Winners of the National Intellectual Property Award 2017. NSTP File pic/ASYRAF HAMZAH

THE RISING cost of living has prompted many Malaysians to take up more than one job or conduct petty trading in order to supplement their incomes.

In a recent statement, the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO) – an agency under the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (KPDNHEP) – said that typical low-to-medium income families (B40 and M40) are struggling to cope with rising costs, as their salaries can barely cover their daily expenditures.

The limited purchasing power is having an adverse knock-on effect on businesses, as their sales have been lacklustre – and this is contributing to the country’s economic slowdown.

Many short-term fixes have been suggested – but Malaysians must realise that they may possess intangible assets that would be recognised as “intellectual properties” protected under the law.

What’s more, intangible assets – which could be copyrighted – could possess tremendous economic opportunities.

What are intangible assets?

Exploitable, copyrightable assets range from musical items such as self-penned rhymes and songs, to visual creative works such as paintings and writings.

Family recipes and cooking methods handed down through the generations are also considered intellectual property (known as trade secrets); while fashions and craft designs are protectable industrial designs.

The exploitation of these intangible assets within the framework of intellectual property law will ensure that they are protected, and their value enhanced.

Intellectual property law functions as a safeguard mechanism to chase away free riders and infringers; and enable them to be leveraged as commercial property capable of wealth generation.

The best examples

During the Great Depression of the 1930s in the United States, Colonel Sanders converted his gas station into a restaurant selling fried chicken prepared using a trade secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices. The restaurant is, of course, now an iconic international franchise known as ‘KFC’.

Likewise, Walt and Roy Disney earned their big break in show business when they created Mickey Mouse and Snow White – also during the 1930s.

Sanders’ and the Disneys’ intangible assets are worth as much, if not more, than the tangible assets of the now-giant corporations which own the intellectual properties.

The most important aspect of turning intellectual properties into economic opportunity is ensuring that they are properly managed; and that a well-planned commercial strategy for handling the portfolio is in place.

In Malaysia, the KPDNHEP – through MyIPO – and other relevant ministries have put initiatives in place to assist the awareness, development, protection and commercialisation of intellectual properties.

Therefore, it is important to start thinking of the innovativeness, value and uniqueness of one’s little creations or intellectual properties – and to appreciate them as potentially commercially-exploitable assets.

There are no limits to ideas – commercially-exploitable material is all around us, and can be made lucrative, if only one is perceptive enough to see their possibilities.

Many assets have yet to be explored and unravelled – from cultural products and modern agriculture… to even branding oneself!

An exemplar of branding is South Korea’s creative industry, which has become very lucrative after being exported overseas.

So it is timely for Malaysians seeking to supplement their incomes to begin identifying their intangible assets and explore ways of utilising their intellectual properties for economic gain.