On 26 January 2017, the Thai Department of Intellectual Property (DIP) published the long-awaited 20-year Intellectual Property Roadmap, providing directions for the country’s Intellectual Property (IP) developments over the next two decades. In Thailand, there is still room for improvement in terms of developing a completely robust IP legal framework, IP resources, effective IP enforcement mechanisms and a strong understanding of IP.
Given the current national policy of moving the basis of the country’s economy away from production efficiency and toward innovation, IP has become an essential instrument in achieving such a critical shift.
The Roadmap is intended to energize IP awareness within Thailand and a positive impact on global business operators is certainly expected.
The Roadmap specifies developments in six interlinked IP areas: 1) IP Creation, 2) IP Protection, 3) IP Commercialization, 4) IP Enforcement, 5) Geographical Indications (GIs) and 6) Genetic Resources (GRs), Traditional Knowledge (TK) and Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCEs). These can be re-grouped into three principal concepts as follows:
Creating an IP-Conducive Economic Environment
The Roadmap aims to enhance IP creation through human resource development, strengthening the research infrastructure and promoting market-oriented research. These measures are designed to invigorate the technological advancements and innovations of Thai companies.
However, global companies will also benefit from a more sophisticated innovation and technological infrastructure, brought about by greater understanding of IP by Thai businesses and consumers, as well as by enhanced efforts to match Thai businesses with identified technological and innovation synergies.
Local resources will also be more accessible, as encouraged registration of GIs, TK and TCEs will increase opportunities to link local producers to national and international markets.
Facilitation of Registration Processes
The goal in this regard is to adapt the existing IP registration systems into faster processes conforming to international standards, with effective and user-friendly information technology systems. This will be achieved through increasing the number and raising the professional training level of patent examiners and trademark registrars, in order to better manage the ever-increasing workload. Online filing and documentation systems will be improved and the intra-DIP workflow will be optimized.
In recent years there have been various initiatives aimed at facilitating registration. The Facilitation Act, the Copyright Amendment Act and the Trademark Amendment Act, represent attempts at overhauling the legal framework and enhancing efficiency of IP registration processes. Further, the DIP had already planned to increase the number of patent examiners from 39 to 127 and of trademark registrars from 20 to 40 in 2016. At the moment, experience of IP registration service providers in Thailand suggests that these attempts are taking effect, albeit slowly.
IP enforcement has in recent years become a household topic, as the volume of counterfeits and infringing goods confiscated and destroyed in public ceremonies, which are covered on national news, increases year by year. The Roadmap aims to reinforce this new sense of moral and legal wrong associated with IP infringement while improving efficiencies and coordination among the numerous public bodies involved in IP enforcement and raising IP knowledge by all personnel involved in IP matters. The Roadmap will provide greater comfort to global businesses operating in Thailand as they will see an increased focus on stopping infringing and counterfeiting activity.
The Roadmap’s optimistic and ambitious aims will be welcomed by IP owners both within and outside of Thailand. However, specific measures as to how the IP Roadmap will be implemented are yet to be formulated, implemented and assessed. Nonetheless, with the Thai government’s sharp focus on economic remodeling, IP has been prioritized as an essential part of the Thai Government’s vision for a modernized Thai economy, as Via Appia was to Rome: a highway inviting increased and beneficial commerce and innovation.
This article was first published in Managing IP - May 2017 edition