As one of the world’s most dynamic emerging regions, the ASEAN region has achieved notable success in capturing the attention of other nations worldwide in terms of investment opportunities and economic development. ASEAN has nurtured comprehensive cooperation in politics, economics, society, and culture through the establishment of policies, collaborative platforms, training, and research facilities that serve the collective interests of its member states.
Intellectual Property (IP), recognized as a key factor in trade and economic development, serves as an effective avenue for collaboration among Southeast Asian countries. This has been evident in the signing of the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Intellectual Property Cooperation in 1995, followed by the establishment of ASEAN Working Group on IP Cooperation (AWGIPC) the year after.
With the increasing awareness of IP protection prior to the launching of products or services in domestic and foreign markets, innovative enterprises considering the registration of their inventions in ASEAN countries may wish to use the following initiatives to accelerate patent registration and patent protection:
ASEAN Patent Examination Cooperation
One of AWGIPC’s important initiatives, the ASEAN Patent Examination Cooperation (ASPEC), was launched in June 2009. It was the first regional patent work-sharing programme among nine ASEAN countries, excluding Timor Leste and Myanmar.
This programme helps accelerate the patent examination process and reduces the duplication of work done in participating countries by sharing search and examination results as references. There are currently two ASPEC initiatives available:
- ASPEC AIM:
- Enables expedition of patent applications, with a focus on Industry 4.0 innovations
- Faster turnaround time – first office action within 6 months
- Extended until 26 August 2023
- Applicants can rely on PCT reports/written opinions issued by an ASEAN International Searching Authority or Preliminary Examining Authority (ISA/IPEA)
- Extended until 26 August 2025
Bilateral Patent Cooperation Programmes
Bilateral cooperation programmes such as the Collaborative Search and Examination (CS&E) pilot programme that was recently launched between the Vietnam and Singapore IP offices can further strengthen collaboration among ASEAN countries. The pilot programme is set to run from 1 March 2023 to 28 February 2025 and marks the first of its kind in ASEAN.
This programme helps accelerate the patent search and examination process to within 10 months from the filing date at the first Office (either Vietnam or Singapore). Based on the final CS&E report, the applicant then has two months to decide if a corresponding application claiming priority in the other country is required; the application filed before the 2nd Office then has prioritized examination if the claim set sufficiently corresponds to the claim set filed before the 1st Office.
Notable benefits of this programme are as follows:
- Time efficiency: allowing innovative enterprises to establish their go-to-market strategy in targeted countries ahead of time
- Cost efficiency: through deferral of filing and related fees for the 2nd office filing; and
- Prioritized examination in the 2nd office
One of the commonly pursued investment options of enterprises seeking to penetrate into ASEAN countries is to establish a business in Singapore. In line with its IP Strategy 2030, Singapore, the most-developed economy among the ASEAN countries, aims to position itself as a node to support interoperability within ASEAN, while at the same time connecting ASEAN with the world. This approach offers numerous privileges in terms of tariff benefits, investment opportunities, favourable immigration policies, and robust IP protection mechanisms. As global integration and non-border trade continue to expand, the need for cooperation and development in IP rights protection becomes crucial. Consequently, the implementation of patent cooperation programmes, such as the pilot between IPVN and IPOS, may soon be replicated in other ASEAN countries.
In addition, depending on the home country of the enterprise or applicant, bilateral cooperation programmes between non-ASEAN and ASEAN countries are also accessible. For example, Japan has established a fast-track patent prosecution highway (PPH) programme with ASEAN countries including Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam, and similarly, Korea has a PPH programme with Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and other countries. (Find out more at https://www.kass.com.my/articles/strategic-moves-when-patenting-in-asean/)
Innovative enterprises are recommended to take advantage of such programmes to further accelerate their IP registration process. If you are planning to venture into the ASEAN market, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for any inquiries you may have or support you may need.