Speech by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong SC at the Opening Ceremony of the 20th General Assembly and 74th & 75th Council Meetings of the Asian Patents Attorney Association
04 Nov 2023 Posted in [Speeches]
Mr Greg Munt
President of the Asian Patents Attorney Association (APAA)
Mr Lam Chung Nian
President of the APAA Singapore Group and Co-Chair of the APAA Conference 2023
Mr Jason Chan
Vice President of the APAA Singapore Group and Co-Chair of the APAA Conference 2023
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. A very good evening to all of you.
2. First of all, I would like to start by warmly welcoming all of you to this conference and to Singapore, particularly to our friends from overseas, for flying in specially, to attend the 20th General Assembly, as well as the 74th and 75th Council Meetings of APAA in Singapore.
3. I had a look at the programme. Jason outlined it earlier, but I saw that you have a really packed schedule. Not all of this has got to do with IP, but I think that is the beauty of having a conference like this, all the way from yesterday until next Tuesday, covering not just patents, but also copyrights, trademarks, designs, and trade secrets.
4. It got me thinking, actually IP today is just so inter-connected and very much a part of business that it is almost inseparable. You cannot just deal with patents in silos and a product often comes with multiple registrable and non-registrable IP.
5. At the same time, despite that very busy schedule, I hope you find some time to take in the sights, sounds, and most importantly, the food of Singapore. Join some of the excursions that Jason has talked about, and most importantly, take time to network because in occasions like this, exchanging know-how and thought leadership are all very good. But I think the one thing that you should leave Singapore is to have a stronger network of new friends, and to reinforce the foundations of the old friendships, all of which will become truly invaluable networks.
Developments in IP Landscape
6. The last time that APAA held its Council Meeting in Singapore was back in 2008. At that time, this place right here, where you are now, did not even exist! It was a piece of marshland. We had reclaimed the land some years ago and we were waiting for it to settle before we could build on it. So, Marina Bay Sands, as you now know it, where you are now, is a recent phenomenon added on since the last time you were here in Singapore.
7. A lot has changed in Singapore since 2008. So too has the world. The IP landscape in Singapore, as well as globally, has changed tremendously. Over the next few minutes, let me spend a bit of time telling you how we see it from the government’s perspective, how important IP is, and what are the steps that we have taken to integrate IP with our economy so that it is not a standalone, it is not just a practice, but it is very much part of life and part of how we drive the economy.
8. There have been a couple of shifts over the last 15 years in various aspects.
9. For one, the number of IP applications has grown significantly from the period of 2008 to 2022 – patents and designs by about 80%, trademarks by a huge 320%.
10. There is also increasing internationalisation of IP, with considerably more PCT, Madrid, and Hague applications being filed.
11. This growth, if you analyse the overall growth in the world, is a lot more pronounced in Asia, where the rate of increase is higher in Asia than anywhere else in the world. For example, the annual growth in patent applications in Asia over the last decade was almost 10 times higher than the rest of the world. Annual growth in trademark applications, in the same period, was 3 times higher.
12. The focus of these IP applications has also changed.
a. For patents, in 2008, there was a strong focus on mobile devices, wireless technologies, app ecosystem, renewable technologies, medical devices and so on. Today, that landscape has changed dramatically. In the era of the generative AI, we are looking at artificial intelligence, blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), electric cars, genomics, and personalised medicine.
b. And in 2008, trademarks were primarily associated with physical goods and services. Today, a far greater and significant portion is related to digital goods and services – digital twins, metaverse, being some examples.
13. IP, at the same time, is also becoming more important to a business. 15 years ago, intangible assets (IA) comprised around 80% of the value of S&P 500 companies – already a pretty high number. Today, that number has inched up to about 90%. So 90% of the value of S&P 500 companies reside in IA.
14. So with this backdrop, I think all of you, as IP practitioners, are very much aware, and I hope you will agree with me, that IP can serve as a powerful catalyst for economic as well as social development, providing businesses with a competitive edge, in turn helping to attract investments, creating jobs, and overall contributing strongly to the development of the nation. At least that is how we see it in Singapore. In my view, it is a very positive reinforcing cycle.
Singapore’s Support for IP and SIPS 2030
15. The value of IP is something that we strongly believe in, in Singapore. That is why we launched the Singapore IP Strategy (SIPS) 2030 two years ago, to chart our future and our roadmap with IP and around IP.
16. This strategy was not something that we thought about or conjured out of thin air. We looked very closely at trends, developments and filing patterns around the world. We also consulted businesses and IP practitioners, like many of you here, to understand the needs, and more importantly, the gaps in the IP ecosystem.
17. Earlier this year, IPOS conducted the Singapore IP Survey to better understand how businesses in Singapore saw and made use of IP.
18. Respondents shared that the top three most important types of IP were strong brands, new technologies and processes, and confidential information. However, at the same time, three in five businesses that protected their IP did not engage in any form of IP commercialisation activities. So you have a greater volume of IP filings, but we did not see enough of the drive towards commercialising the IP rights and the IP assets.
19. This is a sign to us, that many innovative businesses are not, at this point in time, getting the maximum value out of their IP. So we thought, what could we do more to support them, to propel them onto that last mile journey, to really realise the commercial aspects of their IP and IA.
20. We have therefore introduced a few initiatives which I would like to share with you, to help businesses commercialise their IP.
21. First, we thought that it is important to have access to information. We launched the Intangibles Disclosure Framework in September this year. The framework outlines the principles for businesses to disclose their IA in a systematic and consistent manner.
22. Why is this important? Well, it is important I think because if you have a framework that is standard, uniform, trusted, respected and everyone subscribes to, then businesses can more effectively communicate the value of their IA to their stakeholders.
23. At the same time, potential investors can also have more confidence in the way in which IA is assessed and have a complete and also comparable information to make their assessment as they decide whether to invest. If they invest, what is the valuation in which you can place on a commercial entity.
24. Second, we think that access to services will be important. So in Singapore, in September, we launched the GoBusiness IP Grow. It is a new online IP service marketplace, designed to help businesses identify their own IP needs. Very often, smaller businesses know that they have something of that sort in the assets but cannot quite put their finger on what exactly are the IP needs that they might need. So GoBusiness IP Grow is designed as an online portal to help businesses navigate that process.
25. At the same time, it also helps to match and connect them with IP service providers. So the moment they decide that they need to do something with their IP, how do they realise it or how do they protect it? How can we match them with the relevant IP service providers?
26. This online portal also provides for a wealth of other IP-related resources, including free tools, guides, programmes, and in some cases, access to government grants as well, to help them along on the journey to protect their IP and maximise the potential of their IP.
27. We have also developed a full suite of dispute resolution services, for businesses which run into disputes concerning IP. I think increasingly as we run a business, large, multi-jurisdictional and long-term businesses, dealing with disputes in an open, transparent manner, which is based on the rule of law, is particularly important. So in Singapore, we have options, including arbitration at SIAC, mediation at SIMC, or international commercial litigation at SICC.
28. The WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre also has its only case management office outside of Geneva, right here in Singapore. Collectively, these institutions have an international panel of arbitrators, mediators and judges, many of whom specialise in IP or operate in the entire IP ecosystem.
29. The third important aspect is how do we give these companies access to markets from Singapore. Singapore has established and enhanced IP linkages with ASEAN and beyond. My colleagues, Ms Rena Lee (Chief Executive of IPOS) and her team, have taken lots of care to grow that link, because we believe that you cannot operate in a silo, however well-established Singapore might be as a jurisdiction for IP. You have to link up with the region, particularly with the ASEAN. Singapore has established linkages with ASEAN and beyond, precisely so that businesses, who use Singapore as a gateway, can access these markets. They can also use Singapore as a base to expedite their IP filings in these other countries.
30. We have the ASEAN Patent Cooperation Programme (ASPEC), as well as the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) programmes, with key IP offices in China, Japan, Korea, Europe, and the US. That has been in place for some years now.
31. In September this year, IPOS further streamlined the PPH process to make it more applicant-friendly. And earlier in March, we introduced the Collaborative Search and Examination Programme with the IP office in Vietnam, allowing us to speed up patent searches and examination processes for inventors who wish to seek patent protection, both in Singapore as well as in Vietnam.
32. These three areas are just some of our recent initiatives, all part of the SIPS 2030, as we continue to evolve and showcase the importance of IP in Singapore.
33. Our objective fundamentally, is to support businesses in using IP, whether you are a big business or a small business. In some cases, particularly for small businesses, IP helps them to level up, leverage and compete on an international platform. We use this not just as a defensive “shield” to prevent infringement, or even as a “sword” to pursue competitors, but more fundamentally, we see all of these different strategies as an “engine” that powers their growth and expansion. And fundamentally, at least from the government’s perspective, we see IP as a key driver of the economy in Singapore.
34. So as I conclude, let me come back to the growing importance of IP in Asia. I think with the numbers that I cited earlier, it is quite obvious that in the foreseeable future, the growth of IP in Asia is going to be galloping off at a tremendous pace. It is likely to be for the next couple of years, at least, the strongest growing region, IP-wise, in the world. So, with that backdrop that I have just framed, I believe APAA will have a crucial role to play, in helping businesses in all of your jurisdictions unleash their hidden IP potential, tap into the markets, realise their potential, and really grow economically.
35. APAA was founded with the desire to impart knowledge to fellow practitioners – to upskill practitioners with new capabilities, business acumen, exchanging ideas from different jurisdictions.
36. With constant developments and advancements around the world, there will always be new issues, and new trainings that would arise. I mean, just take a look at the patent filings today. The whole landscape is quite unrecognisable from 15 years ago now.
37. For instance, we now see debates surrounding copyright ownership and protection for works generated by AI; IP issues involving virtual property, avatars and digital rights; patenting of genes of their applications, due to advances in biotechnology, including gene editing.
38. All of these are frontier, cutting-edge technologies, but some time tomorrow, they will also be part and parcel of the way in which many of our businesses will run their businesses, business models, and become valuable in the economy.
39. So, I foresee an extremely busy and fruitful year ahead for APAA.
40. We, in Singapore, look forward to partnering with APAA and indeed, with every one of you here today, to strengthen this region’s IP and innovation ecosystems in the years ahead, so that ultimately, we can better harness the value of IP, for our collective benefit.
41. Thank you very much for listening to me. I wish all of you a tremendous APAA session in Singapore.
Last updated on 04 November 2023