Brand, consumer issues addressed

Chong says the trademark and related industry is a significant contributor to the country’s GDP Chong says the trademark and related industry is a significant contributor to the country’s GDP.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia emerged as the focal point for industry stakeholders when it became the first country in Asia-Pacific to host a highly engaging forum on the regulatory issues and challenges facing brands and consumers.

The event acted as a platform which facilitated and engaged regulators constructively on several hot button and regulatory issues facing stakeholders from brand owners to consumers.

Themed ‘Regulatory Challenges Facing Brands and Consumers’, the forum featured a distinguished panel of experts from global, regional and national levels, across various related sectors. These included regulators, industry practitioners and legal eagles.

Also present was Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Deputy Minister Chong Chieng Jen who gave his keynote address at the event hosted by the International Advertising Association (IAA) Malaysia. The forum was held last Thursday at the Eastin Hotel here.

IAA Malaysia president John D. Chacko in his welcome address opened up a discussion to ponder on ways to create market-friendly policies, which respect and empower consumers, brand owners, manufacturers, marketers and governments alike.

This would enhance and strengthen government relations with industries, while building greater trust amongst all parties, he said.

Chacko(above pic) added that he welcomes the government’s support to engage in a constructive dialogue with thought leaders, industry players and marketers alike, at the forum and beyond.

He underlined the fact that brands have a responsibility to all constituents, including the consumers.

“Brand owners must exercise responsibility in their business philosophy by delivering practices that meet 360-degree expectations, and not wait or depend on a black and white from regulators, ” he noted.

As a strong advocate of industry self-regulation, IAA Global has long supported the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Code as the “gold standard” for marketing self-regulation principles.

For eight decades now, the code provides global benchmarks, encouraging high standards and ethical marketing practices, while providing valuable guidance to both regulators and self-regulatory bodies globally.

Chacko pointed out that consumer education is key in addressing the underlying and brewing issues. He urged consumers, who are getting more exposed by the day to happenings and knowledge around the world, to use their mind on how to spend their money.

“The proper channel is to give brand owners and consumers a voice through a grounded analysis-based dialogue that leads to informed choice, ” he said.

Chacko said that intellectual property (IP) laws and frameworks are avenues of constructive channels to protect and enforce the interests of rights holders, whilst at the same time, allowing consumers the freedom to make well-informed choices.

Meanwhile, Chong said the trademark and related industry is a significant contributor to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

For example, the industry currently contributes 30% to Malaysia’s GDP, while the related trademark industry contributes about 60% to GDP. He also highlighted that in a bid to promote the trademark industry in the country, a new law on trademarks was passed in July.

Under the new law, among others, following the accession to the Madrid Protocol, he said it allows the registration of overseas trademarks to be done locally via an agent in Malaysia.

Prior to the new legislation, anyone seeking to register a trademark overseas must register the trademark separately in each country where trademark protection was required.

The new Trademarks Act also has expanded the scope of registrable trademarks to include non-traditional marks. These includes colour, sound, scent, hologram, positioning, shape of goods or their packaging, sequence of motion etc or any combination as long as the mark is capable of being represented graphically and which meets the usual test for registrability.

Chong noted that the new legislation at the same time ensures that trademark owners are adequately protected and their remedies are clearly spelt out.

He said the ministry has the power to investigate any impeachment of trademarks etc and undertake criminal prosecution if necessary.

He added the ministry is also promoting consumer rights awareness by organising the relevant forums, talks etc.

To enhance consumer protection, Chong said the consumer protection tribunal has also upped the jurisdiction from RM25, 000 to RM50, 000 for maximum claim.

On another note, he added that for businesses to last and thrive, honestly is still the best policy as it is the ultimate ingredient for customer loyalty.

The one day forum provided an opportunity for an in-depth assessment and understanding of the regulatory environment and its impact on brands in Malaysia and in international markets.

Chacko further viewed that data and dialogue have a profound impact on decisions in the course of regulatory matters and that the forum was an avenue for honest and constructive analysis on the ramifications of ‘over regulatory’ efforts. He said that though well-meaning, these efforts, if not tackled well, can inadvertently impede the consumer’s freedom of choice.

“Socio-cultural and ethical questions arising from the disruption of existing regulations by new technologies will impact regulations in brand building, and all players, including consumers, will have to brace themselves for change, not through force, but through consensus.

“Advocacy by industry bodies such as the IAA, brand owners, and regulatory bodies is critical, and the solution is to work in collaboration with genuine stakeholders to address issues regarding the regulations in branding and promotion, ” Chacko said.

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