Intellectual property (IP) is increasingly recognized as a valuable, intangible asset that can give companies a competitive edge. To best harness and exploit IP assets, however, it is essential to first identify the company’s IP assets and protect them appropriately.
Companies may come across various forms of IP in the course of conducting its business. The main forms of IP that companies encounter include:
§ Trademarks, namely, names, symbols, logos, taglines, shapes and colors which function as identifiers of a company, business line, product or service.
§ Patents, namely, inventions of new products, processes and methods.
§ Copyright, namely, the creative and artistic expression of ideas, including literature, art, music, films and performances.
§ Designs, namely, the features and appearance of a product.
§ Trade secrets,namely business information or confidential practices or processes which are commercially valuable to a business.
§ Domain names, namely the web address of a business’s website.
A summary of Thailand’s key IP laws can be found here.
An IP asset’s strength comes from having the exclusive right to use it and preventing others from doing so. Effective protection from unauthorized use is therefore essential, particularly in enforcing a company’s rights in an IP asset. Some methods of protection include:
§ Registration:Trademarks, patents and designs (which are governed under the Patents Act) must be registered with the Department of Intellectual Property (DIP) in order for rights owners to claim exclusive rights to use such IP. Ownership of copyright, while not mandatory, can be recorded with the DIP as evidence of the subsistence of copyright in a piece of work and ownership of that right. Similarly, trade secrets can also be recorded with the DIP as proof of ownership.
§ Contractual means: The entry into contractual agreements, such as non-disclosure agreements, employment agreements and service agreements, can offer some control and protection against IP infringement.
§ Practical means: Certain forms of IP assets are often best protected by practical means, such as IT security measures, restricting access and implementing computer usage policies.
3. Commercial exploitation
With a proper system for identifying, protecting and managing IP assets, a company will be better able to derive a competitive advantage from them. In particular, IP assets are often used as marketing tools as well as an offensive or defensive maneuver. They can also be used to support a company’s business objective – some common methods of IP exploitation in Thailand include:
§ Incorporating the IP into products and services for internal development;
§ Assignment of full or partial rights in the IP asset;
§ Licensing of full or partial rights in the IP asset;
§ Franchising the business model whereby a license to use certain IP assets is granted;
§ Joint development of new IP; and
§ Joint ventures involving technology transfers.
Regardless of how a company chooses to exploit its IP assets, the paramount thing to remember is to maintain secure ownership and/or confidentiality of its IP assets.
By Nualporn Satawiriya