14 April 2009

Secure intellectual property rights to your assets, SMEs told

SMALL and medium enterprises should acquire intellectual property (IP) rights for their products before they spend money on marketing and promotion.
IP lawyer P. Kandiah said SME owners should file IP rights for their products or design before they expose them to the public.
In fact, the law requires it. He said many SMEs have lost exclusive rights for their products or processes because they were not aware of IP rights.
"It is applicable not only for new products, but any modification they make to the products or processes that is going to make a commercial impact such as competitiveness and cost reduction, they should consider getting IP rights.
"For companies that fail to protect their IP, if their products are successful, they can only compete on price because others can copy their products," Kandiah said in an interview recently.
Legislation that govern IP rights in Malaysia include Trade Marks Act 1976, Patents Act 1983, Copyright Act 1978, Industrial Designs Act Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia Act 2002, Layout Designs and Integrated Circuit Act 2000, Layout Designs and Integrated Circuit Act 2000 and Optical Disc Act 2000.
Kandiah, who is also the managing director of Kass International Sdn Bhd, said as more Malaysian firms become knowledge-based and venture into the global market, they need to protect their business assets.
He said awareness of IP rights in Malaysia is still lacking, especially among the SMEs. This is partly due to insufficient information dissemination.
"The SMEs also feel what they have are not that valuable (to be registered for IP rights); it's too expensive; and the government takes too long to approve the application," he said.
He said the cost is not prohibitive compared with the long-term benefits of IP protection. It costs about RM2,000 for Trademark registration, RM3,000 for Industrial Design and RM10,000 for Patents.
The cost is payable over a period of time and there are also government grants and funds to finance the filing of IP rights.
"It also lasts long. Patent lasts for 20 years and are non-renewable, Design lasts for 15 years and non-renewable, while Trademark lasts for 10 years but is renewable," he said.
On whether returns on investment in IP protection can be quantified, Kandiah said: "The money spent on acquiring the IP rights pays itself many time as others cannot copy our products."
He said when others could not make the same product as its IP is protected, this would translate into bigger market share for the product.
"They are also able to sell the product at a premium price, where they can re-invest into further research and development and come out with better products," he said.
Kandiah also said that as IP rights are territorial in scope, companies have to seek similar rights in countries where they export the products.
If they fail to do that, others in that country could copy the products.
Kuala Lumpur-based Kass International is a specialised boutique firm handling patent rights.
"We can handle any complex matters in IP. We provide services for local clients as well as foreigners who want to protect their IP in Malaysia," he said.

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