OPINION By Joy Lee The Star, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia / Asia News Network
PETALING JAYA (The Star/ANN)
When starting a business from scratch, protecting one's patents and trademarks is rarely at the top of a business owner's to-do list. Most would rather fuss over getting sales off the ground.
But if you are producing your own products or working on an original idea, Adastra IP (M) Sdn Bhd director Mohan K cautioned not to wait too long before you start protecting your intellectual assets.
Adastra is an intellectual property (IP) firm specialising in protecting and exploiting IP rights.
IP protection essentially gives IP owners exclusive rights to the invention while others are required to get prior permission or pay a fee to make, use or sell the invention.
"Small businesses tend to think no one will copy them because they are so small. But they will come to a stage where people will recognise products and services associated with them and IP protection becomes a necessity.
"Intellect is an asset. It becomes important when a business is affected due to infringement. And most times, people only realise its importance too late," Mohan said.
Mohan explained that there were four types of IP protection available -- trademark, patent, copyright and industrial design rights.
Trademark basically protects corporate identities, brand names or logos while patenting prevents inventions from being copied, used or sold without permission for a period of time.
Copyright and industrial design rights protections cover creative expressions and aesthetic features of a particular product respectively.
One of the main reasons SMEs do not invest in IP protection is due to the perception that it is an expensive and complicated process.
Mohan countered that expenditure for IP protection can start as low as 2,000 ringgit (US$602.01) and there are various IP firms to assist them through the process.
Additionally, applicants may apply for financing aid from Malaysia Debt Ventures Bhd, which is expected to disburse some RM200mil under its IP Financing Scheme this year.
To emphasise the value of IP, the government has allowed the use of IP rights as collateral to obtain funding of up to RM10mil or 80% of the value of the IP rights, whichever is lower, for a five-year tenure.
The move, made under Budget 2013, was aimed at encouraging SMEs to develop their own IPs, and in the longer run, inculcate innovation and increase productivity in the SME industry.
"SMEs should seriously consider developing their IP and getting IP protection. The industry needs to evolve from being copycats to innovativion," Mohan said.
Mohan noted that IP protection is especially essential for companies looking to bring their ideas and products overseas where they are required to register their patents.
"In the global arena, it is a more competitive environment and it is important to be innovative to stand out.
"We don't want to lose local technologies. A lot of our entrepreneurs have really innovative ideas and they need to be protected.
"So if you have a good idea, we want to talk to you," he said.