The Singapore Intellectual Property Strategy 2030 (SIPS 2030) was announced on World IP Day on 26 April 2021. It builds upon the 2013 IP Hub Master Plan and seeks to strengthen Singapore’s intellectual assets (IA) / intellectual property (IP) regime, enable enterprises to more effectively use their IA/IP, and create good job opportunities. The SIPS 2030 is coordinated at the whole-of-government level and led by an inter-agency committee consisting of more than ten government agencies to provide a coordinated approach of IA/IP across multiple industry sectors and functional domains including research and innovation, product development, finance, trade, law, and human resources.
The SIPS 2030 comprises three inter-linked thrusts:
- 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
So what does it mean for a business seeking protection of IA/IP in Singapore in view of the SIPS 2030?
1. Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovations
In relation to Big Data, Singapore is introducing an exception for computational data analysis in the upcoming Copyright Bill which will allow use of copyrighted works for purposes such as text and data mining, data analytics, and machine learning.
To cater for the fast-paced nature of digital and AI innovations, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) has initiated two application-to-grant acceleration programmes, namely the “12 Months File-to-Grant Programme” and the “SG Patent Fast Track Programme”. The SG Patent Fast Track Programme replaces the previously launched FinTech Fast Track and Accelerated Initiative and is set to run until 29 April 2022. These acceleration programmes allow businesses to market their innovations in a timely manner without compromising on their legal protection More information on these acceleration programmes is available in our previous article.
2. Singapore as an IP hub
In addition, Singapore is well-positioned as a node to facilitate protection of innovations both locally as well as overseas. Particularly, in relation to patents, IPOS is part of the Global Patent Prosecution Highway (GPPH) arrangement which enables work-sharing arrangements between 26 other participating patent offices. This allows businesses to use patent search and examination reports (including search and/or examination results under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (“PCT”)) from an earlier patent office to accelerate patent prosecution in another jurisdiction. In addition, IPOS has formed bilateral PPH agreements with other patent offices from Europe, Mexico, China and Brazil, and is part of the ASEAN Patent Examination Cooperation (ASPEC) network which includes 8 other participating ASEAN Member States’ IP Offices of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Further, Singapore has established patent re-registration programmes with Cambodia and Laos which enable a Singapore-granted patent to be re-registered in Cambodia and Laos, enabling protection afforded by this Singapore-granted patent to be extended to Cambodia and Laos in an expeditious manner. Our latest article on our website explores Singapore patent re-registration programmes with Cambodia in more detail. These arrangements connect Singapore to 38 other countries in total to uniquely provide cost-effective and accelerated routes for businesses to obtain protection for their innovations.
When combined with the aforementioned acceleration programmes, companies can not only secure rights earlier in Singapore, but throughout the world.
3. Better IP filing and management system
IPOS is also developing a next-generation IP filing system which will be in place by mid-2022. This new IP system will be designed to guide enterprises and innovators with pre-emptive assistance through the filing process, which increases certainty and improves the quality of submissions. In addition to filing IP, users can manage their IP portfolios through a user-friendly dashboard which, in future, will offer analytical insights for better decision making. IPOS is also studying other approaches to managing IA, for example through the use of a digital time-stamping service. An example of a digital time-stamping service is WIPO PROOF which was launched by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in May 2020. The digital time-stamping service provides an electronic certification that proves the existence of a digital file at a specific point in time, and may be useful for applications in trade secrets and know-how, creative works and designs, scientific research data, as well as other non-registrable digital assets.
4. IP Dispute resolution
Singapore has been continuously working on reviewing and developing the IP dispute resolution framework. The SIPS 2030 continues to support the development and growth of different dispute resolution institutions in Singapore and also to welcome top international dispute resolution institutions to anchor in Singapore.
The collaboration between the Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC) and the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Arbitration and Mediation Center (WIPO Center) promotes the use of international mediation to resolve IP and technology disputes in the fast-moving digital world.
In strengthening Singapore’s position for the arbitration of international IP disputes, the International Arbitration Act was updated in 2020 to ensure that Singapore’s legislative framework remains responsive and relevant to the evolving business needs.
- Expert Determination
Singapore is also looking to build a pool of expert witnesses in different technology areas such that the experts are accessible when their opinion is required in any patent disputes. This will further provide a critical mass of experts available to provide expert evidence to resolve scientific and engineering based IP disputes through Expect Determination proceedings.
As Singapore has positioned itself as a choice venue for international IP dispute resolution and is constantly enhancing the alternative dispute resolution framework, there are added advantages for enterprises in the IP and technology sectors to base their businesses in Singapore.
5. Attract and grow innovative enterprises using IA/IP
- Developing IA/IP assets
There are currently a few programs in place in Singapore to help enterprises to derive and maximize their IA/IP values, for example, the Intangible Disclosure Evaluation and Audit Scheme (IDEAS) is a collaboration between the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) and the Singapore Exchanged (SGX) for SGX-listed companies and companies preparing for a list.
In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Workforce for IP-Savvy Enterprises (WISE) programme jointly developed by IPOS and the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) was launched to help Singapore companies to emerge stronger by identifying new business opportunities and acquiring new capabilities through IP. Growing with Resilience through InTangibles (GRIT) is an inter-agency initiative to partner businesses and communities also in place to assist sectors that are badly hit by COVID-19 such as the arts and entertainment, tourism, and sports sectors to better manage and monetise their IA/IP.
- Commercializing IA/IP assets
One of the gaps that SIPS 2030 wishes to fill is to help enterprises to understand, value and unlock the value of their IA/IP assets. Singapore’s plans to support enterprises in IA/IP commercialization, collateralization, and financing can unquestionably assist enterprises to unlock their IA/IP value which in turn generates more cash flow.
Enterprise Singapore has developed some tools to strengthen enterprises’ IP licensing and commercialization capabilities, for example, the IP Guide jointly developed by Enterprise Singapore and the Licensing Executives Society (Singapore) is a very useful guide to understand IA/IP transactions.
Moreover, Singapore is exploring ways to increase transparency and disclosure around IA/IP transactions in order to build traction and confidence in these IA/IP transactions. Singapore will also set up relevant IA/IP valuation practice standards and guidelines and aims to build a pool of IA/IP valuation professionals in Singapore.
Looking forward, SIPS 2030 sets out an innovative and far-reaching plan to support Singapore’s broader positioning as a trusted business, financial, and IP hub and this will undoubtedly attract more companies to establish operations or move corporate headquarters to Singapore.
About the authors
Samuel Owen PhD, GCert(IPLaw)
Samuel is a Singapore Registered Patent Attorney, qualifying in 2019. He graduated from the University of Cambridge with a PhD in Physics, specialising in spin electronics with a particular focus on the manipulation of magnetic properties of (Ga,Mn)As by electrical means. Following his graduation, Samuel spent a couple of years as a research fellow first at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan and subsequently at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. Samuel completed the Graduate Certificate in Intellectual Property Law (GCIP) in 2017, obtaining a distinction. He is an author/co-author of a number of research articles in international peer-reviewed journals and has presented in various international conferences.
Wai Han Lau BSc, GCIP
Trainee Patent Attorney, Singapore
Wai Han is currently training to be a registered patent attorney in Singapore.She holds a BSc honours degree in Applied Biology with Biotechnology from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. During her studies, she was involved in a microbial toxin research project, studying the methods of neurotoxin extraction and purification from puffer fish. Before entering the patent profession, Wai Han worked as a microscopy specialist at a research institute in Singapore.