Updated: Apr 29
Commemorating World IP Day on 26 April 2021, Singapore will unveil its IP Strategy 2030, in anticipation of an increasingly digitalised and innovation-led economy. This article reviews Singapore’s efforts to position itself as a global IP hub, as we look forward to the initiatives to come.
Helping businesses commercialise their IP/IA
A key emphasis of the Government has been to support businesses in the identification and commercialisation of IP and IA (“intangible assets”) in their organisations. Initiatives such as the Workforce for IP-Savvy Enterprises (“WISE”) 1 have been launched to equip Singapore enterprises with the know-how to identify new business opportunities, protect their IAs and minimise the risks of costly litigation from IP infringement. The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (“IPOS”) has also set up a subsidiary, IPOS International, to provide businesses with services to manage and grow their IP and IA.
For companies either listed or preparing to be listed in Singapore, another successful pilot programme launched in 2020 was the Intangible Disclosure and Audit Scheme (“IDEAS”) 2. Participating companies underwent IA evaluations and promote a more robust IA disclosure environment. While the pilot ended in 2020, it is foreseeable that businesses will continue to receive support to better disclose their IAs, which in turn will help them build investor trust and raise capital. Sectors such as entertainment, arts, tourism and sports, which were badly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, have also been boosted by the Growing with Resilience through InTangibles (“GRIT”) initiative. Through GRIT 3, financial support, education and training is being specially provided to these sectors to nurture content-creation as well as innovation for the digital economy. Overall, these developments reveal how the Government is encouraging businesses across different sectors to ride the wave of disruption and to discover new business opportunities through the commercialisation of their IP and IA.
More efficient filing systems to encourage innovation Singapore has continued to position itself as a hub for quality and efficient IP filings, capitalising on Asia’s market share which accounts for the largest share of patent, trademark and design filings globally. In 2020, the SG IP Fast Programme 4 was launched, allowing innovative businesses to register their patents within 6 months, and other related trademarks and designs within 1-6 months. This allows such businesses to bring their innovations to the market expeditiously without compromising legal protection. In the patent space, Singapore is also uniquely positioned as an innovation hub due to its numerous cooperation agreements. IPOS joined the Global Patent Prosecution Highway in 2019 which allows for accelerated examination for patent applications relying on international search and/or examination results under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (“PCT”). Singapore has also signed numerous cooperation agreements with countries like Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Brazil and China to streamline patent prosecution processes and increase the range of cross border collaborations. This will allow businesses to obtain patent protection more quickly and efficiently, bringing more IP related work opportunities to Singapore. IPOS has also expanded its suite of customer services to encourage companies to pursue IP filing and protection. For example, IPOS GO, the world’s first mobile app for IP filings and renewals, was launched for businesses to be able to obtain and maintain registered IP more easily. Fully digital filings have also been a mainstay of IPOS’ system since 2014, which meant that it was well prepared to handle the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One can be sure that IPOS will continue to adopt advanced technologies to aid businesses to obtain IP registrations in the future.
Streamlined enforcement of IP disputes In the enforcement sphere, Singapore has continued to build on its reputation as a choice venue for IP litigation. One of the key developments has been the amendment of the Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act to clarify that IP disputes are indeed arbitrable in Singapore, and that such arbitral awards bind only the parties to the arbitration proceedings. This allows parties to maintain a high level of confidentiality and flexibility in the proceedings, as well as enjoy cost-effective dispute resolution. “Fast track” litigation has also been introduced for less complex issues and lower value claims. This option features a cap on damages claimed, length of trial and strict deadline periods, although parties may agree to waive the cap on damages. This ensures that registered IP can be easily and efficiently enforced regardless of the complexity of the matter. Mediation has also been heavily encouraged as a viable dispute resolution option for both domestic and cross-border disputes. With the growing interest in the mediation of IP and technology-related disputes, the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center and the Singapore International Mediation Centre (“SIMC”) formed a collaboration in 2020 to promote the use of mediation in the IP and Technology sector for dispute resolution.5 Frameworks such as the Singapore Convention on Mediation help to ensure the enforceability and finality of mediation outcomes, ensuring that parties comply with the terms of their settlement. This affords businesses a cost-efficient, confidential and amicable way to resolve disputes creatively, even if there are cross-border implications.
Looking ahead As the plans for Singapore’s IP Strategy 2030 continue to be unveiled, we are confident that creation, commercialisation, and effective enforcement of IP and IA will continue to remain key focal points for the Government. This will empower businesses and organisations to realise the potential of their intangible assets and nurture a vibrant IP ecosystem in Singapore.
For further information, please contact:
Gene Kwek, Managing Partner, Bird & Bird