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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Thai police on the run from counterfeiters

Image result for thailand department of special investigations

The Department of Special Investigations tried to raid Rong Kluea market on the border with Cambodia last week. The market sells a wide variety of counterfeit goods from clothing to watches to food usually with second hand products which is its main function. It is part of the route for Chinese made fake goods via Cambodia into Thailand. Enforcement officials along with various observers representing rights holders tried to conduct enforcement of court orders to seize fake goods. These were acknowledged to be counterfeits.
Suddenly 400 Cambodian labourers attacked the police stoning them with various objects, overturning a car and forcing them to flee. Clearly they were resentful of the attack on their livelihoods in a very poor part of the country, in a tricky border region.  Now a war of words between the police and local officials has blown up, with a politician linked to corruption allegations in the market.
There are two points arising from this. The first is that counterfeiting is part of a wider spectrum of low-level criminality and this demonstrates the problem. Governments need to manage illegal activities more effectively in emerging markets, not through force, but by ensuring that everyone observes the law. This requires policies to address poverty and jobs from innovative industries and stamping out corruption. But bare enforcement in a vacuum often causes problems.

Secondly South East Asia's northern land borders are the most lawless part of the region. Vietnam's northern border with China's Guangxi and Yunnan provinces and Myanmar's infamous Muse 105 border gate are the most obvious lawless land routes. But the Laotian border with China also creates a massive trade through Laos and Cambodia into Thailand, which those two countries cannot control. South East Asia's land borders remain one of the major entry points for fakes from China, which places a huge burden on the 5 SE Asian countries involved.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Jakarta IP Court improvements and move

Indonesia's Jakarta District Court's Commercial Court hears most IP cases. Below is the latest reported case data. Most foreign IP cases are heard there. Of the nearly 100 cases per year the vast majority are trademark related - most are cancellation or non use deletion actions. The number of cases outside Jakarta is starting to rise, with 9 cases in 2015 in Surabaya and 2 each in Medan and Semarang.

Trademark cases64927576
Patent cases2163
Copyright cases8435
Total IP cases74978484
The number of appeals is rising, last year 47 cases were appealed to the Supreme Court - around half of all the IP decisions. A second appeal is possible but much harder; in 2015 only 14 went to second appeal.
The Central Jakarta District Court recently moved from an older building into nice new premises (see picture).  Users say it is much more modern. All the district courts are putting in place an online database of pending cases, so you can see the case details, hearing times, even find documents. Still there is no sign that judgments will be published sadly (probably the single biggest weakness in the IP litigation system). The Central Jakarta Court's IT system seems to be less well updated than South Jakarta District Court's, but there is some progress. And everyone agrees that the new building's air conditioning is a joy compared to the old building - waiting for the judge is no longer a hot problem!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Thai TV copyrights set to grow in the new AEC era

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Thai entertainment companies are now starting to look at the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) as a source of growth. The AEC, South East Asia's new regional trade bloc started in 2016. Thai TV companies have announced that they want to create and sell TV formats to the SE Asian market, instead of being dependent mainly on foreign content.
The proof of this intention is in a series of recent deals with producers and advertisers for regional rights. Thai TV companes have learned from the international TV companies that investing in the IPRs in new show formats leads to the secondary ability to monetize the same content later on through relicensing abroad. Several new shows have launched with clear plans for distribution outside the kingdom.

Innovation report slams Thailand and Indonesia

Image result for Information Technology and Innovation FoundationThailand and Indonesia receive a damning verdict in a report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a US think-tank. It seeks to measure innovation by looking at new technologies, new business models, new products and services and entrepreneurship. The reports cites the race for leadership in the global innovation economy.

They studied the innovation policies of 56 major countries. They looked at basic scientific R&D; effective science, technology, engineering, and math education; promotion of ICT; technology transfer and commercialization from universities and national research centers; tax incentives for innovation and brain drain policies. They also looked at negative barriers to innovation and trade such as currency or standards manipulation, forced IP transfer, domestic sourcing of production as a condition of market access, export subsidies and inadequate protection of IPRs.

Interestingly they categories these policies into 4 areas: 

good: benefit to the country and the world
bad: negative effect on the country or the world
ugly: benefit to the country but harms other countries self-destructive: negative effect on the country but helping the rest of the world

The usual innovation stars from Scandinavia to Singapore fared well. Two of the weakest countries are Indonesia and Thailand. They both contribute poorly at a global level and also come out as destructive to their own economies.  The report says they underinvest in research, produce fewer science researchers, use trade barriers, have weak IPR system, don’t focus on ICT enough and have relatively poorer innovation policies.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Indonesia to open up film industry

Image result for film strip logoOfficials have announced that Indonesia will allow foreign direct investment in all areas of the film industry.  These changes to the negative investment list will lead to opening up of film services, production, distribution, exhibition and cinema.  Some parts of the film industry are still dominated by Soeharto era monopolies. At present only one company can import films although several theatrical distributors can operate cinemas. Officials confirmed that there will be rules that govern how local and foreign investors can operate. So it probably won't be a 100% relaxation, but doubtlessly the movie industry will be getting very excited.  

Friday, January 22, 2016

Cambodia's patent outsourcing adventure starts

IP Komodo reported previously that Cambodia's patent office and Singapore's IPOS had reached an agreement for Singapore to examine Cambodian patents. IPOS has now announced that this is running and IPOS has now started to issue first-office-action search and examination reports for patent applications filed in Cambodia. Cambodia will soon join the Patent Cooperation Treaty, which will increase access to its patent system.

Singapore sees this as a step towards the progressive integration and development of IP in ASEAN, which is important as we step into the era of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Whilst Cambodia might not be a top filing destination, this type of outsourcing is a good way for smaller markets to operate high quality patent systems, without trying to build their own expensive, technically strong examination departments. In many small countries this is impossible anyway due to the skills shortages. There is already a tradition of patent office outsourcing. Several middle eastern countries have outsourced examination to European offices. Hong Kong for many years in effect did so to UK and China, and in future do so to China when it starts its own full patent system.

IP Komodo believes that all small markets would benefit from such outsourcing. Why spend money building a poor quality system which serves customers badly, all in the name of maintaining sovereignty, when you can send the work elsewhere, and deliver high quality results. Pretty soon Cambodia will be leapfrogging many much larger neighbours in terms of patent quality.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Vietnam - Japan PPH

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Vietnam's National Office of Intellectual Property (NOIP) has entered into its first Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) agreement with the Japanese Patent Office (JPO) this year. The PPH will start in April 2016 and means that applicants with a corresponding Japan patent may speed up examination in Vietnam. Initially there will be a trial of 100 patents to test it out.

There are already 2 accelerated examination systems operating, but they have not been widely used. There is an existing process to request faster examination, based on another patent office's prior examination, but this is dependant on the NOPs discretion and interest to speed a particular patent up. Then there is the SE Asian ASPEC system, but so far this has worked only really with corresponding Singapore patents. Hopefully the Japanese PPH will improve the position. Patent endency at present runs to 6 years.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Philippines blocks testing for the GMO BT Eggplant

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The Philippine Supreme Court has issued an order prohibiting the conduct of field trials of Bt eggplant, a genetically modified eggplant, and nullifying Department of Agriculture Administrative Order No. 8, which regulates field trials and release into the environment of genetically modified plants.
The Court held that the scientists do not have a consensus on the safety of Bt eggplant and the divergent views reflect the international debate on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the varying degrees of acceptance of the technology worldwide, especially in developed countries. The Court said that, after a review of the scientific literature, they arrived at the conclusion that "current scientific research indicates the biotech industry has not sufficiently addressed the uncertainties over the safety of GM foods and crops." The Court found Administrative Order No. 8 fails to meet the minimum requirements of safety under Executive Order No. 514, which established National Biosafety Framework.

The Court also applied the precautionary principle - that lack of scientific certainty is no reason for inaction at the risk of potentially serious or irreversible harm to the environment. It held that the three conditions for applying the said principle: (a) risks of harm are uncertain; (b) harm might be irreversible and what is lost is irreplaceable; and (c) harm that might result is serious, are present in the case, based on the Court's assessment of the evidence on record as well as the current state of GMO research worldwide.

The ruling is a potential blow to biotechnology research in the Philippines and investments in this area.  It is ironic that this is an area of research that the Philippines excels in, with the Internatioanl Rice Research Institute headquartered in the Philippines.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Vietnam online counterfeits

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Online platforms in SE Asia continue to boom as online shopping takes off in the region. Counterfeits typically follow soon after. Vietnam has now seen this, as regional platform Lazada and Sendo, two of the biggest e-commerce platforms in Vietnam faced criticism in the media for tolerating counterfeits traded on their sites.

Listings for many product names include the term “fake” or “super fake” in their tag along with the brand names. Examples cited include Montblanc, Burberry, Rolex and Converse. These products are advertised at a very low price compared to their genuine prices at authorized dealers. Lazada’s CEO has disclosed to the press that their platform has 20 people continuously monitoring counterfeits and he specifically warned the infringing traders to cease dealing in infringements.