The fashion and lifestyle sector is steadfastly growing and offering more and more business opportunities to luxury brand owners in Southeast Asia. Traditionally one of the most lucrative sectors, the fashion, design and luxury goods industry is now successfully emerging in this region. In fact, Singapore is currently a launchpad for lifestyle businesses focused on entering the Southeast Asian markets.
The fact is that there is tremendous potential for growth in this sector in Southeast Asia. A booming counterfeit industry is a resulting consequence, making it critical to understand the particularities of Intellectual Property in this part of the world in relation to luxury brands. Businesses, especially in this industry, should be aware of which Intellectual Property rights can be protected by registration and which cannot be registered, yet protected to some extent through agreements. The threat is real and businesses must be proactive and take action now. But how?
Here are certain Intellectual Property guidelines for luxury brand owners in Southeast Asia:
1. Build and protect your Intellectual Property portfolios
- Be aware of the particularities of the Southeast Asian Intellectual Property landscape where most jurisdictions apply a strict first to file system.
- Apply for Intellectual Property protection as soon as you intend to enter the market, or even better, before, to have a chance to win the race against counterfeiters.
- For trademarks, seek protection for the original house marks (in Latin characters) but do not forget to secure protection of their translation/transliteration into local languages.
- Do not neglect design protection considering the high importance and value of designs in the fashion, design and luxury goods industry. In fact, registered designs may be a useful supplement or alternative to trademark protection where it is difficult to obtain (for example 3D trademarks) and/or cannot be secured without prior extensive use.
- Register your Intellectual Property rights with the local customs authorities and take the time to educate the officials to identify counterfeit goods.
- Conduct regular audits of your portfolio, both online and on-site, as many registries do not have online records yet and manual searches still need to be conducted in some jurisdictions.
2. Select your partners carefully
- Perform due diligence of, and/or audit your distribution channels, the production facilities and your local partners (could be a local associate or director, as required in some jurisdictions in Asia, or local distributors). We have seen many clients who realised too late that their local partners have already sought protection for the trademark(s) in their own name.
- Sign with local partners, detailed contracts containing specific clauses as to the quality, distribution channels, quantities, dealing with remaining products (special manufacture, distribution, franchise agreement), ownership of the Intellectual Property rights, etc., to avoid complications as described above.
- Select your local Intellectual Property agents carefully. We have seen many trademark owners who have paid local agents for taking action on their behalf and who have realised a couple of months down the road that no action has been taken. For example, trademark applications not filed as instructed, or renewal applications not submitted by the deadline. Quality service comes at a price and extremely low fees charged by some firms in the region could be a sign of sub-standard service.
- Educate your local partners and colleagues about Intellectual Property and counterfeiting.
3. Practice a strong monitoring/enforcement policy
- Implement a screening and monitoring policy (both online and on-site).
- Make use of Intellectual Property enforcement technology and assistance when available to identify infringements. Take measures as soon as infringements are identified and file complaints/lawsuits whenever possible or necessary, to build a strong reputation locally amongst infringers.
- Raise awareness among the public (educate them to help identify counterfeit luxury goods).
At IPHub Asia, we help businesses and luxury brands register their trademarks and defend their rights. If you have questions regarding our Intellectual Property guidelines for luxury brands in Southeast Asia or require solutions for your trademark and design rights in this part of the world, do get in touch.
You can also visit our website to know more about what we do and the services we offer.