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Singapore sets out plan to become global intangible assets (IA) and intellectual property (IP) hub

10-year blueprint published

07 May 2021

In celebration of World Intellectual Property Day on 26 April 2021, the Singapore government unveiled its “Singapore IP Strategy 2030” (SIPS 2030) as a roadmap to strengthen the country’s position as a global hub for intangible assets (IA) and intellectual property (IP).

SIPS 2030 is a 10-year master plan detailing Singapore’s strategy to entrench its position as a global IA/IP hub. The goal is to attract high-value IA/IP transactions as the country pivots towards IA and IP as key drivers for its economy. Given that the value of intangible assets now makes up 54% of the value of global listings, significantly surpassing the value of tangible assets, the announcement of SIPS 2030 comes at a strategic and opportune juncture. To that end, SIPS 2030 sets out a roadmap for (a) strengthening Singapore’s position as a global hub for IA/IP; and (b) attracting and growing innovative enterprises using IA/IP as drivers.

Big Data

On strengthening Singapore's position as a global IA/IP hub, SIPS 2030 aims to develop a world-class IA/IP regime in Singapore. In that regard, Singapore will reform the current IA/IP regime to support the use of big data for innovation. For instance, Singapore is looking to introduce an exception for computational data analysis in the upcoming Copyright Bill, which allows the use of copyrighted works for purposes such as text and data mining, data analytics, and machine learning. Moreover, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) will continue to study whether further changes to IA/IP laws are necessary to help innovators and enterprises capture economic opportunities offered by the digital economy.

Developing new AI Technologies

Besides big data, SIPS 2030 aims to encourage the creation and deployment of new Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies. To that end, IPOS is collaborating with industry leaders to prime the local IA/IP regime for the development and use of AI technologies. IPOS aims to introduce a next-generation IP filing system to support innovators and enterprises by mid-2022. This new filing system will be more intuitive to use, with predictive assistance and a user-friendly dashboard that offers businesses analytical insights for better decision-making when managing their IP portfolios. It remains to seem what this IP filing system will look like, but the expectation is having a more user-friendly system will translate to significant efficiencies for businesses and increased innovation.

ASEAN

Recognising the importance of protecting IP in an increasingly globalised economy, SIPS 2030 also aims to strengthen Singapore's IP links with ASEAN and the world to facilitate the protection of innovations in overseas markets. For example, IPOS has formed Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) arrangements with the five key IP markets, i.e. the USA, Europe, China, Japan and South Korea. These PPH arrangements help businesses use their patent searches and examination reports from an earlier office to accelerate patent prosecution in another jurisdiction, which, in turn, translates into a shorter time for patent grants and higher quality patents.

Dispute Resolution

SIPS 2030 also seeks to establish Singapore as an international IP dispute resolution hub. For example, the Arbitration Act and the International Arbitration Act have recently been amended to make it clear that IP disputes can be arbitrated in Singapore. Further, IPOS is exploring the possibility of developing specialised IP courses with training providers like the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators and the Singapore Mediation Centre to give professionals the option to contribute to the existing pool of IP dispute resolution experts. IPOS is also looking to develop a pool of qualified IP expert witnesses.

Court Appointments

These changes follow-on from steps to increase the strength of the IP bench in Singapore through the appointment of IP and technology experts Justice Dedar Singh Gill to the High Court, and, the appointment of Justice Sir Vivian Ramsey and Justice Simon Thorley QC to the Singapore International Commercial Court. Given Singapore's existing reputation as one of the leading cross-border dispute resolution centres in the world, these developments are welcome and serve to strengthen Singapore’s position as a venue of choice for the arbitration of international IP disputes.

IP Grow

On attracting and growing innovative enterprises using IA/IP, SIPS 2030 aims to increase enterprises’ access to IA/IP advisory and IA/IP-related services. A new enterprise-centric online platform, called “IP Grow”, will be created to provide enterprises with better access to professional IA/IP services. For example, IP Grow will help enterprises identify IA/IP challenges in their business journey and match them to the right IA/IP service providers and solutions. This will help build a network of IA/IP-related professionals across the innovation ecosystem by easing the end-user experience and lowering traditional barriers to entry.

International IA/IP valuation panel 

In order to support enterprises in deriving and maximising value from IA/IP, Singapore will also strengthen its regulatory and corporate practices to improve the transparency and disclosure of IA/IP, which, in turn, helps facilitate IA/IP financing and transactions. For instance, the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority and IPOS are co-leading an inter-agency committee to develop IA/IP disclosure framework and guidelines. This aims to encourage IA/IP disclosure by enterprises and reduce informational asymmetry. Similarly, so as to develop a credible and trusted IA/IP valuation ecosystem, Singapore will spearhead an international IA/IP valuation panel to develop IA/IP valuation guidelines based on valuation standards that can be widely adopted internationally.

Conclusion

SIPS 2030 is a welcome statement of intent that Singapore is seeking to reshape and reform its IA/IP framework in a coordinated and forward-looking manner. While the specific reforms are yet to be fleshed out, it is clear that these reforms will be wide-ranging and will focus on developing a comprehensive world-class IA/IP designed to establish Singapore as an international centre of technology, innovation and enterprise within ASEAN.