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Ten years of the IPO in Southeast Asia

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This year marks 10 years of the IPO’s attaché network in Southeast Asia (SE Asia). We spoke to Rachael Wood, IPO Senior Advisor for Business and International Policy, to learn how the team has been supporting UK businesses trading in the region since our SE Asia intellectual property (IP) relationship began.



Tell us about the IP attaché network - what value can it add for businesses trading overseas?

Our IP attaché network colleagues are based in UK embassies and High Commissions across the world. Together they help to build IP knowledge in UK businesses, providing in-market support. They work with governments and partners to improve the IP environment for businesses wanting to trade overseas.

Intellectual Property underpins the innovation that is so important to the UK’s businesses and economy, more so now than ever. IP rights provide the security that businesses, creators, and innovators need to allow them to grow, invest in the future and foster further innovative endeavours.

The UK exported approximately £22bn of IP in 2022.

As a former IPO Director of Business and International Policy himself, IPO’s CEO Adam Williams is happy to voice his pride in the continued success of IPO’s international work and all that has been achieved:

“A well-functioning IP environment is vital for UK businesses to be successful at home and the same is equally true for businesses looking to succeed internationally. We have a hard-earned and well-deserved reputation as a leading IP office with our international partners and competitors.

Our attaché network has been a vital part of building that reputation and making sure UK innovators can make the most of their ideas both in the UK and abroad.”

IP attachés, based across the world, are well-placed to advise on local and international IP frameworks and environments, adding value for UK businesses trading overseas. One such area is SE Asia.

ASEAN fast facts: the growth of the ASEAN economy

By 2030, ASEAN’s (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) economy is predicted to eclipse Japan’s and be the world’s 4th largest ‘single market’ after the EU, US, and China. ASEAN and the wider Indo-Pacific is the world’s growth engine.

These emerging markets are expected to increase the size of the global middle class from 3.8 billion people in 2018 to 5.3 billion in 2030. For UK businesses, this translates into very attractive, large-scale opportunities for trade in higher value-added goods and services.

Who are our IP attachés in the ASEAN region?

SE Asia attachés, Christabel Koh (right) and Desmond Tan (left)
IPO's SE Asia attachés, Christabel Koh (right) and Desmond Tan (left)

In the 10 years since the team was established in SE Asia, we now have two attachés, Christabel Koh and Desmond Tan. They are based in Singapore and provide regional IP support to UK businesses already operating in or venturing to the region for the first time.

Our SE Asia attaché team has provided direct support to more than 175 businesses, and spoken to more than 6,500 since 2013.

Since 2018 the team has expanded its work to include collaboration with ASEAN as an organisation. Together with the ASEAN Working Group on Intellectual Property Cooperation (AWGIPC), the team is supporting the creation of ASEAN-wide frameworks, not only to facilitate ASEAN’s ambitions but also to make it easier for British businesses to operate across the region.

How do UK and ASEAN businesses benefit?

Our attaché network is a key part of the IPO’s business support and has proved consistently to be a key enabler for policy interventions for the benefit of both UK and ASEAN businesses. Feedback regularly endorses the fact that IP attaché support makes it easier for businesses to protect and enforce their IP and grow in this thriving region.

Lindesay Low, Deputy Director of Legal Affairs in The Scotch Whisky Association, told us how IP attaché support has been a crucial part of Association members’ successful expansion into SE Asia, an important and growing market for Scotch Whisky.

The IP attachés in Singapore have been invaluable in our efforts to protect and promote our geographical indication. In particular, we appreciated their support in organising the UK-Philippines Product and Enforcement Seminar in April and a reception in Singapore to coincide with the International Trademark Association meeting in May.

Digital enforcement – how can IP Attaches help?

The ASEAN team is well aware of the need to continue its support for businesses in making the most of the opportunities across SE Asia, especially when it comes to the growing digital landscape. Reflective of the enormous potential of ASEAN’s e-commerce economy and how our attaché network is consistently looking to make sure we keep pace with where and how businesses are operating, our current focus on is on digital enforcement.

ASEAN fast facts: SE Asia’s e-commerce economy

SE Asia’s e-commerce economy is valued at £270 billion

40 million new internet users came online in 2021

Internet penetration is currently 75% with a total of 440 million internet users

Eight in ten of these users have purchased something online at least once

The boom in e-commerce, and consumers’ reliance on it, has presented opportunities for businesses to expand and grow their customer base as well as increase sales. It has also presented the same opportunities for infringers. Counterfeits and piracy pose additional costs, reputation risks and creates an unfair environment for legitimate businesses operating in ASEAN’s expanding e-commerce economy.

59% of UK businesses identified poor enforcement and IP regulations as key market access barriers

62% were unaware of how to protect their IP in the region
Source: IP Business Sentiment Survey, 2021

The E-Commerce Code of Conduct

The team wants it to be easy and effective for businesses to enforce their IP in the e-commerce space across ASEAN.

In 2021, funded by our regional Economic Reform Programme, the UK supported the government of the Philippines in launching of one of region’s first IP E-Commerce Code of Conduct (CoC). This agreement makes it faster and easier to take down infringing goods online as well as provide IP owners with an alternative beyond potentially expensive court action.

In its first year the Philippines IP E-Commerce Code of Conduct resulted in a 118% increase in removed listings from one platform alone.

Ramesh Raj Kishore, Regional Director of the Asia Pacific Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI) told us how he considers the collaboration between PSI and the IPO’s team to be “ground-breaking”.

This marks a significant milestone in the global fight against counterfeit pharmaceuticals. It also reinforces the commitment of both organisations towards ensuring the safety of patients in this region and across the globe.

The profound impact of this partnership cannot be overstated, particularly regarding the invaluable support provided by the IPO UK in the development of the Philippines E-Commerce Code of Conduct initiative. The IPO’s leadership in this initiative has not only fortified the legal and regulatory framework but has also set a new standard for global best practices in combatting illicit trade in pharmaceuticals.

Another partner in the region is Premier League. General Counsel Kevin Plumb told us how much the organisation values the passionate support of fans throughout Asia, where Premier League enjoys huge popularity.

It is now almost five years since the opening of the League’s first international office in Singapore to provide regional support for Asia-Pacific broadcast partners, with a focus on developing anti-piracy work and programmes. Kevin told us:

We have seen considerable progress in the fight against digital piracy during that time. This includes working with local authorities to enact legislative change, implement and improve website blocking, and prosecute illegal streaming device sellers, as well as educating people on the dangers of illegal streaming through our Boot Out Piracy campaign.

Developing close relationships with key stakeholders has been integral to our anti-piracy work across the region. The SE Asia IP attaché team has been an important part of this, providing ongoing support and helping us build and develop those connections.

The Premier League team is committed to further developing its work to combat piracy, regarding the SE Asia attaché team as an essential partner. “We look forward to continuing our relationship with the UK Intellectual Property Office in SE Asia.

The IPO’s IP attaché team in ASEAN continues to work hard to encourage more businesses to sign up and take advantage of the CoC as well as to replicate the success elsewhere. Currently the team is working on a CoC with Indonesia.

What is next for IPO’s attaché network, not just in ASEAN but across the globe?

Through the International IP Service and the IP attaché network, the IPO will continue to expand its support for businesses and their global ambitions across key markets.

You can find out more about trading in SE Asia and other overseas markets (link) International IP Service page.

The IPO has recently published a SE Asia country guide to help businesses wishing to trade in the region (link) IP in ASEAN - GOV.UK (

Keep up to date on all the latest developments in the SE Asia IP environment: sign up to the IP in ASEAN Newsletter (link) IP Newsletter by SE Asia IPO Attaché Network (Oct 2023) (

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  1. Comment by Dids Macdonald posted on

    At ACID we are great fans about the excellent work the IP attaches do and, over the years, have signposted many businesses to them for help. As we celebrate ten years for the South Asian team we send our congratulations to Christabel and Desmond, we have written another article on our website raising further awareness about who are they are how to access them.