Thursday, March 21, 2013

The ASEAN Economic Community and IP

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 supermodern Singapore to newly opening Myanmar. In the middle there are even significant differences between say resources focused Indonesia and technology investment savvy Thailand.

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

a. establishing a centralised designs filing system for ASEAN
b. all 10 members to accede to Madrid (so far only 3 have)
c. building IPR enforcement cooperation systems
d. developing Traditional Knowledge (TK), Genetic Resources (GR) and Cultural Traditional Expressions (CTE).

However other perhaps unintended impacts are expected, such as:

a. e-commerce is to be promoted, but without mention of copyright in the rules, likely leading to difficulties with content providers.

b. customs tariffs are to be dropped to open regional free trade. But 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, others see it as a bright new area for customs to focus on.  

c. SMEs 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.

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