4 Quickfire IP Tips for Manufacturing Firms

The economy in Malaysia is the sixth largest in Southeast Asia and it is also the 39th largest economy worldwide. The Department of Statistics Malaysia has estimated a total of 1,028,301 persons working in the local manufacturing sector, with sectors such as petroleum, chemical, rubber, plastic, food & beverages, tobbaco and electronics making up for a large component of the manufacturing industry in Malaysia.

The Malaysian manufacturing business is diverse and expanding, driven by innovative technology, high value added products and increased productivity. It is recorded that in 2020, the country saw the manufacturing sector grow by 4.1%, driven by consistent improvement in the export-dominant industries alongside steady growth in the domestic-dominant industries. Manufacturing accounts for a large percentage of Malaysia’s total exports according to reports published by the Malaysian External Trade Development Corporation (MARTRADE).

Manufacturing in Malaysia is highly attractive for overseas investors looking to develop their presence in Malaysia. For this opportunity to flourish, having a clear and concise IP strategy will be a crucial investment to protect and grow your manufacturing business in Malaysia.

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual Property encompasses the areas of, but not limited to, trademarks, patents, industrial designs and copyright. World Intellectual Property Organisation defines IP as ‘creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.’ (source) Intellectual property protection helps innovators protect what is rightfully theirs, and to make financial gain off their inventions.

Trademarks

A trademark is a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person or enterprise from another. This can be a logo, a slogan, a word, a domain name, a colour, a sound, a letter, a shape, a phrase, a design or a combination of any of these. Trademarks are protected by intellectual property rights.

Patents

Patent and certificate for a utility innovation protect inventions that create new products or processes, offer advanced technical solutions to a problem, or whose improvement builds upon a known product or process.

Industrial Designs

Industrial Design rights protect the ornamental or aesthetic aspects of a product, which results from features such as shapes, colours or materials.

Copyright

A copyright is an intellectual property right which protects original works of authorship in, but not exclusive to, the cultural, arts, and technology sectors. Copyright is a legal form of protection used by creators, authors, designers, architects of such works to protect original works including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architectural drawings.

Four IP Tips for Manufacturing Firms

Know your Intellectual Property, Inside and Out

Understand that manfuacturing firms will have a large and variable portfolio of assets that will require IP protection. Figure out exactly what assets exactly that needs protection, and recognise that each asset may require different types of IP protection. You will also need to determine who you are trying to protect your assets from. This may be third party competitors of many types, from new businesses attempting to steal the good name of your brand, to competitors innovating from your existing technology without issuing proper credit and monetary payment. Businesses often ignore IP protection for either one, or many areas of their assets, only the find out later on that someone else has either stolen or profited off their inventions. This can be a difficult situation for technology dominant manufacturing sectors who would look to patent their technology prior to disclosing it to the public. Speak to an IP professional to figure out what you need to protect and how you can do so in a way that will equip you with legal protection over your assets.

Consider How Your Business Focus Might Evolve

Think into the future and consider how you might want to expand into markets, international or not, in 5, 10 or even 20 years. Depending on where you decide to sell and manufacture your goods, you will need to look into the IP rules and regulations of the market(s) in question. This is because each country, or region, has its own set of IP legislations and regulatory bodies. For example, gaining trademark protection in Malaysia does not guarantee you trademark protection in Singapore, unless if the applicant made an international application via the Madrid Protocol. You will also need to consider the time involved in gaining trademark protection in differing countries, a process which varies from a year to two years, without taking into account the possibility of trademark oppositions from third parties. Thinking ahead and thinking long-term is crucial to your IP strategy.

Conduct A Patent Search

If you have yet to patent your manufacturing technology, seek a patent professional to conduct a patent search on your behalf. Companies may assume their innovations are new and different from existing inventions, but it is crucial to properly verify your tech on the grounds that it is dissimilar to other patented technologies. Under the circumstances that your proposed innovation is closely similar or the same as an innovation that has already been patented, two situations will transpire: you will not be able to, or have great difficulty, in patenting your innovation. Furthermore, should you profit off your innovation, the owner of the patented innovation will have grounds to take you to court for patent infringement. Therefore, it is important to conduct a rigourous patent search first and foremost to avoid making and selling a product you may not have the rights to.

Involve Your Employees in IP Protection

Educate your employees on IP protection and the methodologies in preventing accidental leaks in trade secrets or IP knowledge. Have clear stipulations in writing, either in contracts or NDAs, to ensure employee confidentiality alongside preparing the employee with the adequate steps to be taken to protect the company’s IP. Be as specific as possible in your arrangements, making sure you are taking the right and important steps to prevent sensitive and valuable information from being compromised. Conduct IP protection awareness courses to keep employees refreshed and updated on IP security. Enforcing digital security should be a priority for manufacturing firms as to make sure the right keys are in the hands of the right employees. Review the access and availability to digital information by employees regularly. Getting your employees involved in protecting the company’s IP should be part of your IP protection game plan.

Quality Oracle are proud of supporting SMEs for 29 years and counting. Our team of IP professionals are ready to protect and enforce your Intellectual Property Rights in ASEAN and worldwide. Get in touch for a free consultation today.