Singapore to expand intellectual property capacity by 2030
ASEAN economies are on an upward growth trajectory and the region is now set to be the fourth-largest economy in the world by 2030.
Foreign companies, looking to tap into this booming market are safeguarding their intellectual property (IP) in Singapore. In fact, 95% of patents filed in Singapore are not of Singaporean origin.
This comes as no surprise as Singapore is the only ASEAN country among the top ten countries on the Global Innovation Index 2022, making it a qualified destination for businesses looking to launch new products or services in the region.
The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) has also been recognised as the third-most innovative IP office in the world, behind the European Union Intellectual Property Office and the Korean Intellectual Property Office.
IP protection acts as both a shield and a sword for businesses by securing their long-term revenue streams through IP licensing and enforcing patent rights. Enterprises need to be equipped with the tools and understanding to manage their intangible assets (IA) and intellectual property effectively for growth.
What is the Singapore IP Strategy 2030?
On 26 April 2021, World Intellectual Property Day, Singapore launched the Singapore Intellectual Property Strategy (SIPS) 2030, a national strategy that supports enterprises and the wider innovation community. It aims to strengthen Singapore’s IA/IP regime and position Singapore as a node by connecting ASEAN to the world.
The full SIPS 2030 report was published in a joint press release from the Ministry of Law, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and IPOS. The strategy addresses different aspect of Singapore’s economy through three main objectives:
- Strengthen Singapore’s position as a global hub for IA/IP
- Attract and grow innovative enterprises using IA/IP
- Develop good jobs and valuable skills in IA/IP
These efforts build on Singapore’s existing foundation as a legal, financial, and modern services hub and leverage IA/IP to fuel the next wave of value creation and growth.
Strengthening Singapore’s position as a global hub
Joel Goh, Legal Counsel of IPOS, recognised the importance of supporting enterprises through intellectual property protection at IP Week @ SG 2022. This is done by striking a fair balance between adequate protection and facilitating innovation, while also finding ways to accommodate emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain.
To this end, the Intellectual Property (Amendment) Act 2022 has been updated to provide a more streamlined and efficient process for businesses looking to register their IP assets in Singapore. Partial acceptance for national trademark applications – a common practice in other jurisdictions – is now allowed. This move is expected to benefit approximately 2,100 applications annually.
Other amendments to the bill were also designed to support the development and use of emerging technologies, such as providing quicker protection for inventors working in fields with short technology life cycles such as fintech, Industry 4.0 and AI.
234IPOS has also launched the SG IP FAST Track programme to better support innovators and enterprises as they build and manage their IP portfolio and commercialise their creations. This allows the fast track of patent applications for inventions across all technological sectors in just six months, compared to a typical period of two or more years.
Singapore is an active participant in international treaties and work-sharing agreements to overcome territorial challenges that come with IP and help IA/IP owners take their innovation to the global market. The Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) is a work sharing arrangement that allows for quicker patent grants and higher quality patents while also connecting Singapore to 38 other offices around the world.
In 2018, OneConnect Financial Technology Co. Ltd, a leading technology-as-a-service platform for financial institutions, set up its regional headquarters in Singapore for its strategic position as a gateway to Asia and its strengths as a financial and innovation hub. It has since rapidly expanded its international footprint spanning, Southeast Asia, South Asia, UAE, Japan, South Korea and Europe.
Tan Bin Ru, CEO (Southeast Asia) of OneConnect, highlights that the filing of more than 50 patents in technologies such as AI, blockchain and big data, as well as its extensive research and development (R&D) activities, was made smoother due to Singapore’s robust IP regime.
Support to maximise intellectual property assets
For Singapore to continue leading in IP protection, a developed and robust ecosystem that allows enterprises to grow and innovate is vital. IPOS provides support to enterprises to maximise their value from IA/IP through multiple initiatives such as IP Grow. This gives enterprises access to IA/IP services through an enterprise-centric online platform for information exchange, networking and collaboration opportunities.
In an effort to help enterprises secure new business opportunities, IPOS and the Singapore Business Federation formed the Workforce for IP-Savvy Enterprises (WISE) programme. This initiative helps enterprises gain access to preliminary IA/IP advice and connect with the global IA/IP network. Michael Khong, head of the Automatic Robotics Technologies department of Cyclect, states that the training component of WISE enabled him to better strategise his work around IA/IP considerations.
Innovation was not stymied by the Covid-19 pandemic as the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) examined a record number of international patents filed in 2021, with Singapore recording a 23% increase from the previous year.
To ensure this trend continues, the Growing with Resilience through InTangibles (GRIT), an inter-agency initiative was launched to help businesses better manage and monetise their IA/IP in the Covid-19 environment and beyond. Businesses and communities across different sectors (e.g., the arts and entertainment, tourism, and education) can find training and resources to bring their ideas and IA/IP to the market. Sector-specific information on government grants and support schemes is also readily available online through GRIT.
SIPS 2030 also provides financial support to help enterprises maximise value from IA/IP by increasing an enterprise’s access to publicly funded IA/IP for commercialisation. Under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2025 Plan, SG$25 billion is allocated for research and development.
SIPS 2030 seek to facilitate IA/IP transactions and financing to help enterprises generate cashflow. This is done by closing the gap between enterprises and IA/IP brokerage and disposal service providers in relevant markets.
Additionally, increasing transparency around IA/IP transactions provides assurance to enterprises. Hence, enterprises are encouraged to build a partnership with banks and venture funds to access capital and have a better understanding of the pros and cons of financing innovation-forward businesses.
Building an IA/IP-savvy workforce in Singapore
Consistently ranked as one of the world’s most competitive workforce6, Singapore’s talent is highly educated and skilled. SIPS 2030 sets out to preserve this status through various programmes that will equip Singapore’s future workforce with necessary IA/IP skills and knowledge as well as enhance the skills of executives.
To grow talent from the ground up, IPOS established the Young IP Mediator programme in partnership with National University of Singapore Faculty of Law to build awareness and promote interest in mediation for IP disputes. However, the multi-faceted nature of IA/IP means it is not limited to lawyers, engineers or business people.
The infusion of IP modules into other programmes, as seen in Nanyang Technological University, help students from various fields to identify IA/IP-related issues and apply management practices in the workplace.
Executive training is also provided for those in the field, from working professionals to senior executives, to sharpen their capabilities related to IA/IP. This is facilitated through the Workforce for IP Savvy Enterprises programme, launched by the Ministry of Law and the Singapore Business Federation.
Readiness for the future of IP
Despite the human and economic toll of Covid-19, human ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit remain strong. Rapid advancements across various technology fields have led to a global IA value at over US$74 trillion as of September 2021, surpassing the value of tangible assets. Singapore seeks to harness growth through their ambitious three inter-linked thrusts laid down in SIPS 2030.
It is essential for companies to start building IP capabilities and an IP-savvy workforce to support their innovation journey. Much is to gain through the plethora of initiatives in Singapore for enterprises to not only survive, but to thrive, in the new age economy.
How we can help
We have extensive experience working with growing regional and international businesses, SMEs and entrepreneurs looking to access the major economies of Asia and Europe. If you’d like to speak to one of our experts about your IA/IP plan, please get in touch today.
*This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Please seek professional advice appropriate to your particular circumstances or requirements. If you would like further information on any matter raised in this article, please contact us.