Asean Centre of Entrepreneurship


Intellectual Property


You need to take into account a number of things when building a successful startup, but none as important as intellectual property (IP). While the word is often thrown around and most entrepreneurs know about it by now, it still creates a lot of trouble for startups. While big companies are spending millions to protect their IP, startups can forget to look into the matter altogether or make silly mistakes.

Getting IP done right could be the difference between building a successful business and going bust.

Don’t try to save money by doing it all yourself either. A DIY approach to IP can sometimes end up in a disaster no matter how much you’ve tried. Just start planning early and ask for help from seasoned professionals.

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Types of Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property (“IP”) refers to creation of mind. This is where the law grant some monopoly rights to the owner on its creation.

All businesses will have a brand name or logo for their company, products and services. This will be the first defense line of IP Trade Mark.

Thereafter, you may have your invention which you wish to o protect its mechanism or process, register it as Patent.

If you have a product with unique design on its shape, register it as Industrial Design.

For a software company, if you have written a new computer program, it is the copyright which needs to be protected.

Protection of IP rights can be done by registration or voluntary notification with the Intellectual Property Agency or Government Department of the respective country.

The following are the information on various types of IPs and how they can be protected.

1. Trade Mark Products and services brand name; Company name; Logo; Symbol; Labels and Slogan Forever, subject to renewal every 10 years Registration
2. Patent Product or process invention which permits in practice the solution to a specific problem in the field of technology 20 years, subject to renewal annually Registration
3. Copyright Computer program; Literary works; Musical works; Artistic works; Films; Sound recordings; Broadcasts 50 years from death of author or 50 years from the beginning of the year next following the year in which the work was first published. Voluntary Notification or automatic subsistence, depending on the designated country
4. Industrial Design An article/product, where its shape and configuration or pattern and ornamentation are new 15 years or 25 years, depending on the designated country. Registration

Necessity and Benefits of IP

Firstly, legal ownership of the IP. The certificate of registration will be the proof that you are the owner of the IP, be it a brand, patent, copyright or product design. There is no better proof than this.

Further, registered IP owner is the only one with the rights to use, manufacture, sell, license and reproduce the IP, respectively.

Registered IP owners may also sue the infringer for damages and/or Court injunction to prohibit further infringement.

In addition to civil actions, infringement of IP is also a criminal offence in certain jurisdictions which upon conviction will be liable to fine and/or imprisonment.

Risks of Unprotected IP

Unregistered IP owners may expose their business to the follow risks:

  1. IP got “stolen” by competitors and loss the ownership of the IP.
  2. They may have to re-brand and all the branding and marketing done earlier will go in vain.
  3. Not able to sue for infringement and face difficulty in claiming damages or prevent further infringement by infringer.
  4. Loss of exclusive market share.

Territorial Based Protection

Protection of trade mark, patent and industrial design is on territorial basis. This means if your IP is registered in Malaysia, you are only protected in Malaysia. If you wish to expand your market and to be protected in other country, you have to register separately the desired country individually.

Unfortunately, currently there is no unitary system to register IP globally.

In this new era of information technology, the spreading of information has never been faster or easier. Protection of IP is the most important step to protect the business of Startups and SMEs.


The information above is for general understanding only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Readers are advised to consult with the appropriate legal advisors in the respective jurisdiction.