An Interview with Nick Redfearn, Deputy CEO & Partner of Rouse
Nick has worked in Asia for 15 years at Rouse offices in Indonesia, Vietnam, Dubai and China. He also helped set up the Rouse businesses in Thailand and Philippines. His experience includes anti-counterfeiting and antipiracy in Asian jurisdictions (especially Hong Kong, China, Philippines and Indonesia); complex IP disputes, including cross border cases, especially focused on Indonesia and China. Nick also specializes in portfolio management for Asian based IP portfolios and advising Asian companies on IP protection around in the world; as well as commercial IP agreements and deal structuring, IP M&A and financing; and devising and implementing intellectual asset management strategies to align IP with business goals.
Nick Redfearn, together with Brenda Panichi (Lead IP Counsel with Syngenta Asia Pacific) and Susan Villanueva (Senior Partner at Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia), will be speakers at “ASEAN – IP Strategies and Risk Management”, IP Academy’s panel discussion at its Global Forum on Intellectual Property 2015.
Prior to the event, IP Academy had the opportunity to chat with Nick about his thoughts on doing IP in the region.
1. What are some of the major obstacles faced when working in ASEAN? How many of these problems were unique to each country, and how many were uniform problems that existed across ASEAN as a whole?
The laws in ASEAN are broadly the same because most countries are members of the WTO. However there is still a great deal of divergences in the sophistication of the laws on the ground. Some countries are still at a relatively early economic developmental stages, while other countries have serious corruption problems. Thailand, for example, is one of the patent battlegrounds between the access-to-health lobby and big pharmaceutical companies.
The practice and enforcement of IP laws varies wildly too. For example criminal enforcement is extremely weak in Indonesia, whereas it is very strong in Singapore. Thailand has developed effective Specialist IP courts, whereas many other ASEAN countries have not.
There are also inherent differences in the legal systems of the various ASEAN member countries – Vietnam is still largely a communist country with complex administrative law systems; Thailand, Indonesia, and Philippines are civil law countries; Singapore and Malaysia have common law systems; Myanmar has not yet enacted an IP laws.
2. What trends do you foresee in relation to the future growth of IP in ASEAN? What are the implications of this growth for the region and the rest of the world?
Some level of harmonization in ASEAN is being sought – for example, all ASEAN members must now join the Madrid Protocol. However, given the diversity of legal, economic, social and political systems in ASEAN, harmonization will remain a great challenge. ASEAN will be moving from its current 2011 – 2015 IP Plan to a new one starting next year. Once this is drafted, we will then have a better idea of ASEANS’s next harmonization goals.
In general however, driven by increased industrialization and a fast growing middle class, IP practice in ASEAN is still growing in all markets. One problem that I foresee may be a serious lack of local innovation in many countries. This problem must be addressed if these economies wish to avoid the middle income trap. This is a problem where countries get trapped with productivity at low-to-mid levels (e.g. due to low skilled manufacturing or resourced based economies), and so cannot compete with high value focused economies. Innovation and creativity, supported by a robust education system, will enable breakthroughs in science and technology to boost productivity so that a country can escape this.
3. What advice would you give to a company seeking to invest and grow its IP in ASEAN?
Each country differs, so understanding the competitive IP landscape is vitally important.
In Indonesia, for example, there is a chronic problem of pirate trademarks, where local businesses have hijacked entire brands, essentially prohibiting the brand owner from entering the market. In Thailand the pharma and chemical industries face 10-12 year patent pendency for chemical patents, which can result in those industries receiving little or no effective patent protection. Whilst for most industries, the problem of counterfeit goods is a problem of fakes from China being imported into SE Asia, there are certain sectors like lubricants and car parts where Malaysia has a problem of exporting fake goods. In Thailand, the access-to-medicine lobby is intent on busting patents from large pharmaceutical companies, and routinely attacks patents in the IP office to try to invalidate them.
Investing and building IP in ASEAN can therefore mean having to do some shopping around. As mentioned, the levels of IP protection vary wildly both between countries and between industries. Looking forward, the ASEAN Economic Community will also have an IP impact so I would advise companies to keep a keen eye on harmonization. Overall, companies must take a hands on approach in some countries, where you may be caught out if you are not careful.
4. How has the IP industry grown and changed in the 15 years since you’ve been working in Asia? Has there been any changes amongst the public about IP awareness during this period?
IP is a growing industry. Every government talks of the need to join the knowledge economy. In some countries local innovation is taking off but it does vary. Singapore, for example, has a highly sophisticated technology ecosystem and strong patent industry. Indonesia and Philippines are still starting out, with most technological innovation centred on agricultural sectors. Thailand has a growing IT and pharma industry. Overall I would say that consumer goods growth has driven a large part of the IP growth, leading to more awareness around brands than say patents or copyright.
Interview conducted by Mark Cheng of The IPA Beacon Editorial Team