MAY 31 — The Asean Intellectual Property Association (Asean IPA) has commended the Malaysian Government for its significant efforts in creating a robust IP environment following the fourth edition of the Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) index1 released in February 2016 where it was highlighted that “Malaysia’s IP environment has improved gradually over the past four years.”
The GIPC index measures the level of IP protection in a country based on 30 indicators and ranks Malaysia as 2nd amongst the Asean countries and 7th across Asia.
Malaysia has consistently demonstrated the commitment to make intellectual property a priority in the national agenda and this good showing in the GIPC proves this.
Asean IPA is a private sector based association with an Asean NGO status dedicated to supporting effective protection and development of intellectual property in the Asean region.
Asean IPA believes (and as acknowledged by the Asean Member States) that intellectual property is an essential element of a thriving economy, generating jobs and growth by fostering competition and spurring innovation. Related to this, trademark protection is essential in identifying and distinguishing products in the marketplace.
As such, Asean IPA views with great concern the possibility that plain packaging of products may be introduced in Malaysia. Whilst it may be targeted at tobacco companies at this juncture, it sets a precedent that may be applied to other products in the future. The introduction of such a measure applied to any industry would significantly restrict the use of brands and trademarks on retail packaging and set a negative precedent for IP policy.
Australia is the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products. For Australia, the GIPC report has identified ‘restrictions on the use of brands, trademarks and trade dress in packaging’ as a key area of weakness. Australia scored zero on this indicator.
On the Asean front Singapore recently initiated a public consultation on the introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products. The same GIPC report has stated that an introduction of plain packaging will reduce Singapore’s IP score.
Asean IPA recognises that governments have the right to regulate on issues of public health and interest but believe that regulation can be made in a balanced manner that protects high standards of intellectual property rights and business principles while achieving its goals of improving public health and interest.
The Malaysian Government is reputed to foster a conducive and thriving business environment for both local and international businesses in which to invest in and benefit from intellectual property rights. Asean IPA therefore considers it is imperative to carefully consider any proposals for plain packaging or similar regulatory encroachments on intellectual property rights within the wider context of IP protection policies, impact on IP ratings for countries that have or are considering plain packaging as well as the broader impact on the business community.
* This statement is released by Chew Phye Keat, president of Asean Intellectual Property Association.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.