Recently the Australian Taxpayers Alliance attended the Intellectual Property Rights in the ASEAN Economic Community: Challenges and Potentials symposium, hosted by the Malaysia-based Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) think tank in Kuala Lumpur.
The event featured the presentation of a paper commissioned by IDEAS, titled “Challenges in Improving Intellectual Property Rights in ASEAN: Case study of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippenes.” The authors, Adidarmawan, S.H. and Marolita Setiati, made the following conclusions:
- That the abolition of trademarks, corporate logos and branding of products are a direct assault on economic freedom. For example - in Australia and France, legislation has enforced the plain, standardised packaging of all tobacco cigarette products. These laws pave the way for governments to extend the removal of trademarks or other IPR to products deemed “unhealthy” such as alcohol and sugary foods.
- That the removal of branding undermines consumer purchasing power. When brandmarks are eroded, consumers are unable to distinguish between an inferior product and a reputable and reliable product. Companies have only prices to compete on, potentially duping them into purchasing mediocre products. It also results in a higher overall consumption of the restricted products due to companies being forced to lower their prices to be competitive.
Participants at the symposium also noted that within the region, high-performing East Asian ‘tiger economies’ such as Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong rank higher in IPR protection than their poorer performing counterparts. This highlights the correlation between strong IP protection and a thriving environment for business, commerce and investment.
The Australian Taxpayers Alliance recently joined an international coalition of property rights and pro-economic freedom groups in signing a letter to Dr. Francis Gurry, Director General of the World Intellectually Property Organization (WIPO). The open letter calls on WIPO to review the ways that IP enhances economic growth and development, to work with countries to enhance their IP regimes and protections and; to support IP as a property right that is necessary for enhancing human welfare and achieving the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.
The ATA has previously opposed Australia's ineffective and undesirable plain packaging laws for tobacco. The World Health Organisation has been promoting these laws worldwide despite their track record of failure in addressing smoking prevalence in Australia and France, as noted in this article by ATA Policy Director, Satyajeet Marar and ATA Research Associate, Anjali Nadaradjane. These laws represent an attack on IP rights with no benefit to public health.
Calls to extend plain packaging to other industries will also have dire implications. Brand Finance, an independent branding valuation consultancy, assessed the loss of brand value to only eight of the largest food and beverage companies targeted by plain packaging. It found that the policy would cause a $187 billion implied loss to the world economy - tantamount to the GDP of New Zealand.
IP protections are essential for any advanced, competitive economy. The ATA is proud to support the protection of IP rights in Australia and our wider region.