Knowing your Intellectual Property rights

Universities are the main source of Intellectual Property (IP) in Malaysia, as highlighted at an in-house talk in Wawasan Open University (WOU) attended by some 20 staff.

In his talk on ‘Intellectual Property Commercialisation – Strategies for Universities and Research Institutions’, Lok Choon Hong, founding partner of Pintas IP Group, shared that about 60% of patents filed are based on university research.

Lok shares on Intellectual Property.

Lok shares on Intellectual Property.

He said 2 million patents are filed every year, with the highest in Japan, US, China, Republic of Korea, Germany, Canada and the Russian Federation. In 2006, Malaysia filed 531 patents locally compared to 360,000 patents by the Japanese and 150,000 by the Koreans.

He told that Japan became a net exporter of technology in 2000 when it started filing patents, before that it paid licensing fees for western technology. Others cannot produce or sell something protected by patent without the consent of the IP owner, otherwise it is an act of infringement and they can be sued.

Patents can be found in subscribed databases and free online databases, such as the USPTO (United States Patent and Trade Office) or the European Patent Office at which contains about 40 million patent documents, he said.

Staff of WOU learn about patents.

Staff of WOU learn about patents.

You can search for patents using the patent number, keywords or classifications to find relevant prior arts and patent claims. “If you draft the scope of the patent claim to be wide enough, this will cover and protect more, increasing the value of the patent,” he added.

According to Lok, the protection of Intellectual Property is through patent, trademark, industrial design and copyright. Patent protects functional ideas; copyright protects creative expressions of ideas in the form of software, research, publications, literary works, drawings, songs; industrial design protects shape or outlook; and trademark protects the brand.

He said IP grants monopoly to the patentee to undertake commercial activities. Also, all IPs are country-based and have a lifespan. “If I register my patent in Malaysia, I own it only for that country.” A patent is valid for 20 years from the date of filing, trademark for 10 years from filing date but renewable, the industrial design for 15 years, and copyright for 50 years after the death of the authors.  

He said patents protect inventions, such as article of manufacture, machine (e.g. Xerox), process (e.g. Tetra Pak packaging), and composition of matter (e.g. pharmaceutical drugs). Anything inventive, new and with industrial applicability can be patented if it doesn’t violate public morality.

Lok stated that trademarkprotects identities such as the WOU brand, McDonald’s Arch, and slogans like KFC’s ‘Fingers Licking Good’ and Nike’s “Just Do It”. As for copyright, he informed that no registration is required as under the Berne Convention, a copyright author is given automatic copyright protection.

During the Q&A, Lok highlighted that it takes 3-4 years for patent to be granted in Malaysia and each patent filed may cost RM10,000 but it’s still worth the investment.