“We need to realise that IP has got value. We would like to establish a complete IP ecosystem: that includes IP valuation, IP trading, technology transfer and an IPR marketplace.” That is the ambitious goal of Dato Shamsiah Kamaruddin, the head of Malaysia’s IP office, who spoke to Managing IP during the inaugural AIPPI ASEAN Regional Meeting in March this year, which was organised by AIPPI’s Malaysian National Group. The emphasis on commercialisation of IP partly reflects Kamaruddin’s background: she studied economics, finance and business, has an MBA from New Hampshire College in the United States and has worked in the country’s public service since 1980.
A particular challenge in Malaysia, says Kamaruddin, is that the commercial banks are “very conservative, and are afraid to accept IP as collateral”. She adds: “It is difficult to value intangible assets, but we need to come up with methodologies to value IP. That’s why we came up with the IP valuation model, which we introduced in 2013. This is a guide for stakeholders – including banks and SMES – on which approach they should take to IP valuation.” MyIPO is now working with Malaysia Tech Ventures to provide valuation and financing to the country’s IP-dependent SMEs.
But the head of MyIPO, whose office is responsible for all IP matters in the country and has some 400 staff, also stressed the wider responsibilities it has to promote IP systems and knowledge in the ASEAN region. “There is a different level of development among the 10 ASEAN countries,” she says, pointing to the difference between Singapore and Malaysia, on one hand, and Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar on the other. A new ASEAN IPR Action Plan 2016-2025 aims to narrow the gap between the most developed and least developed systems.
Under the Plan, MyIPO has particular responsibilities for: identifying measures for improving delivery of IP services (including tackling backlogs); promoting improvement in the timeliness and quality of IP services; increasing the competency of stakeholders (possibly including the establishment of an IP Academy); and developing new networks of integrated services for the region, including technology transfer offices and patent libraries. This last goal is being jointly championed with IPOPHL and WIPO (under its TISC programme) and Kamaruddin says: “The purpose is to share patent documents between universities and IP offices, and to develop IP experts within universities, so there will be less dependence on agents for filing.”
Meanwhile, the Office is also busy working on legislative changes required by ASEAN and by Malaysia’s ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. Foremost among these is accession to the Madrid Protocol, which Kamaruddin says will go before Parliament either this December or next March: “It is a government decision to accede to Madrid as it is good for trade mark owners and foreign investors to have confidence in the IP system.” Accession to the Hague Agreement on designs is due to follow by 2018. In patents, the main change required by the TPP is to provide patent extension to compensate for delays at the IP office and in regulatory approval for drugs – something the country intends to do within the transitional period provided under the Agreement.
Some of these changes are likely to be controversial among certain stakeholders, but there is also evidence of a passion for IP that you don’t see everywhere: the country has a National Intellectual Property Day, celebrated annually since 2005. This year, it was on May 17 and featured colouring, drawing and woodcraft origami contests, as well as a flash mob performance by 200 MyIPO staff and the country’s domestic trade minister.