Contributed and edited by: Chloe CAENARO, Nur Dini KALISTA, Benjamin HO, and Lenon ONG of IPSA
On 3 August 2020, the Intellectual Property Students’ Association (“IPSA”) had the privilege of interacting with Dr Ming Tan, Managing Director of IPOS International. IPOS International is the enterprise and engagement arm of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (“IPOS”), which partners enterprises to create tangible value from their intangible assets. In this insightful and interactive sharing session, Dr Tan responded openly to the many questions posed by student representatives from IPSA on a range of topics, discussing the role of IPOS International, changes in the current challenging business climate, and issues related to intellectual property (“IP”) and intangible assets (“IA”).
Established in 2019, IPOS International partners local and global enterprises of all sizes to realise the full potential of their IP/IA for business growth, and drive innovation in the economy through its strategic advisory services, patent search and analysis capabilities, and professional development programmes. In this regard, Dr Tan oversees the strategic growth of IPOS International to deliver successful public-private partnerships through IP/IA at the national, enterprise and individual levels.
The biggest challenge in 2020 is arguably the COVID-19 pandemic, which has sparked unprecedented change within and among businesses and economies globally. Interestingly, when asked about how this has affected the IP/IA landscape, Dr Tan noted that the innovative and dynamic nature of IP has opened itself to many positive developments within the community. Aside from encouraging businesses to innovate for survival, the role of IP has been pivotal for effecting noble, social impact in this time of need.
For example, IP rights have been wielded effectively to enable contribution to COVID-19 while protecting innovation and preventing profiteering. Case in point – Italian inventors from Issinova partnered with the giant sports retailer Decathlon to convert the latter’s snorkels into ventilators to combat the shortage of essential equipment in hospitals. Issinova applied for an urgent patent for the valves to be developed, and made its blueprint widely available online and accessible to manufacturers who would like to step up in the united fight against COVID-19.
The traditional paradigms of IP have also seen shifts during this time, especially with regard to prior art and early disclosure in the face of a pandemic. Scientists at the frontline of COVID-19 research have been publishing studies and information directly in the public domain instead of via academic journals, in a bid to encourage further research and accelerate our race towards a cure. While this complicates the process of securing IP protection for the eventual invention due to prior public disclosure, this trend points to IP’s larger role and potential for driving social impact.
How then can businesses best commercialise their IP? Dr Tan stresses that there is no hard-and-fast rule to this, and the key to success lies in understanding one’s business model and what makes it unique, then combining this with a holistic IP strategy that safeguards that competitive edge.
On her favourite trade mark, Dr Tan spoke of LEGO® and described how their strategic use of IP has transformed them into one of the most successful businesses globally. LEGO® had such a brilliant grasp of what made their product offering unique, that they were not only able to apply for the right patent to protect their innovation, but continue to commercialise and build on the LEGO® brand and values after the patents covering specific elements have expired.
In closing, Dr Tan urged us – particularly those with a keen interest in IP law – to simply “get our feet wet” by diving into the IP world with an open mind. She emphasised how a legal academic background is highly adaptable and applicable to many industries, citing the success stories and experiences of notable NUS Law alumni, including that of Min-Liang Tan, Chief Executive of Razer. She also encouraged us to get a head start by equipping ourselves with a good foundation of IP, which will only grow in relevance and demand as we move into the post-COVID and new future economy.
Editorial endnote: If the topic of IP protection and management interests you, IPOS International is hosting a webinar-cum-panel session with The LEGO® Group during the upcoming IP Week @ SG IPOS x LEGO® webinar: How to Protect and Manage Your Brand in COVID-19 Times. IPSA would like to extend its gratitude to the team at IPOS International for supporting and facilitating this highly informative and engaging sharing session, and we look forward to future collaborations!