Case study

IP Attaché: Christabel Koh, SE Asia

Based at the British High Commission in Singapore, Christabel Koh is the UK IP Attache for South East Asia.

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For businesses based here in the UK, help and advice on protecting your IP in home territories is never far away. It’s much trickier to know where to get this help if you’re thinking of expanding into unknown territories. Especially if your target markets are halfway across the world.

Christabel’s role is to provide IP support to British businesses which are considering or already trading in Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) regions.

ASEAN is made up of ten member states. These are Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Brunei. It’s an important trading region for the UK as it has a combined population of around 600 million people.

I help British business make the most of the opportunities available in the region. I work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), UK Trade and Investment and HM Revenue and Customs. Also organisations like British Chamber of Commerce and the UK-ASEAN Business Council.

Her work involves a lot of travel and she spends a large amount of time drawing up visit programmes and setting up meetings. These include roundtables with British businesses and IP briefings with host governments. Once a quarter she hosts visitors from the UK (including the IPO). She also works with organisations in the region to put in place IP projects funded by both the IPO and FCO.

I enjoy working on the IP agenda across government and alongside my colleagues across the region. Providing practical support to businesses and exceeding their expectations gives meaning to my role.

As with other regions, the levels of IP awareness and scope of IP policy in SE Asia varies from country to country. This makes it difficult for businesses to correctly protect their IP and raises a variety of rights related issues.

IP policy frameworks varies between the member states of ASEAN. Alongside the low levels of IP awareness among business, this presents a challenge to British firms.

There is a mixed bag of IP issues. Counterfeit goods are a problems in the luxury, pharmaceutical and petrochemical sectors. Piracy affects the publishing sector.

So what can UK companies do to avoid becoming a victim of counterfeiting or another form of IP infringement?

Register your IP in the key markets of interest first followed by your secondary markets. Do the necessary checks (e.g. researching your trade mark on ASEAN TMview) and find out more about IP in your target markets.

Be careful who owns the IP in question. Many businesses get carried away with discussions when making a deal. Whether it’s a deal for distribution, licensing or a joint venture, make sure the clauses in your contract covers your IP.

But what should a business do if they find that they are unsure of the correct IP action to take or they are facing a sticky situation?

When in doubt, get in touch with the IPO or contact me. Don’t wait until trouble comes knocking at your door. You could lose your IP before you even enter the market.

Contact details:

British High Commission Singapore
100 Tanglin Road
Singapore 247919

Tel: +65 6424 4229

email: Christabel.Koh2@fco.gov.uk

Published 4 March 2015