Prosecution Highway Plus (PPH+) – with the Japan Patent Office (JPO), which commenced on October 1, 2017. Using this PPH+ system, patent prosecution procedures in Brunei are accelerated by allowing BruIPO to reuse the search and examination results of corresponding patent applications filed in Japan – thus reducing examination workload and time, minimizing costs, and improving patent quality.

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Property rights, trademarks and consumer protection

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last September 18, 2017.

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Private property rights that people and businesses enjoy are among the cornerstones of a free and dynamic society. People have exclusive rights on what to do with their private properties — use them, sell, rent out, or donate.

However, when rights to private property — both physical and intangible assets — are unprotected, society can quickly degenerate into disorder. As a result, consumers will be unable to recognize which among manufacturers and service providers are trustworthy and which are suspicious.

Measuring the extent of property rights protection across many countries is done annually by the Property Rights Alliance (PRA), a Washington DC-based think tank. It produces the International Property Rights Index (IPRI) annually and partners with independent, nongovernment, and market-oriented think tanks and institutes from many countries.

IPRI is derived by getting the score (1 to 10, 10 being the highest) of each country covered in three major areas:

  1. Legal and Political Environment (LP), covers judicial independence, rule of law, control of corruption, and political stability of a country or economy.
  2. Physical Property Rights (PPR), includes registration and protection of physical properties, access to loans.
  3. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), includes protection of patents, trademarks and brand, and copyrights.

Countries with high scores in two or all three of these areas will have a high IPRI overall score and global rank (see table).

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Among the important insights in the above numbers are: One, the more developed the economies are like Singapore and Japan, the higher the IPRI score and global rank. Which implies that as private property is better recognized and protected, there are more economic activities and innovations that occur.

Two, the Philippines experienced some improvement in its global rank, from 77th out of 131 countries in the 2013 report. It rose to 64 out of 127 countries in 2017. Its low score in legal and political environment was compensated by its high score in physical property rights.

One emerging issue in IPR non-protection is plain packaging (PP) of tobacco products purportedly for health reasons. Besides being slapped with high taxes, tobacco products also feature graphic warnings on packaging. Advertising tobacco products have also been restricted and smoking in may areas have been disallowed, which are part of several moves to deter people from lighting up.

These have been tried in many countries but smoking incidence does not seem to significantly decline as people shift to cheaper and often, illegal, illicit products. So the next step is to prohibit the use of a tobacco brand, logo, or trademark. This has been done in Australia and there are plans to introduce legislation in Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan.

This plan does not appear to be right because a brand or logo of a company represents how effective it is in developing consumer loyalty and service. Imagine also if all ice cream, all soft drinks, all beer, all wine, etc. will simply be labeled as “ice cream,” “soda,” “beer,” etc. with no brand recognition of who produced or manufactured the products.

Or all government departments and agencies (DoH, DoF, DPWH, NEDA, etc.) will lose their logo and will simply have a generic brand “Philippine government,” it would not seem right.

I have never been a smoker nor have I been a fan of smoking but was once a fan of tobacco ads in cycling or in the F1 race. But I will not recommend the scrapping of a brand or trademark of companies in a particular industry. People who hate the companies should attack them as such and they may even use the company brand for their attacks.

Intellectual property rights like medicine patents, song copyrights, company brand or trademarks, play an important role of recognizing efficiency and innovation. Consumers look up to these brands and decide which ones to support and patronize and which ones to reject based on their specific needs and interests.

Governments therefore, should respect and protect these IPRs the same way it should respect and protect physical private properties. Moreover, people own their bodies and not the state nor NGOs.

After rising taxes, health warnings, and business regulations are in place, governments should leave individuals and allow them to seek their own happiness without harming other people.

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the president of Minimal Government Thinkers, which is a member of EFN Asia and the Property Rights Alliance (PRA).

Asia Liberty Forum and property rights

* This is my article in BusinessWorld yesterday. #AsiaLF16

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The classical liberal philosophy of more individual freedom and more personal/parental responsibility, free market and less government intervention and taxation is not a popular personal and political philosophy in Asia yet, at least compared to similar movements in the US and Europe.

So annual events like the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia conference, and now the Asia Liberty Forum (ALF), are very helpful in asserting the virtues of classical liberal, aka “libertarian” or “free market” philosophy. This concept is vastly different from other labels like “neo-liberal” and “US conservatism”.

The three-day 4th ALF event is held here in Renaissance Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This is a huge international event from Feb. 18-20 with many participants from Asia, US, and Europe. The main sponsors of this year’s conference are the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Washington DC, the Center for Civil Society (CCS) in Delhi, India, and the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) in Malaysia.

Among the important panel discussions in the conference will be on “Protecting Yourself Against Daylight Robbery — Current Challenges to Property Rights” on Day 3. The session will be chaired by Wan Saiful Wan Jan, CEO of IDEAS Malaysia. The speakers will be (1) Barun Mitra of Liberty Institute, India; (2) Kriengsak Chareonwongsak of the Institute of Future Studies for Development, Thailand; (3) Julian Morris of Reason Foundation, USA; and (4) Lorenzo Montanari of Property Rights Alliance (PRA), Washington DC, USA.

The protection of private property rights is among the hallmarks of a free and dynamic society. If other people can say that “Your car is also mine; your house is also mine; your farm is also mine. I can enter and use them anytime I want,” then society can easily degenerate into chaos and disorder. No meaningful economic growth and social development can happen in this type of environment.

The PRA has developed the annual International Property Rights Index (IPRI). The index is composite for a country’s performance in three areas: (a) legal and political environment, (b) physical property rights protection, and (c) intellectual property rights (IPR) protection. The scores range from 1 (poorest) to 10 (best).

I made a short study about the performance of some ASEAN countries in terms of property rights protection covering eight years from 2008 to 2015. Singapore and Malaysia continue to have high scores overall in property rights protection. The Philippines made a modest improvement in its global ranking, from 87th in 2011 and 2012 (out of 130 countries), it jumped to 77th in 2013 and 65th out of 129 countries in 2015.

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If we observe the Philippines, the bulk of property rights protection — in malls and shops, hotels and restaurants, banks and condos, schools and universities, airports and seaports, etc. — is heavily privatized through the tens of thousands of private security agencies. It is not the police or army or barangay security personnel who guard and protect these businesses and residential, commercial areas, despite the huge and multiple taxes and fees that people pay to the government annually.

And this is an indicator that governments often forget their main purpose, their raison d’etre, which is the protection of the people’s right to life (against bullies and murderers), right to private property (against thieves, vandals and destroyers of property) and right to self-expression (against dictators). To have a rule of law.

When governments are busy giving away endless welfarism and subsidies, collecting endless taxes and fees, imposing endless regulations and restrictions, running banks, casinos, TV stations, and other businesses, there is a tendency to set aside its rule of law function and it is unfortunate.

Government should be big enough in enforcing laws on private property and citizens protection, and it should be small enough in intervening too much in the people’s daily lives, hence requiring small and few taxes to sustain itself.

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. heads the Minimal Government Thinkers, a member of Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia, and a Fellow of the South East Asia Network for Development (SEANET).minimalgovernment@gmail.com

Property Rights Alliance meeting in Kuala Lumpur

The 4th Asia Liberty Forum (ALF) started last night here at the Renaissance Hotel Kuala Lumpur, with an opening dinner, keynote speech given by Tom Palmer of Atlas. Earlier, the Property Rights Alliance (PRA) headed by Lorenzo Montanari held a short meeting for its Asian partners.

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Lorenzo discussed what the International Property Rights Index (IPRI) is all about,  its contents and ranking of countries, the value of property rights protection, etc.

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From left: Arpita  Nepal of Samriddhi, Nepal; Wan Saiful Wan  Jan of IDEAS, Malaysia; Bican Sahin of Freedom Research Association, Turkey; me; Tricia Yeoh of IDEAS, Malaysia; Lorenzo; Barun Mitra of Liberty Institute, India; Baladevan Rangaraju of India Institute, Dhananath Fernando of Advocata, Sri Lanka; and John Humphreys of PRIME, Cambodia.

PRA

See my article today in BusinessWorld, “Asia Liberty Forum and property rights“.

More on IPRI 2015 launching in KL last year

I am reposting this article from the Property Rights Index (PRA, Washington DC) last year, about the launching of IPRI 2015 in Kuala Lumpur that I attended. The photos I added and not part of the original PRA article.
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2015 International Property Rights Index

Monday, November 16, 2015 | By Dennis Cakert

The 2015 International Property Rights Index (IPRI) was officially launched this morning in Kuala Lampur, hosted by Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Director of Southeast Asia Network for Development (SEANET). Today featured an introduction to the IPRI given by the Executive Director of the Property Rights Alliance, Lorenzo Montanari, followed by a presentation on this year’s findings by the 2014-2015 Hernando De Soto Fellow, Prof. Sary Levy Carciente….

02Lorenzo Montanari released this statement earlier this morning:

“The 2015 IPRI emphasizes the necessity of property rights for creating a free market and driving economic growth” said Lorenzo Montanari, Executive Director of the Property Rights Alliance, “but we also recognize that property rights are first of all a matter of human rights. Property rights are directly related to the values and principles of individual liberty. The special case studies in this year’s edition demonstrate the importance of property rights for women and the poor in developing countries. This year data was available in countries where it was previously not, which is a good sign for future improvement. There are now 129 countries included in the analysis, up from 97 countries in last year’s edition. Countries that had strong property rights systems experienced significantly higher GDP per capita. In the EU, for example, IP accounts for 26 percent of employment and 39 percent of GDP. Societies undoubtedly achieve greater societal development by protecting property rights of authors, entrepreneurs, artists, innovators and inventors.”

There was also a presentation from Ganesh Muren, founder of Saora Industries, a Malaysian Innovative Social Enterprise that specializes in delivering safe and clean drinking water to rural and marginalised communities. Saora has innovated a proprietary solar powered water purification system that is able to purify any surface water (e.g. river water, rain water, pond) to safe clean drinking water through nanotechnology. The competitive advantage of Saora is their intellectual property. They have developed proprietary nanotechnology that replaces the usage of UV light to kill and eliminate bacteria and viruses. The affordability of this new technology developed by Saora makes it appealing and reachable to the poor, those at the “bottom of the pyramid”.

Mr. Burhan Irwan Cheong, Malaysia’s Lead Negotiator for the IP Chapter, Ministry for Domestic Trade, Cooperatices, and Consumerism, presented on the Intellectual Property Chapter in the TPPA and how it will implement a fair and transparent patent system in member countries. Young entrepreneurs like Ganesh Muren is a perfect example about how the TPPA will contribute to protecting the patent on his water purification system. Without the certainty of the rule of law, innovation does not exist.

noyLastly, Bienvenido Oplas Jr., President of Minimal Government Thinkers in the Philippines and a SEANET Senior Fellow, presented his economic analysis on the benefits of the TPP for trade. His extensive research showed that if the Philippines joins the TPP, exports are expected to rise 48 percent and real GDP will increase 61 percent. He also spoke regarding the importance of property rights to maintain order in society, while debunking the myth that IP hurts public health, proving instead that government taxation of medicine is the real problem.
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Afternoon of that day, Dr. Sary Levy was interviewed in Bloomberg TV Malaysia, live. The place is outside KL proper.

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The interviewer was a pretty and very articulate lady. Among the footages shown while Prof. Levy was speaking. It’s Wan, the CEO of IDEAS and Director of SEANET.

2015-11-16 18.42.27

Growth, IPRI 2015 and the TPP

Two weeks ago, I attended the launching of  the International Property Rights Index (IPRI) 2015 Report in Kuala Lumpur, then I also gave a short presentation on IPR and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement.

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I showed portions of Dr. Ramon Clarete (University of the Philippines School of Economics, UPSE) paper during the UPSE-Ayala forum, Going Regional: Which Mega Trade Deals Should the Philippines Join? last February 2015.

He used the Gravity model of trade in estimating the level of bilateral exports or imports between two trading partners.

* Dependent variable: flow of trade between and among countries studied

* Independent or explanatory variables, their expected signs or relationships: GDP (+), population (+), dist. between two countries (-), commonality of language (+), shared borders (+), landlocked state (-).

* In addition, TPP and RCEP indicators or dummy variables are introduced: (a) TB1, 1 if both trading countries are TPP or RCEP members, 0 otherwise, (b) TB2, 1 if exporting country is a TPP or RCEP member, 0 otherwise; (c) TB3, 1 if importing country is a TPP or RCEP member, 0 otherwise. For overlapping memberships, a dummy variable where TPP*RCEP =1 if both trading partners are members of the two trade blocs.

And here are some results.

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Then I briefly discussed my article in BusinessWorld that day, Property rights protection in APEC economies. Then I discussed the IPR on medicines aspect of the TPP.

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And showed actual texts in the TPP agreement….

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Below, from left: Lorenzo Montanari, Exec. Dir. of the Property Rights Alliance (PRA); Dr. Sary Levy, author of IPRI 2015, and Wan Saiful Wan Jan, CEO of IDEAS and Director, SEANET.

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Concluding Notes:

1. Joining the TPP has more gains than pains for member-countries, especially in exports and overall GDP expansion.

2. IPR health provisions in TPP are not scary, they do not reduce access to cheaper generic drugs. Existing TRIPS flexibilities are maintained.

3. It seems that the generic pharma lobby + the anti-capitalism, anti-globalization NGOs created more noise and fear than what the TPPA actually provides.

4. There is more to fear in government taxation of medicines, in mandatory drug price discounts and price controls, than IPR protection.

“IPR create incentives for businesses to invest in ideas, to develop new products, and to earn a profit from the sale of those products. This in turn leads to improved customer satisfaction, improved profitability, and greater employment opportunities.”
– Prof. Sinclair Davidson, RMIT Univ. (Econ Dept.), Melbourne, Australia.

The full presentation is posted here.

IPRI 2015 in APEC economies

* This is my column in BusinessWorld last Monday, November 16, 2015.

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KUALA LUMPUR — The protection of property rights and promulgation of the rule of law are the cornerstones of peace and order in society. When such property rights are removed and unprotected, society can quickly degenerate into chaos and disorder. For instance, your house or car is also somebody else’s house and car, and he/she can take and occupy it anytime, anywhere.

Measuring property rights protection across many countries has been done by the Property Rights Alliance (PRA), a network of 74 independent, nongovernment, and market-oriented think tanks from 57 countries around the world and is based in Washington, D.C.

PRA produces the International Property Rights Index (IPRI) annual reports, which is a measurement of how governments in the countries covered promulgate the rule of law and protect property rights, public and private, physical and non-physical or intellectual.

The IPRI 2015 Report is launched today here at Park Royal Hotel in the capital city of Malaysia. The event is jointly sponsored by the PRA and the South East Asia Network for Development, which is a regional project of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs in Malaysia.

The event’s theme is “Protection of Property Rights, Economic Growth, and the TPP.” The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is included in the theme because of its recent approval by the original 12 member-countries including Malaysia. TPP of course will not be implemented unless each member-country ratifies the agreement.

IPRI is derived by getting the score (one to 10, 10 being the highest) of each country covered in three major areas:

1 Legal and Political Environment (LP), which includes judicial independence, rule of law, control of corruption and political stability;

2 Physical Property Rights (PPR), which includes registration and protection of physical properties, and access to loans; and

3 Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), which includes protection of IPRs, in particular patents and copyrights.

As a result, countries with high scores in two or all three of these areas will have a high IPRI score and global rank.

In the 2015 Report, the top 10 from 1st to 10th places are: Finland, Norway, New Zealand, Luxembourg, Singapore, Switzerland, Sweden, Japan, Canada, and Netherlands.

For this piece, the focus will be on Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member-countries that are covered in the IPRI annual reports. Only 19 countries are in this table because Brunei was not included in the IPRI 2014 and 2015 Reports while Papua New Guinea was never included in all IPRI reports, past and present. (See Table)

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APEC countries that were not included in the 2014 Report because of some incomplete data were given this observation in that report:

1 Philippines: Between 2010 and 2014, the Philippines IPRI score increased by +2.9%. In 2014 IPRI increased by +0.2 due to slight increases in all components. LP increased by +0.2 points due to all four of its items increasing in 2014. In particular, item Political Stability improved by +22.7% between 2013 and 2014.

2 South Korea: Over the 2010-2014 period of analysis, the South Korea IPRI score fluctuated around the value of 6.3. PPR data is missing from the analysis completely and IPR is missing for 2010 and 2011… In general, the overall IPRI value for South Korea is good and stable.

The Philippines’ jump in global rank from 77th in 2013 to 65th in 2015 is somehow impressive despite the flat score of 5.1 and 5.0, respectively. The reason for the big jump is because many countries have suffered significant decline in their scores from 2014 to 2015.

Within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-6 that are also APEC members and covered in this annual report, there is a mixture of results over the years. The bad news is that (a) the gap in overall score between high-ranked Singapore and low-ranked Vietnam was very wide, with the average score of the former almost twice that of the latter; (b) Thailand and Vietnam suffered significant declines in scores and global rank, both falling by at least 19 notches in ranking from 2014 to 2015; and (c) Indonesia global rank also fell significantly from 59th in 2014 to 70th in 2015.

The good news is that Singapore and Malaysia have managed to retain their high scores and global ranking.

The results of this annual study should prod the governments of the Philippines and other East Asian economies to remember the main function, the raison d’être or reason for existence, of governments: to enforce the rule of law, the protection of the citizens’ right to life (against aggressors), right to private property (against thieves and destroyers of properties), and right to liberty (against bullies and despots).

There is a positive relationship between economic development and economic freedom, and the strength of property rights protection. Civil society leaders should keep reminding governments of this reality, and dissuade the latter from enacting and implementing various programs that directly or indirectly erode the respect of private property.

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the President of Minimal Government Thinkers, Inc., which is one of the 74 think tank-members of PRA. He is also a SEANET Fellow.