This is due to the lack of the awareness on the necessity to protect or have no idea on how to protect Intellectual Property (“IP”). In the circumstances, the innocent SMEs with unprotected IP have exposed their businesses to the following risk.
Loss of Ownership
Registration of trademark, patent and design is on a first come first serve basis. We would not know whether the competitors will “steal” our IP and register under their name tomorrow! Even though the true owner may subsequently re-gain ownership by way of Court litigation. It still has to go through high cost and lengthy Court process with uncertain outcome. So why not register at the first place with substantially lower costs and less hassle?
For trademark owners who did not register their brand name and subsequently lose their case in Court for the “stolen brand”, they have no choice but to re-brand their products / services. At this point, some of the SMEs may face the risk of breach of contract with their suppliers / distributors by not able to supply the specific brand of products!
Loss of Right to Sue
Unregistered trademark, patent and design owners may not have the right to sue for infringement under the statutory provisions. Hence, they may face tremendous difficulty in claiming damages or prevent further infringement by infringer.
Loss of Exclusive Market Share
It is nearly impossible to secure exclusive market share for unregistered IP. Without exclusive market share, it is very difficult for SMEs to ensure exclusive supply of unique products to their distributors, licensees or franchisees. Any competitor could easily “copy” the products and the interest of IP owners and distributors will be jeopardized.
HOW TO PROTECT MY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY?
The protection of IP rights can be done by registration or voluntary notification with the Intellectual Property Agency or Government Department of the respective country.The following is the overview of how to protect various type of IPs.
Registered owners are given legally recognized ownership to the respective IP.
Further, registered IP owners are granted exclusive rights to use, manufacure, sell, license and reproduce the IP, respectively. Registered IP owners may also institute legal proceedings against infringer for damages and/or Court injunction to prohibit further infringement.
In addition to civil actions, infringement of IP is also a criminal offence in certain jurisdictions which upon conviction will be liable to fine and/or imprisonment.
TERRITORIAL BASIS PROTECTION
It must be pointed out that protection of trademark, patent and industrial design is on territorial basis.
Currently, this is no unitary system to register IP globally. The IP owners must register them in the desired country separately.
Alternatively, IP owners may consider regional registration such as European Community Trademarks which provide trademark protection in all the member states through single registration.
 State Administration for Industry & Commerce of the People’s Republic of China;
State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China
 Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (Europe) & European Patent Office
 The Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs, Trademarks and Geographical Indications, India
 Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia
 Intellectual Property Office of Singapore
 National Office of Intellectual Property of Vietnam
 United States Patent and Trademark Office
The information above is for general understanding only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Readers are advised to consult with the appropriate legal advisors in the respective jurisdiction.