Darani Vachanavuttivong, Co-Managing Partner and Managing Director of Intellectual Property (IP), Tilleke & Gibbins, on the importance of IP rights

Darani Vachanavuttivong, Co-Managing Partner and Managing Director of Intellectual Property (IP), Tilleke & Gibbins

The failure of Thai law enforcement in implementing adequate measures to protect IP rights has resulted in Thailand being placed on the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) Priority Watch List for four consecutive years. The annual USTR Special 301 report identifies, among other things, countries that fail to provide sufficient measures for protecting IP rights, and these countries are placed on the Priority Watch List.

More stringent measures are needed to combat this enormous problem and to improve IP protection in the kingdom. Several factors contribute to Thailand’s failure to overcome existing IP problems, but each of these can be addressed if there is sufficient political will.

Corruption remains the biggest problem in enforcing IP rights. As long as the government fails to make inroads into reducing the severity of corruption in the country, successful enforcement measures to eradicate IP counterfeiting and piracy problems will remain unachievable. Good governance is a prerequisite if law enforcers are to eliminate IP piracy.

The second obstacle concerns the low levels of innovation in Thailand. A wide range of public policies are needed to stimulate innovation. This includes government subsidies to promote innovation and research and development (R&D). The introduction of legislation similar to the US’s Bayh–Dole Act may assist in generating knowledge in universities. It is also necessary for Thailand to encourage private sector innovation to develop its own technological capabilities and reduce reliance on foreign technology. Thailand could learn much from Japan’s model for eliminating IP piracy and reinventing itself as a high-tech economy. The government should support innovation by developing short-and long-term plans for fostering R&D investment and introducing a system that rewards Thai entrepreneurs.

Third, the general level of IP awareness in Thailand is low, and it is even lower among certain industrial sectors, government agencies, universities and R&D institutions. Thus, there is a need to educate these stakeholders and policymakers about IP rights. IP education should also be provided for government agencies and the judiciary. In addition to raising general awareness, another strategy to boost innovation is to provide technical assistance and R&D funding to local businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises, to help them improve local technological capabilities.

An effective approach for raising IP awareness is to bolster university education. The lack of qualified IP instructors and teaching materials suitable for use in developing countries leads to inadequate teaching standards in universities. This situation can be improved by utilising books written in the local (Thai) language, in addition to other necessary improvements. IP should be taught not as a legal subject, but as an interdisciplinary subject within Thailand’s universities.

Finally, the legal environment needs to be streamlined and revised to promote innovation. The lengthy process for granting patents is the primary obstacle to promoting the generation, protection and utilisation of patents by companies and industries. Thailand needs to work toward embedding IP administration into the country’s development policies.

Current public policies on IP are not reflective of local industry needs. Strategies must be designed specifically for different IP regimes so that they are tailored to the levels of development and needs of local industries. There is also a need to identify and remove the bottlenecks that exist between the commercial exploitation of IP assets and the level of IP usage in business and economic development in the country.

In conclusion, there is an urgent need to review existing national IP laws and policies in all areas. The Thai government should work to immediately enact the new laws required to tackle IP infringements and piracy, such as landlord liability, anti-camcording, etc. The implementation of these measures will require a consistent and coherent approach. Efforts must be stepped up across all government offices if IP protective measures are to be improved sufficiently and if Thailand is to be removed from the Priority Watch List.

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Darani Vachanavuttivong

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The Report: Thailand 2012

Legal Framework chapter from The Report: Thailand 2012

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This article is from the Legal Framework chapter of The Report: Thailand 2012. Explore other chapters from this report.