Singapore: Asia’s Emerging Global IP Hub

By Constance Leong

1 April 2013, Singapore. The Singapore Government has plans to develop Singapore as a Global Intellectual Property (IP) Hub in Asia and it knows that any endeavor on such a large scale would be best effected by a Committee of experts. This Committee comprises a banker, lawyers, a university professor, a research institute, an international tax and accounting organisation, research and development organisations, local and foreign technology companies, high-ranking government officials across various ministries and, to top it off, the chairman of Singapore’s largest media broadcaster.

After several rounds of public consultations, garnered from inside and outside Singapore, a 3+2 approach was spelt out today:

3 Strategic Outcomes:

• An international hub for IP transactions and management
• A hub for quality IP filings for companies all over the world
• A choice venue for IP dispute resolution

2 Enablers:

• Skilled manpower resources networked to the region and beyond
• A conducive and progressive environment for IP activities

The Singapore Government envisions an IP ecosystem in Singapore with marketplace elements, such as IP financing and IP valuation.

Singapore already boasts a robust and world-class IP regime. Patent laws have been progressively amended in 2012 to be aligned with international practices and to build world-class search and examination capabilities in specific technology areas. Recruitment for patent examiners by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) has been aggressive and is ongoing.

IP-related jobs, including IP strategists, IP valuation analysts, and professional development trainers will be created. More details will be revealed when IPOS rolls out the IP Competency Framework (IPCF), to define the competencies required to accredit training providers and their programmes, in April 2013.

Tax incentive schemes (applicable, for example, to the associated fees paid to professional service providers) have been introduced to encourage local IP registrations. Tax deductions for IP activities across the value chain, including IP in-licensing for IP created outside Singapore, have also been announced.

Judicial support from the Singapore Supreme Court is also being established, such as in the form of court assessors (for technical expertise) and amicus curiae (for legal expertise) for the IP Court.

Interestingly, the Singapore Government does not seem to view foreign legal eagles as existential threats to the local legal industry, as is the case everywhere else in the world. On the contrary, Singapore has relaxed its regulations on foreign lawyers since 2008 and on foreign patent attorneys in 2012.

Given that there is a strong correlation between the size of country’s domestic market and the number of IP filings, as seen in the WIPO Patent Cooperation Treaty PCT Newsletter (March 2013 issue), one cannot but wonder how Singapore, with a population size of 5.3 million and a domestic market size index of 4.1, hopes to achieve Asian Global IP Hub status.

Only time will tell but, for now, one can take heart from Singapore’s various ‘miracle,’ success stories—a small country that has already attracted global attention as a centre international arbitration and the world’s second busiest port (after Shanghai). Singapore is also the only country outside Switzerland to house a second office of the World Intellectual Property Organisation Arbitration and Mediation Centre WIPO AMC. Singapore has also been ranked, by the World Economic Forum in 2012/13, as the world’s second most competitive economy (after Switzerland), second in IP protection (after Finland) and first in efficiency of legal framework in settling disputes. No mean achievements amidst a climate of downcast global markets and regional economic woes.

Click here for an Update to the Intellectual Property Hub Master Plan from the Singapore Ministry of Law.

This article has been re-published with permission in the Queen Mary University of London, Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Alumni Bulletin, Sixth Edition – Summer 2013″.

 

Last updated: 19 October 2017