INTA registered its branch office in Singapore in March. This reflects the Association’s “increased engagement” in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly with IP offices, enforcement agencies and the judiciary, according to Asia-Pacific Chief Representative Seth Hays.
The new office is, says Hays, “geographically in the middle of the region” that stretches from Australia and New Zealand in the south to Japan and South Korea in the north. Singapore is also a self-proclaimed IP Hub, hosting local offices for ICANN, Interpol and WIPO. INTA’s office in Shanghai, which has existed for more than 10 years, will continue to focus on mainland China.
Hays says “policy advocacy” is a big part of his role in Asia-Pacific. One focus of this is the new ASEAN Economic Community, comprising 10 countries in southeast Asia. “IP is a big part of that, and INTA is working with organizations, including the ASEAN IP Association and the ASEAN Working Group on IP Cooperation, to help develop the IP community here in southeast Asia,” he adds.
While INTA brings the perspective of its global membership in promoting harmonization of trademark law and practice, it is also working to help local businesses (95% of whom are SMEs) to develop and internationalize their trademark portfolios, says Hays: “We aim to contribute to the body of knowledge on the importance of trademarks and make more people aware of that.”
On World IP Day in April this year, for example, INTA organized an education panel focusing on protection for SMEs at the Lao PDR World IP Day Fair. And during the coming year, the Association plans to commission research on the economic impact of trademark-intensive industries in the region. “Whether you are a developing or a developed country, there is an immediate value to protecting trademarks,” says Hays.
The new office also comes as major political developments are underway. Many countries in the region are signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, while the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which may be concluded this year, could become the world’s largest trading bloc by population. Meanwhile, several governments are committed to joining international IP treaties: Lao DPR acceded to the Madrid Protocol in December last year, and Malaysia and Thailand are expected to do so soon.
There has been significant growth in INTA’s membership and participation from the Asia-Pacific region, while relations with IP offices have also been developing: INTA has signed Memorandums of Understanding with the IPOPHL, IPOS, HKIPD, KIPO and China’s SAIC, and this year the Annual Meeting welcomes representatives of the offices of Australia, China, Japan, Lao PDR, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and The Philippines. The Honorable Yasuhito Okinaka, a judge from the Tokyo District Court, is taking part in today’s session on Free Speech and Trademark Law.
Engagement with the judiciary, as well as with IP offices and enforcement agencies such as Customs, is one of Hays’s priorities: INTA recently filed an amicus brief before the Supreme Court of The Philippines and more amicus filings are likely to follow. There are also likely to be more events hosted in the region following the two held in Singapore earlier this year—a seminar on designs (jointly with AIPPI) and a workshop on the roles of intermediaries in enforcing IP rights (in association with BASCAP).
Chief Representative, Asia-Pacific Office Singapore
Tel: +65 6866 3206