Regional Approach for Patents Needed in Southeast Asia

Bangkok, Thailand, November 17, 2007 --( Senior Southeast Asian officials agreed Wednesday with recommendations for regional cooperation to better handle the increasing number of patents filed in the region and thereby encourage greater research, innovation and investment.

“A regional approach can increase efficiency of patent administration and the attractiveness to invest in Southeast Asia,” said Dr. Jacques Michel, former Vice President of the European Patent Office at the annual Head of Intellectual Property Offices Conference (HIPOC).

Dr. Michel presented three options to address the challenges from the Comparative Assessment Study of Patent Offices in Southeast Asia carried out in collaboration with the Kenan Institute Asia (K.I.Asia). These included making substantial increases in resources to strengthen national patent offices, outsourcing search and examination of patents, and greater regional cooperation.

“According to our research, the patent offices in Southeast Asia do not have the capacities to handle the increasing number of applications,” said Dr. Michel.

The HIPOC, hosted by the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, was attended by over 40 senior officials from Southeast Asia, China, India, Australia, European Union, Japan and the United Sates. HIPOC is supported by the European Patent Office.

“ASEAN, especially with its goal of the ASEAN Common Market by 2015, has its own scenario building to do for the IP system”, said Adrian Cristobal, Director General of IP Philippines.

Approximately 36,390 patent applications in Southeast Asia in 2006, leading to large backlogs of applications in many of the region’s patent offices. Some offices were completing only about one quarter of the applications filed and indications are that filings could increase significantly in coming years due to increases in research and development in the region.

HIPOC participants learned that there were 462,839 patent applications in China during the first 9 months of 2007, according to the State Intellectual Property Office of China.

“Southeast Asian nations can expect a large increase in secondary filings from China in the near future”, said Richard Bernhard, Associate Executive Director of K.I.Asia. “Moreover, India is only a few years behind China and will add to the demands of the national patent offices.”

Strengthened patent systems can benefit the Southeast Asian nations by protecting local inventions and providing a larger market for the increasing number of national applications, according to the study conducted by the International Intellectual Property Institute (IIPI), Chulalongkorn University and K.I.Asia.

“ASEAN economic indicators indicate that strong IP systems lead to larger amounts of FDI and higher levels of technology transfers,” said Dr. Michel.

Each of the Southeast Asia nations is improving their legislations in-line with international agreements and treaties members of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). A regional approach will require consistent legal frameworks and standards, explained Dr. Michel.

The recommendations of the study were welcomed by officials at the meeting. The study provides country reports on the status of each Southeast Asia nation’s intellectual property offices, legal and economic context, and patent administration. The study finds that there are large backlogs of patent applications and that resources in most countries are insufficient.

“There are only thirty examiners in the patent office in Thailand, twenty in Vietnam and sixty in Malaysia. The regional IP body will create a bigger and wider pool of resources and lessen the duplications of tasks,” concluded Dr. Michel.

The full study can be downloaded from The Kenan Institute Asia is a Thai-American non-profit development foundation that works to build partnerships that support sustainable competitiveness in Southeast Asia. Areas of focus include corporate social responsibility, SMEs and entrepreneurship, microfinance, community development, youth development and education, environmental management, public health and sustainable tourism.

For more information, contact Sarunsiri Srimuang, Coordinator - Strategic Corporate Citizenship, Kenan Institute Asia at or +66-2-229-3131 ext. 700.

Kenan Institute Asia
Sarunsiri Srimuang