The ECAP II Programme
Strong intellectual property protection is crucial to fostering trade and achieving the goals and benefits of global integration. There is clear evidence that countries with high standards of protection attract more investment, foster more innovation, and experience rapid and more extensive development than those countries with limited protection. Countries with inadequate protection are exposed to patent, copyright and trade mark infringement that hinder commerce and harm local and regional economies.
One of the core objectives of European Union (EU) relations with Asia is to strengthen the mutual trade and investment flows. With this in mind, the EU has launched a series of economic co-operation programmes, one of which deals with intellectual property.
The economic and commercial relations between the EU and Asia are of great importance. Asia as a whole accounts for 21% of the EU?s external exports and is its third-largest regional trading partner, after Europe outside the EU (31%), and NAFTA (28%). Asia also accounts for a significant share of EU foreign investment flows, while some Asian countries are important investors in the EU.
In this context, the development of a modern intellectual property rights protection system is of central importance for the establishment of favourable conditions for trade and investment between the EU and ASEAN in the long term.
By participating in ECAP, ASEAN countries can draw on European expertise on how to protect and enforce intellectual property rights in compliance with the WTO agreement on Trade-related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. Such rights form one of the basic pillars upon which business and investor confidence are based. They are an essential tool for any country?s economic development and through their implementation may help boost European investment in the region back to pre-crisis levels.
ECAP II specifically responds to the needs of the ASEAN countries in their bid to participate in a rapidly expanding global market in which the use and protection of intellectual property rights play a key role. At global level, nearly 700 000 new inventions from all over the world are disclosed each year in patent applications, which in their turn can be the subject of multiple subsequent filings. Accordingly, global demand for patent rights rose from 2.7m in 1994 to more than 7m in 1999. This development is also reflected in growing patenting activity in the ASEAN states and an increasing tendency on the part of ASEAN companies to expand their patent strategies to the European market: "In the past five years, companies from ASEAN have increased their patent activities in Europe significantly. Their number has risen from 15 in 1996 to 120 in 2000. ECAP II is specially geared towards encouraging this development and facilitating ASEAN companies? entry to the European market?.
Similar developments have been observed in the field of trade marks. To meet the needs of companies wishing to export their goods or provide services within Europe, a relatively new instrument offering exclusive regional trade mark rights has been created: the Community trade mark (CTM). Companies from South-East Asia whose export strategies lie in the European market are increasingly taking advantage of the benefits and protection that the CTM option provides, with almost 1000 applications having been filed.
EC-ASEAN Patents and Trademarks Programme (ECAP I)
From September 1993 to June 1997, ECAP I assisted ASEAN countries in promoting their systems for the protection of industrial property rights. ECAP I was implemented with the six original ASEAN member states namely Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Singapore. After joining ASEAN in June 1995, Vietnam participated in all regional ECAP I activities and a specific national EC-financed IPR cooperation project was implemented by December 2000.
With regard to regional co-operation in the field of industrial property between the ASEAN member states, ECAP I organised regional seminars and high-level meetings, which gave the ASEAN officials an excellent opportunity to exchange information and to adopt new approaches and to take advantage of the experience of Europe in identifying suitable models.
Various common study visits and training courses were organised in order to promote harmonisation of procedures, to learn from ?best practice? work methods and to initiate common standards regarding IP administration as well as search and examination.
At national level, ECAP I provided assistance in the field of ?streamlined? or ?modified? patent examination procedures in four of the national ASEAN offices with full examination of patents. Positive results were also achieved in the fields of automation (installation of Common Software at the Malaysian Office), awareness raising and enforcement of IP rights.
Further to the successful implementation of ECAP I, the EC launched a new economic co-operation programme in response to requests from ASEAN partners. This new programme ?EC-ASEAN Intellectual Property Rights Co-operation Programme? officially started in July 2000.
The EC-ASEAN Intellectual Property Rights Co-operation Programme (ECAP II)
While ECAP I focused on industrial property rights, this new programme expands the scope of activities to all fields of intellectual property rights : patents and industrial designs, trade marks, copyrights and related rights, geographical indications, layout-designs of integrated circuits, protection of undisclosed information. It also covers activities in the area of enforcement. It comprises a regional component covering Brunei, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, and national components covering the same countries except Vietnam.
ECAP II runs for five years and has a total budget of 5 million euro.