As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) continues its dynamic evolution towards establishing the ASEAN Community by 2015, one of its key areas of policy focus is to enhance its regional intellectual property (IP) framework and promote greater IP cooperation, so as to advance economic competitiveness and transform the region into a significant and competitive bloc in the international community.

While recognizing this desire for broader IP cooperation, ASEAN member states have traditionally guarded their sovereignty fervently and upheld diplomacy the ASEAN Way. The ASEAN Way emphasizes consensus and non-interference. Earlier attempts at IP harmonization faced numerous setbacks and had to be put on the back burner. Nonetheless, ASEAN remained committed to advancing its goal of establishing a “creative ASEAN economy.” Its recent adoption of a regional IP cooperation model enables its members to move forward collectively but at varying paces. This model also seeks to preserve diversity and gives due recognition to the differing levels of development of its member states.

This article seeks to bring about a general appreciation of how ASEAN has persevered in its quest to strike an appropriate balance between advancing the mutual regional interests of its member states, while still preserving the diverse national interests of its various stakeholders. This article discusses the idea that as ASEAN moves resolutely towards establishing the ASEAN Community, it is important that it perseveres in its quest for an inclusive regional IP regime that balances the diverse national interests of its member states with their mutual regional interests. From a broader global perspective, unless and until the development gap and disparities in IP creation, utilization and exploitation among nations are closed, or at least minimized, lessons can perhaps be learned from harmonizing IP the ASEAN way. Specifically, this article will seek, inter alia, to: (1) provide a brief overview of ASEAN and diplomacy based on the ASEAN Way; (2) discuss the ASEAN Framework Agreement and selected initiatives on IP cooperation; (3) review and analyze the progress of ASEAN IP integration; and (4) share some concluding thoughts.