Start early on trademark education

PHOTO: Start early on trademark education

When it comes to the awareness of trademarks - symbols or signs which identify products or services of a company - Singaporeans are more savvy about brands than people in many other markets.

This is according to London-based Singaporean Toe Su Aung, president of the International Trademark Association.

My Paper caught up with Ms Aung - who is of Japanese and Myanmarese parentage - last week when she was in town for the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore's 4th Global Forum on Intellectual Property.

She spoke on the importance of trademarks and what Singapore can learn from other countries on raising awareness of them.

How aware are Singaporeans of trademarks?

Singaporeans are aware of brands and trademarks. They are very keen consumers and they really like their brands.

Is the situation in Singapore reflected in other parts of the world, such as Malaysia, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Germany and the United States?

Generally, people in these markets also have high awareness and appreciation of brands.

However, Singaporeans are more savvy about brands, being more exposed to international trends.

Consumers in China tend to be a bit more cautious as there are more counterfeits in the market.

Is it difficult for people to understand what trademarks are, or at least appreciate what they represent and mean?

We believe that people do understand trademarks. However, there are individuals who still purchase counterfeit goods knowingly.

They don't realise that the manufacture and sale of counterfeits by retailers are generally linked to organised crime, labour exploitation and unsafe work conditions.

The same retailers also deal with counterfeit pharmaceutical products and food which can genuinely harm the consumer.

Why is it important to recognise and respect trademarks?

They protect consumers and foster fair and effective commerce.

Does a lack of awareness of trademarks lead to problems later on?

Absolutely. For a small business (that) invests in a brand name that might infringe that of others, (this) can cause a minefield of legal problems and lead to, for example, a discontinuation of its business and legal fees.

What are some lessons that Singapore can adopt from other countries in raising awareness of the importance of trademarks?

Start early. We n eed to educate young people when they are still in school about the importance of trademarks.

Ensure proper resources are allocated to dealing with the problem at the law-enforcement level.

Gather data about the creation of jobs by brand industries to create better-informed policymaking and to educate the public.

Cooperate with neighbouring countries to ensure that the flow of counterfeit goods is disrupted.

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