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Indonesia is enjoying impressive economic growth at the moment, but its track record on intellectual property leaves a great deal to be desired. The IP Komodo blog recently pointed out the tremendous lack of IP understanding across south-east Asian: looking at European patent filings for 2011, it found that the five countries of Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam could only muster up a handful between them. This is particularly worrying in the case of Indonesia, which, as a G20 member and a fast-developing nation keen to attract outside investment, should perhaps be showing a more sophisticated understanding of the importance of intellectual property by now.
Indonesia’s economy continues to flourish, with growth of 6.3% for the first quarter of 2012. Although this lags China’s 8%-plus growth over the same period, it is still higher than China’s fellow BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia and India. Indonesia has also enjoyed a surge in foreign investment recently. Yet the country only managed 13 PCT filings in 2011.
No-one expects Indonesia to compete with China just yet, but it is troubling that the jurisdiction’s IP awareness is so far behind its economic development. However, the country's lack of IP sophistication has not gone completely un-noticed by senior politicians. The IP Komodo blog reports: “Indonesia's Vice-President Boediono is quoted in the news this week as lamenting that Indonesia has the fewest patents of any G20 country.”
Boediono, who has held his current positin since 2009, has got form on the subject. Indonesia is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world, and there is increasing awareness that this natural resource should be harnessed. The vice-president recognises that IP needs to be a part of that process. Speaking at an environmental expo back in 2010, he said: “We need to take concrete actions to patent [derivative products] of our biodiversity to avoid unexpected problems in the future. If not, others will.”
Interestingly, it is not a background in science or engineering that is shaping Boediono’s appreciation of patents. Rather, he is a former professor of economics who has been described as “Indonesia’s financial rudder” and is credited with helping the country return to growth following the Asian financial crash of the late 1990s. If he is able to use his experience and economic acumen to further the cause of intellectual property it can only be a good thing.
There are a few other chinks of light. Indonesia marked World IP Day by giving prizes to innovators and young scientists; meanwhile a competition for IT start-ups promises patents as part of the prize. These are small developments, but given that Indonesia has got such a very long way to go, any attempts to increase IP awareness should be encouraged.
IP management, IP politics, Patents