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South-East Asia IPR SME Helpdesk Case Studies 2015-2018
A Spanish company, Company A, successfully registered its “AAA” trade mark in Singapore, starting from 2 April 1986 (“1986 Mark”). The “AAA” mark was registered in Class 3 of the International Classification of Goods under the category of “perfumery with essential oils”.
On the 20 November 2001, a US company, Company B, filed an application to register the same “AAA” mark in Class 3 under “bleaching preparations and other substances for laundry use; cleaning; polishing, scouring and abrasive preparations; soaps; perfumery; essential oils; cosmetics; hair lotions; dentifrices; colognes; toiletries; sunscreens; cosmetics; skincare products; deodorants and antiperspirants for personal use; shaving preparations” (“Company B’s Application”)
A Dutch company, Company A, specialising in the production and distribution of professional sealants for commercial and home use, had registered ownership of its trade mark and packaging design for its growing sales of sealants in Myanmar. After several years of sales in Myanmar, they were alerted by their local distributor to the existence of competing products bearing similar packaging design, but with a different logo, on sale in Yangon and Mandalay by resellers of hardware products.
A registered trade mark in Vietnam which was a product label for instant noodles was subject to a request for cancellation for non-use.
Under Article 95 of the Vietnam’s Intellectual Property Law, a trade mark registration may be cancelled at the request of a third party if the mark has not been used by its owner or its licensee without justifiable reasons for five (5) consecutive years prior to the request for cancellation for non-use, except where use of the mark has commenced at least three (3) months before the request for cancellation for non-use.
In fact, the exact packaging design had not been used by the trade mark owner, but it was a slightly modified version of the said mark that had been used.
An European manufacturer engaged in the green technology industry with a innovative technology is interested in finding an exclusive distributor located in Singapore to expand its business in South-East Asia. The company participated into a programme funded by the European Union helping European companies to establish long-lasting business collaborations in South-East Asia. During the coaching session, it emerged that the company owns a trade mark and few patents in Europe but was not aware of the territorial nature of IP and which actions shall be taken in relation to trade mark and patent registrations in South-East Asia as well as to the negotiations with the local distributor in Singapore.
A Slovenian company in the automotive industry exhibiting at the Automotive Trade Fair in Vietnam is aware that a Chinese company which has been reported infringing its design in the past is also exhibiting at the same fair. The Slovenian company has checked the list of exhibitors before starting the exhibition and therefore had the time to be prepared should any infringement occur during the fair, including preparing the original certificate of its design registration in Vietnam and identifying a lawyer who could provide advice directly at the exhibition in case of need.
A European company in the green technology field with an advanced technology for waste management currently manufactures its products in Europe and is willing to enter into a license agreement with a Malaysian company to grant licenses for manufacturing, distribution and selling of its products with non-transferrable exclusive and sole right for a period of five years. The parties enter into negotiations of the main terms of the deal to be inserted in the written agreement.
Important amounts of investment are made in research and development to improve designs, techniques, and processes by SMEs to reduce production costs and increase sales. Trade secrets disputes often arise against employees or former employees and business partners and is a frequent issue affecting SMEs. However, in relation to Thailand, the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court (IP&IT Court), has published that only 66 trade secret cases were brought to the IP&IT Court between 2004 and 2014. Of this limited number of cases, the majority had unfortunately no positive outcome for trade secrets’ owners, with the main reason for the court to dismiss a plaintiff’s claim, being the absence of appropriate measures to maintain trade secrets. Key grounds to support a claim of trade secrets theft is indeed represented by the proofs of the existence of a trade secret by demonstrating that the information is protected by measures to maintain its secrecy. Failing to provide certain evidence in this respect, will lead to lose the case.
A European company is willing to establish a Joint Venture with a local partner in Vietnam where the investment in the capital will be composed of cash from the Vietnamese partner and know-how and cash from the European company. The European company has developed a specific know-how in treating and cleaning systems which enable to minimise the use of water and detergents.
The parties enter into negotiations in relation to the Joint Venture Agreement and have reached a point in which it became difficult to assess the exact value of the contribution of know-how since the process was and could not be patented in Europe nor in Vietnam. The parties could not find an agreement on the contribution and the European company was worried of disclosing further information at this stage.
Company A wanted to apply for registration of a trade mark for “snack food” in Class 30 in Thailand, but found that a similar trade mark had already been registered for the goods “potato chips, crispy rice chips, corn flakes, and crackers” in the same class by a Thai company (Company B). The goods covered by Company B are classified as ready-to-eat products under Group 3, i.e., food with labeling that is subject to regulatory approval.
Textra Automotive (“Textra”) is a medium-sized European company known for producing high-tech sensors for cars. After an extensive market study, Textra has decided to enter the ASEAN market. It identifies Siam Manufacturing Group (“Siam”) as a promising partner in Thailand and enters into an agreement with the latter to manufacture and distribute sensors to vehicle manufacturers in Thailand. If the products prove profitable in Thailand, Textra will expand its business to the other major automotive manufacturing countries in the region.
Following three successive profitable quarters, Textra decides to pursue sales of the products in Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines. It applies to register its name as a trade mark in Thailand, with a plan to register the same mark in the other four countries, claiming priority from the Thailand application. However, Textra discovers that the trade mark has already been registered by Mais Manufacturing Ltd. (“Mais”).
ASEAN IPR SME Helpdesk Case Studies 2013-2015
In an ongoing case, a European engineering firm, PT Basuki, filed a claim against a large construction company in Indonesia and several other parties, for the misuse of its secret know-how in boiler construction. PT Basuki claimed that its secret boiler design know-how was used by the defendant to develop similar products, however, PT Basuki's claim was dismissed by the Bekasi District Court. The judges reasoned that the Commercial Court rather than the District Court ought to have jurisdiction over the case because the case concerned intellectual property, and the Commercial Court had previously heard a related industrial design case between the same parties. However, the Supreme Court upheld the plaintiff's appeal against the case dismissal. The case was sent back to the Bekasi District Court to be retried and is still on-going.
The Supreme Court ruling confirms what the law has already stipulated - the case was correctly brought before the district court in Bekasi. The initial rejection of the case by the District Court was incorrect and can only be explained by their difficulty with, and lack of experience in, handling trade secret issues. This is a common problem in developing IP jurisdictions in Southeast Asian countries where trade secret issues are seldom brought before the courts despite the fact that the law may provide for it.
The new Indonesian Electronic and Information Technology Law also contains provisions against unauthorised access to computer systems. However, we have yet to see an actual application of these provisions.