Intellectual Property: Is It Worthwhile or Worthless?

Panelists taking turns to answer questions regarding IP issues.

As part of the annual Intellectual Property (IP) week in Singapore, the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO), together with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), jointly organised the UK-Singapore Business IP Drinks and Discussion on “Intellectual Property: Is It Worthwhile or Worthless?” on Friday, 29th August 2014 at IP101.


UKIPO is an executive agency of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and is the official government body responsible for IP rights in the UK. They aim to promote innovation by providing a clear, accessible and widely understood IP system, enabling the economy and society to benefit from knowledge and ideas.


IPOS is a statutory board under the Ministry of Law that advises and administers the IP regime, promotes its usage and builds expertise to facilitate the development of Singapore’s IP ecosystem.


The British Chamber of Commerce Singapore (BCCS) is a member of the UK business network, created by the British Chambers of Commerce and UK Trade & Investment, providing practical support for UK exporters. Under this agreement, UKIPO engaged BCCS to help manage this event.


The afternoon comprised the following presentations;


  • Doing Business in Asia and Beyond: Considerations and Resources

by Greg Unsworth, Partner and Technology, Media and Telecommunications Industry Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers; and Andrew Bartlett, Deputy Director at UKIPO


Greg focused on the various risks and challenges to consider when expanding in the SE Asian region, how the region is rapidly gaining global economic prominence, and the growth factors contributing to its continued rise.


He also highlighted the various resources available to businesses – including the Growth Markets Centre (GMC) by PwC – that aims to help mid-sized companies and Multinational Corporations (MNCs) navigate this rapidly growing and dynamic economic landscape. The GMC brings together PwC’s global expertise to help clients grow profitable in complex new markets. It encompasses a full suite of services including advice on the client’s value proposition, development of an operating model and capabilities to grow profitably, promoting effective partnerships and teams, and providing information on the foreign business environments.


Andrew, on the other hand, zeroed in on international IP issues such as online piracy and fraud, trademark squatting and ‘patent trolls’, and counterfeit goods. He also spoke about the various tools available to businesses including:


  • IP Equip – A free, interactive e-learning tool that helps advisers increase their knowledge in identifying IP assets
  • IP Health Check – A free, confidential online diagnosis tool that aims to help businesses grow through licensing, exploiting and franchising
  • IP Basics – A series of free business guides to understanding IP
  • IP Master Class Online – An accredited interactive online course with in-depth training on IP


Concluding the presentation, Andrew also highlighted the other services offered through UKIPO. These include mediation, IP country guides, the Lambert tool kit, and online search tools.


  • IP Sound Bites of SE Asia

by Henry Goodwin, Partner at Taylor Vinters; and Candice Kwok, Partner at Marks & Clerk


Henry started the presentation by discussing the function, importance and challenges of protecting IP. These challenges include both external – lack of active and consistent enforcement, low deterrence, delay in IP registrations, absence of uniform laws, and cultural and language differences – and internal factors such as a lack of awareness.


He also shared his top tips on IP and brand protection and these included planning brands carefully, ensuring ownership of trademarks and logos, and formulating a proper IP strategy.


Candice continued the presentation by explaining the importance of brands, and the criteria of a good brand. A good brand is essentially one that has good connotations, conveys the right image to customers, transcends language and cultural differences, is not descriptive and has a unique and distinct identity in the market.


Advising businesses to plan ahead and be proactive, Candice also spoke about the importance of having a proper trademark filing strategy that complements their business plan, with due consideration given to the operating environment of the brand. Lastly, she described the two filing routes – separate national applications and the Madrid Protocol – available to businesses looking at filing their trademarks.


  • Protecting IP Overseas, Innovation Trends, Resolving IP Disputes and World Intellectual Property Office’s (WIPO) Partnership with ASEAN

by Peter Willimott, Senior Programme Officer at WIPO in Singapore


Peter gave an overview of WIPO including its background and the various services it offers. On protecting IP overseas, he talked about the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) for inventions which simplifies the procedure for obtaining patent protection simultaneously in many countries, making it more efficient and economical for inventors. At last count, the PCT has 148 contracting states.


On innovation trends, Peter introduced the Global Innovation Index (GII), now in its seventh edition, that is co-published by WIPO, Cornell University and INSEAD. It covers 143 economies around the world and employs 81 indicators across a range of themes. The index adopts a holistic analysis of innovation drivers and outcomes, and serves as a leading reference among innovation indices and a benchmarking tool for action by policymakers, business leaders and other stakeholders. Expounding on the topic of innovation, Peter also explained the importance of the human factor in innovation and the challenge of retaining top innovators.


On the matter of resolving IP disputes, Peter introduced the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre (AMC) that aims to be a neutral, international and non-profit dispute resolution provider that offers time and cost-efficient Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options through mediation, arbitration, expedited arbitration and expert determination.


Rounding up his presentation, Peter spoke about WIPO’s partnership with ASEAN and how this is governed by the ASEAN Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Action Plan for 2011-2015 within 6 key areas – accession to international treaties and conventions administered by WIPO, modernisation of IP office systems, building capacity of patent and trademark examiners, establishment of Technology Innovation Support Centres (TISCs), enhanced understanding on copyright exceptions and limitations for visually impaired and print disabled people, and public awareness and education on IP.


  • IP Hub of Asia and Singapore as a Gateway to Asia

by Sharmaine Wu, Principal Assistant Director at IPOS


Sharmaine spoke about Singapore’s IP Hub Master Plan and the accompanying IPOS’ initiatives aimed at bringing this into fruition.


The IP Hub Master Plan envisages Singapore as a global IP hub by attracting and serving as a credible destination for IP transactions and management, quality IP filings and IP dispute resolution. These are supported by 2 key enablers – skilled manpower, and a conducive and progressive environment.


Elaborating on the IP Marketplace initiative, Sharmaine explained how this aims to monetise IP as collaterals via the IP financing scheme, IP ValueLab and SCOPE-IP. Of special interest is the IP financing scheme, launched in April 2014, where IP can be transacted as collateral. The Singapore government supports this scheme by partially underwriting these IP-backed loans. This is however still subject to an IP valuation by a panel of IP valuers and a Participating Financial Institution’s (PFI) approval.


On becoming a hub for quality IP filings, IPOS has expanded its search and examination team, introduced a Positive Grant System, and strengthened its network to other markets. The search and examination team now comprises 80 patent examiners, 95% of whom possess a Ph.D. and have expertise in various sectors. The Positive Grant System supersedes the Self-Assessment Patent System and gives innovators greater certainty regarding their patent protection in Singapore as local practices are now more closely aligned with those of global markets. Through the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) Network and ASEAN Patent Examination Cooperation (ASPEC), IPOS has strengthened its partnership with both major and ASEAN markets respectively. Together, these initiatives generate cost savings and streamlines previous patent application processes.


On the topic of becoming a hub for IP dispute resolution, Sharmaine spoke about strengthening Singapore’s IP court capabilities through WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Centre (AMC), Singapore International Arbitration Centre, Singapore Supreme Court, and IP Adjudicators. Each of these options serves as an avenue available for parties to resolve their IP disputes.


Lastly, Sharmaine highlighted the roles and functions of IP101; a one-stop IP service centre by IPOS that organises events, Friday IP talks, IP consults, IP business clinics, and offers online filing facilities as well as other customer services.


Following the presentations was a panel session on “Intellectual Property: Is It Worthwhile or Worthless?” where panelists took turns to answer questions from the audience. The panelists were selected from the pool of speakers and comprised Greg Unsworth, Candice Kwok and Henry Goodwin. These panelists brought with them a wealth of experience and expertise in dealing with IP issues. Moderating the panel discussion was Peter Leung from Managing Intellectual Property (MIP). Answering questions from the audience, the panel delved deeper into trademark and patent-specific issues, and shared about the resources available to companies facing IP issues. Emerging markets such as Myanmar and Cambodia were also examined and the panelists were quick to highlight how IP issues faced there would differ from those encountered in Singapore. The panelists concluded unanimously that IP is indeed worthwhile.


Rounding up the day’s event was a networking session over drinks and canapés where attendees got a chance to mingle with one another and seek out the various speakers for one to one discussions.