Copyright protection in Asia will likely improve as the region's economies develop higher-value industries that require innovation and creativity, industry experts said yesterday.
Like Japan, which made a phenomenal transition after World War II from being a low cost manufacturer to a leading technology innovator, the rest of Asia should follow a similar path and embrace the value of intellectual property (IP) rights, they said at the Global Forum on Intellectual Property here.
"When you are going to progress from just becoming cheap manufacturers, you need high-tech industries and you need to put money into research, and IP progressively becomes even more and more important," said Sir Hugh Laddie, a former British senior patent judge.
Citing Japan as an example, Laddie said the world's second largest economy began realizing the value of copyright protection as the country started to become an innovator.
Japanese products like cars, cameras and motorcycles are now admired worldwide for their cutting-edge technology, a far cry from decades ago when they were regarded as copycats, Laddie said on the sidelines at the forum.
"The time came when it was not just enough to copy ... [Japan] now produces extremely high quality, leading edge products," he said.
According to Singapore Law Minister S. Jayakumar, more Asian firms are starting the realize the importance of intellectual property rights protection.
The trend is expected to continue to accelerate as the region's economies continue to develop, he said in an opening address to the forum.
"Asia is witnessing an exceptional growth in IP filings, as rising incomes and foreign direct investments have made the region a major market and production center," Jayakumar said.
"They are increasingly recognizing the value of such intangible assets, whether for revenue potential or access to markets and capital," he said.
"As the world's economic center of gravity shifts towards Asia, we can also expect Asia to take center stage in the international IP arena," he said.
Richard Heath, Unilever's global anti-counterfeiting counsel, said governments in the region have demonstrated that they want to tackle copyright infringements.
"I think the will is definitely there," Heath said.
One way Asian governments can address the issue more effectively is a coordinated effort against the counterfeiters because copyright infringements now transcend national borders, he said.