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IP Standards in Malaysia Set To Gain Strength

On the 4th March 2005, The Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs announced the proposal known as the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Strategic Modernisation Plan, which was developed with close co-operation between Malaysia and the European Union (EU). Covering every aspect of IPR including the marketing and legal framework, the blueprint aims to improve Malaysia’s capacity to properly enforce IPR and to be able to very effectively sanction any IPR infringements. Plans include the development of special courts to hear intellectual property disputes, the training of lawyers specialising in the field and judges with experience in the issues. In so doing, the Ministry expects that Malaysia will quickly be brought into line with the existing infrastructure to be found in countries such as the UK and Japan.

This is the latest move in a series of ameliorations to the Malaysian IP system, which includes the recent passing of the plant breeders’ rights bill, known as the Protection of New Plant Varieties Act 2004. This amended section 13(b) of Part IV of the Patents Act (1983), allowing plant varieties to be patented.

The Ministry also described its proposal to reduce the period for the issuance of patents from five years to three years and Trademarks from two years to nine months. This is a welcome redress, geared to increasing the number of filings and grants on a yearly basis.

However, Malaysia’s existing patent framework blends regulations from international jurisdictions, particularly the commonwealth countries and the EU, with many uniquely Malaysian elements. English is accepted as an official language and the formalities for filing and examination follow a smooth and internationally recognized methodology. As such, the Malaysian Patent framework did not have to suffer from a substantial overhaul as a result of its abiding by the TRIPs agreement, contrary to that faced by many other developing countries.

Malaysia is on the verge of full membership of the PCT, and recently Parliament passed the required amendments to the existing Patents Act. Although already a member of the Paris Convention, the imminent entry to the PCT will be an important step in the maturation of the Malaysian IP system.