Protecting Your Intellectual Property

IPR Climate in Indonesia

Protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) in Indonesia is hampered by inadequate enforcement of the relevant laws and regulations. Problems in IPR protection raised by industry include rampant software, audio and video disk piracies (with a piracy rate estimated at 90 percent); pharmaceutical patent infringement; apparel trademark counterfeiting; an inconsistent and corrupt law enforcement regime; and an ineffective judicial system. The lack of effective IPR protection and enforcement serves as a considerable disincentive for foreign investment in high technology projects in Indonesia. The Indonesian court system can be frustrating and unpredictable, and effective punishment of pirates of intellectual property is rare. Foreign companies therefore must be vigilant and creative in building strategies to protect their products from infringement.

Foreign rights holders often work with local law firms and security consultants to arrange for police raids on counterfeiters. Others conduct periodic seminars on the adverse effects of IPR infringement on the Indonesian economy, one of which is reduced investment by foreign companies.

Ultimately, the course taken by companies to protect their intellectual property rights will depend on their product. As an example, a U.S. company might first identify the counterfeiters of its products. They then proceed to develop them as legal licensees of its products. Some computer software companies provide free training and/or sell their software at competitive prices, while warning that copies of their product may contain damaging viruses. Also, companies with well-known trademarks seek to defend them by registering them early or seeking the cancellation of an unauthorized registration through the Ministry of Justice. In general, a strong local partner or agent can help in defending trademarks and intellectual property, as long as the arrangement remains amicable.

Protecting Your Intellectual Property in Indonesia:

Several general principles are important for effective management of intellectual property (“IP”) rights in Indonesia. First, it is important to have an overall strategy to protect your IP. Second, IP is protected differently in Indonesia than in the U.S. Third, rights must be registered and enforced in Indonesia, under local laws. Your U.S. trademark and patent registrations will not protect you in Indonesia. There is no such thing as an “international copyright” that will automatically protect an author’s writings throughout the entire world. Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends, basically, on the national laws of that country. However, most countries do offer copyright protection to foreign works under certain conditions, and these conditions have been greatly simplified by international copyright treaties and conventions.

Registration of patents and trademarks is on a first-in-time, first-in-right basis, so you should consider applying for trademark and patent protection even before selling your products or services in the Indonesian market. It is vital that companies understand that intellectual property is primarily a private right and that the US government generally cannot enforce rights for private individuals in Indonesia. It is the responsibility of the rights’ holders to register, protect, and enforce their rights where relevant, retaining their own counsel and advisors. Companies may wish to seek advice from local attorneys or IP consultants who are experts in Indonesian law. The U.S. Commercial Service can provide a list of local lawyers upon request.

While the U.S. Government stands ready to assist, there is little we can do if the rights holders have not taken these fundamental steps necessary to securing and enforcing their IP in a timely fashion. Moreover, in many countries, rights holders who delay enforcing their rights on a mistaken belief that the USG can provide a political resolution to a legal problem may find that their rights have been eroded or abrogated due to legal doctrines such as statutes of limitations, laches, estoppel, or unreasonable delay in prosecuting a law suit. In no instance should U.S. Government advice be seen as a substitute for the obligation of a rights holder to promptly pursue its case.

It is always advisable to conduct due diligence on potential partners. Negotiate from the position of your partner and give your partner clear incentives to honor the contract. A good partner is an important ally in protecting IP rights. Consider carefully, however, whether to permit your partner to register your IP rights on your behalf. Doing so may create a risk that your partner will list itself as the IP owner and fail to transfer the rights should the partnership end. Keep an eye on your cost structure and reduce the margins (and the incentive) of would-be bad actors. Projects and sales in Indonesia require constant attention. Work with legal counsel familiar with Indonesian laws to create a solid contract that includes non-compete clauses, and confidentiality/non-disclosure provisions.

It is also recommended that small and medium-size companies understand the importance of working together with trade associations and organizations to support efforts to protect IP and stop counterfeiting. There are a number of these organizations, both Indonesian- or U.S.-based. These include:

  • The U.S. Chamber and local American Chambers of Commerce
  • National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
  • International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA)
  • International Trademark Association (INTA)
  • The Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy
  • International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC)
  • Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)
  • Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)

Due Diligence

In general the business sector in Indonesia operates in a somewhat opaque environment. For this reason, it is very difficult to get accurate financial and business reputation information about prospective customers or partners. U.S. Commercial Service in Jakarta offers the International Company Profile (ICP) service to assist American companies in vetting potential business associates. Note that ICP’s can only be done on companies and not on individuals.

Local Professional Services

Because Indonesia’s legal system is currently being overhauled and modernized, American firms are strongly advised to retain a local attorney for most business matters. In the event of a commercial dispute, one should first attempt to reach consensus through negotiation, using a mediator acceptable to both parties if necessary. If deliberation fails to achieve consensus, then companies may enter into arbitration. To prepare for this eventuality, an arbitration clause should be included in any commercial contract with Indonesia chosen as the site of arbitration. This is recommended because foreign arbitration awards have proven difficult to enforce locally. Badan Arbitrase Nasional Indonesia (BANI) is the local arbitration board and companies may employ BANI or select their own arbitration vehicle and procedures (for example ICC or UNCITRAL). Only when negotiations, mediation and arbitration fail should companies consider litigation. The Indonesian court system has proven to be an ineffective means of recourse for American companies.

Although foreign legal firms cannot yet open offices in Indonesia, a number of American attorneys consult with Indonesian firms, some having consulted locally for more than ten years. These attorneys are well placed to assist American firms in working their way through the Indonesian legal maze.

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