Sunday, October 2, 2011

Indonesian Batik and IP protection

The front page of Thursday’s Jakarta Post featured an article about its reputed batik fabric industry. The Minister of Trade proclaimed that Indonesia would use its standards setting organisation to set standards and labelling for a range of batik products. A key driver is the influx of cheaper Chinese goods, following the ASEAN free trade agreement, she said. The World Batik Summit is currently taking place in Jakarta. Indonesian batik is a UNECSO accredited cultural heritage.

There is in fact a long-standing dispute between Indonesia and Malaysia over the origins of batik which flares up every few years causing diplomatic tension and arguments. Its generally believed that batik was probably carried to Malaysia from Indonesia centuries ago.

IP would appear ideally suited to protect intricately designed fabrics. But apart from the international tensions with Malaysia, the Indonesian industry is a long way from clear on how this should be done.

Copyright in the patterns is clearly protectable. Indonesia's government considers batik to be a traditional art form and over the last five years has been working on developing legislation to protect ‘Traditional Arts.’ Batik is considered one since the designs and accompanying knowledge are passed from generation to generation. Each batik pattern can have history and meaning. This may not be known to buyers. It may come from families and the local community may have a say in the cloth's use and purpose. This is especially so in the most well known traditional production areas in Central Java like Yogyakarta and Solo.

Copyright of course arises automatically, but in a country where the legal system is not widely trusted, an unregistered right often leaves uncertainty. The Solo the local government has registered a number of patterns and motifs as copyrights. But registration relies on local producers undertaking the registration. And it creates arguments between producers, sometimes families over who has the rights to a pattern.

Potentially there is some kind of Geographical Indication protection for Indonesian batik. There are in fact a number of different styles, but that doesn’t stop multiple GIs. Scotch and Irish Whiskey manage it.  Thailand has a very successful program in place for its silk.

The Indonesian government has proposed to issue a certification mark, called “Batikmark”, to properly certified Indonesian batik products. It is a combination of a collective and certification marks.  The certification is a label (shown here) which can be placed onto the batik cloth. Even the label has been registered at the Indonesian Copyright Office.

A Bandung business has even developed software based systems to design batiks and is looking to patent this system.

The final form of IP protection for Indonesian batik is a long way from settled yet, but IP Komodo is pleased there is discussion and a system coming together. For this is how the batik industry could thrive, building global brand equity and value creation through IP. IP Komodo wears his batik shirt proudly on national batik day which is held is October 2nd. 

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