IPOS signs new agreements as Singapore aims for regional IP hub status

08 September 2020

IPOS signs new agreements as Singapore aims for regional IP hub status

Singapore revs up efforts toward becoming a regional intellectual property hub as IPOS signs cooperation agreements with Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Brazil and China’s Capital Intellectual Property Services Association.

With the new agreements, Singapore expands its nexus of international collaborations to strengthen its IP capabilities. The agreements will cover re-registration of patents as well as collaboration and recognition opportunities.

The partnership with Brazil in particular aims for more efficient patent prosecution procedures. Generally, they are focused on providing assistance in the development of local businesses.

“Brazil is an ideal bridge to Latin America, with many companies using it to reach the region’s huge middle-class population,” said Walter Chia, advisor for international engagement and deputy director for partnership & programme at IPOS. “Beyond the traditional economy, the country is embarking on a digitalization program driven by the private sector. We anticipate this will result in more innovation, IP generated and business opportunities. Through our bilateral cooperation, we aim to make it easier for enterprises from both countries to navigate IP matters when they expand overseas.”

Given the current scenario of a global pandemic, is patent sharing or pooling in the works?

“Singapore is also closely tracking global initiatives for collaborative research in Covid-19,” said Chia. “We are heartened to note that the idea of voluntary patent licensing pools as a means for such cooperation is gaining traction, such as the Medicines Patent Pool backed by the United Nations. Some companies have also pledged their IP rights free of charge under the Open Covid Pledge.”

Chia cited IBM and Medtronic as examples.  IBM is granting free access to its huge patent portfolio while Medtronic has shared its ventilator patent.

“Singapore supports improving access and sharing of innovations to increase supply and lower prices of Covid-19-related drugs and inventions while sustaining innovation and meeting public health needs,” he said.

According to Marcus Liu, associate director of Amica Law in Singapore, IPOS leans more toward a soft-touch market-driven approach.

“While there are provisions that can mandate compulsory licensing, we believe IPOS is sensitive to the balancing of public health needs against the sustainability of innovation. For completeness, there are separate provisions that allow the state to do so or authorize others to do acts which facilitate treatment of patients, which a patentee would otherwise have the right to prevent, in the context of a health emergency such as the novel coronavirus Covid-19,” Liu explained.

He added that the benefits to Singapore are two-fold.

First, these agreements allow Singapore to assist its partners in the development of their IP ecosystems. This means Singaporean businesses in Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Brazil and China will have better recognition of their IP rights and more cost-effective protection, exploitation and enforcement capabilities.

Second, the new partnerships will position Singapore as a thought leader for IP protection in the region. Thus, the country becomes an even more favorable site as a spring board jurisdiction or regional headquarters for SMEs and multinational corporations.

“Regional protection of IP in Asia is nevertheless an important growth area. In 2018, IP offices in Asia received the highest numbers of applications for patents, utility models, trademarks and industrial designs, exceeding two-thirds of patent, trademark and industrial design applications worldwide. China in particular is a world leader in IP activity and an obviously important jurisdiction for further IP cooperation,” Liu said.

“In addition, in a time when businesses are constrained to run more cost-efficient operations, the development of IP protection in regional markets makes sense as local businesses will usually prioritize protection in the Asia region and development of regional IP regimes will assist in more certain and efficient protection, prosecution and exploitation of IP which ultimately can translate to more cost-effective operations for local businesses,” Liu added.


Espie Angelica A. de Leon

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