Encouraging Innovations – The Policy of the Malaysian Government

Coming up with a great idea of invention often leaves researchers and inventors gleaming with joy. Implementation of the idea would mean vast monetary gain for some or recognition and a sense of achievement for others. In any case, having a great idea is one thing – putting it into an application, or rather having a monotype to be produced, is another thing. Often, funding proves to be a big stumbling block in giving life to the latter, especially for independent researchers and inventors. Ideas will remain as they are: theories and diagrams on pieces of research work.

What most independent researchers and inventors or even companies do not realise is that the government of Malaysia provides funding through various funding schemes for their innovations and inventions. The Malaysian government realises and appreciates that invaluable knowledge and ideas should be harnessed for wealth creation and societal well-being, and that the traditional resource based economy is fast being replaced by knowledge based economy. The aim of the government is to encourage an environment where research and innovation will flourish – a Garden of Eden for researchers and inventors alike.

On being aware that there is funding available, naturally parties interested in receiving governmental funding will have questions in mind especially with regards to the ownership of the intellectual property of the invention and the commercialisation of the invention. Questions also will arise on the distribution of profit should the invention manage to yield any and also with regards to the government’s policies on this matter.

The Intellectual Property Commercialisation Policy for Research & Development Projects Funded by the Government of Malaysia published by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation Malaysia in June 2009, seeks to lay down answers on matters regarding the funding of innovations by the government. It formulates a single policy which encompasses various situations and for the common application by the Government, Government Agency and Research Institutions on the provision of funding for research, development and commercialisation purposes.

Amongst the aims of the Policy are to establish a common framework to regulate the ownership and management of intellectual property, to promote and facilitate the protection of intellectual property in line with the National Intellectual Property Policy, and to promote and facilitate the exploitation and commercialisation of intellectual property generated from projects funded by the Government of Malaysia.

The Policy lays down several scenarios governing the ownership of intellectual property of inventions funded by the government. What would interest inventors and researchers are that the ownership of the intellectual property shall vest in the name of the recipient of the fund, unless the funds are first vested to a ‘Research Institution’ (Research Institution means Public funded Universities and Institutions of Higher Learning, Government Institutions and Government Agency, Non-Governmental Organisations, private universities, and companies which are funded by the government to conduct specific research), or the funding is in collaboration with a third party.

In addition, the government also encourages inventors to register their intellectual property by offering them monetary rewards. The incentive scheme runs up to RM15, 500 per invention, with RM500 awarded to the inventor upon the disclosure of an invention. This is a blessing for inventors facing financial difficulties, where every penny counts. At present, most inventors are reluctant to view securing intellectual property rights as their first priority, given the costs involved and the uncertainty of whether the said invention has commercial value or not. The incentive will serve as a boost to encourage more investors to register their intellectual property and thus protect their interest should their inventions prove to be of vast commercial value in the distant future.

Further, the government also encourages collaboration between Research Institutions and industry players to produce and commercialise new innovations and inventions. This can be done by two means, namely technology acquisition and research collaboration. Applying the former method, funding shall be provided by Research Institutions to the recipient to acquire new technologies or inventions and their intellectual property. Intellectual property of the acquired technology or invention will vest in the ownership of the recipient. Only if any end product which is derived by the use of the acquired technology or invention be commercialised, should the recipient be provided to pay the Relevant Body in the form of a royalty, in accordance to an acquisition funding agreement.

Collaboration between Research Institutions and industries are also encouraged. It is envisioned by the government that interaction with industries ensures that research at Research Institutions remain important and provide the relevant exposure to researchers. The industry will also benefit as it obtains access to the Research Institutions’ expertise, facilities and resources. Ownership of intellectual property created in the course of such collaboration will be owned by the Research Institutions by default, with the industry player involved having the first right to negotiate a Licence based on commercial terms. However, there will also be instances where the intellectual property will be jointly owned or remain the property of the industry player. This shows the intent of the government that it is serious regarding the promotion of innovation and the growth of intellectual property in the country. As the government has also taken steps to secure its related rights, it is certain that this scheme is not a matter of empty promises after all.

The Policy also aids inventors in the patenting and commercialising their inventions. Any invention that has resulted from a project funded by the government must be disclosed and notified to the Innovation and Commercialisation Centre. The Centre will then evaluate the invention and, upon a patentability assessment, decide on whether to proceed to patent the invention. This again saves the inventor the expenses for the patent process.

As such, it is encouraged that inventors and researchers are to make use of such funding to further their ideas and innovations. Successful creation of a commercially viable end product will bring huge benefits not only for all parties involved but to consumers as well. However, such parties should be careful that their rights are fully protected and that they would not end up with nothing after years of research work. Therefore, inventors and researchers are strongly recommended to seek professional advice on their legal and intellectual property rights whilst pursuing their goal to have creations accredited to their names.