The ASEAN Working Group on Intellectual Property Cooperation (AWGIP) is the ASEAN group responsible for IP issues. Made up of all the IP offices from each of the 10 countries, Singapore has just passed the rotating chair to Brunei. Dr. Cham Prasidh, Cambodia's Minister of Industry and Handicrafts spoke at IP Weeks GFIP conference in Singapore this week. AWGIP has been in operation since 1996 and has held 47 meetings he said, suggesting not enough had been achieved yet. A key challenge he said is assertions of national sovereignty over IP. ASEAN governments often play this card in AWGIP discussions on IP, which frustrates harmonisation. This is despite the process to enable the free flow of goods, services and people under the AEC being formed in late 2015.
Bilateral attempts are being made to speed up harmonisation therefore. Cambodia has put in place a 2 in 1 package to extend Singapore patents and designs to cover Cambodia too. In fact it's a fast track system which dispenses with local search and examination in Cambodia. The hope is to extend this to other countries in due course.
ASPEC is another step, but this merely fast tracks the examination part and doesn't speed up patent grant enough.