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What is the regional picture of IP protection and the role of the WIPO in Asia?
Despite the negative news we see every day in the media, the governments in Asia have actually taken many measures.
Within the capacity they have, they are in fact trying to improve the IP system in different ways.
The first thing they did was to update the laws. Secondly, they are trying to strengthen institutions, especially those that administer and enforce those laws.
But equally they are trying to develop linkages among organisations within the country so that some economic profit can be obtained out of having a more modern legislative framework, which means that they seek to work with economic entities within the country. They are also beginning to talk with the private sector much more than they did previously.
Thirdly, they work with civil society groups because of the social concerns and public concerns that are beginning to pop up. Fourthly, by using the IP system, they are aiming for long-term investment, and by this I mean the integration of science and technology and this takes time and a lot of resources.
They are building IP protection, in particular, in places like China, India, Singapore, the Republic of Korea and to some extent Malaysia and Thailand.
They are very much working in this particular area of long-term investment to obtain more capital and have access to information, and to focus on science and technology, all of which requires strong IP protection and the beginning of group technology management.
You don't usually read about these things in the press. All of this is linked to piracy and the illegal use of consumer products or music or software.
There is a long-term commitment to capacity-building in these countries. These countries equally are interested in increasing strong economic and trading relationships with their partners in this particular field. In this respect, we are working very closely with these countries.
Besides helping them, we persuade them, remind them, encourage them and provide them with information and better understanding of the laws and advantages of IP without neglecting the social environment in which the IP laws are Operating. We are also working with them to create a better dialogue within the countries and the region.
How does WIPO assist Vietnam?
The Vietnamese government has been very active in making sure that their IP laws are effective. They have realised the relationship, between economic development and IP protection. In fact the economic development in Vietnam is one of the best now in Southeast Asia in terms of percentage growth of the GDP. So these IP efforts are part of government policies.
But (IP protection) needs to be more active. We have been working closely with the Vietnamese government. We have been organising lots of activities in Vietnam on the subjects of patents, science and technology, trademarks, industrial design, and copyright.
We have been training a lot of Vietnamese officials in Vietnam and also abroad. We have organised a number of training courses and seminars on enforcement of customs and police officials in Hanoi and HCM City.
We have developed a couple of projects as well so that they would follow through.
So the future is very good for Vietnam. For the time being they are not producing too much intellectual property themselves. They are mainly consuming or using other people's IP.
But what we want also is for the local companies to make their own designs based on traditional Vietnamese culture because you have to develop your own specialisation, your own instinctive ability.
What are the IP problems in Vietnam?
The most pressing problem is how to educate the companies, the universities and the research and development institutions about IP so that they can use it in research policy or as part of then business strategy. The laws are there, but people must be using these laws well.
Public awareness is more of a process and enforcement question. Now we have to work with business to use IP as a business asset.
I think the government should be stricter with IP violations because it creates the kind of mentality that it is all right to use other people's property. Then it is not just limited to copyright because then people, especially children, start thinking it is all right if they take other people's things.
I think it is going to take time because time and affordability are big issues. The Government must discuss how to lower prices with the companies. Companies prefer to sell something than nothing. The Government must be the one leading the discussion with the companies to see how they can tackle the problem.
When Vietnam joins the World Trade Organisation, it will have to be more effective in IP enforcement I think it is the main consequence of joining. You need to have a more efficient police and customs force.
But in the longer term and in terms of trade, the Government will gain lower tariff barriers to export Vietnamese goods. It is a kind of trade off: You gain in one area, you need to lower prices in another area.
(Source: Viet Nam News - 05/09/2006)