Reflections on IP Week @ SG 2020

Contributed by: Lenon ONG, Bryan ONG and Denise THIA

Edited by: Denise THIA

The annual IP Week @ SG was held this year from 25th to 27th August, going digital for the first time. Global IP policymakers, together with other legal experts, came together to share their insights on IP commercialisation and other IP strategies that strengthen the resilience of enterprises and continue to boost innovation. Through the various webinars, members of the NUS Law Intellectual Property Students’ Association (“IPSA”) had the opportunity to learn more about the importance of technology and innovation, especially when it came to supporting businesses and enterprises amidst these challenging times in an era of the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. Keynote IP Leaders Panel: Accelerating Innovation, Recovery and Growth in the COVID-19 Era

This panel was certainly the highlight of IP Week @ SG 2020: participants got to hear directly from the heads of IP offices and organisations as they examined the impact of COVID-19 on the intellectual property (“IP”) industry and discuss how the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (“IPOS”) can leverage data, expertise and international networks to ably support creators and innovators seeking to cope with the long-term repercussions of the pandemic.

Notably, Mrs Rena Lee, Chief Executive of IPOS, talked about the various innovative measures initiated by IPOS over the past few years. In particular, IPOS GO, the world’s first mobile app for trademark applications. The app allows users to search through similar business names, trademarks, domain names, and more – enabling enterprises to make more informed branding decisions. The app’s capability does not stop in the realm of trademarks: searches relating to patents, registered designs, and the maintenance of all registered IP can be done conveniently on the app!

SG IP FAST was also another initiative during this panel. SG IP FAST extends beyond patent applications, accelerating the registration processes for trademarks and registered designs. Enterprises can obtain IP protection in Singapore quickly and leverage that to grow their businesses.  SG IP FAST is an enhancement of an earlier scheme, SG Patent Fast Track, launched by IPOS in April this year. The SG Patent Fast Track, the world’s fastest application-to-grant process of its kind, accelerates grants of patent applications in all technology fields to just six months.

The various heads of IP offices in other jurisdictions have also pitched in the various innovative measures the respective IP offices had taken in this pandemic, including lowering costs and enhancing the efficiency of IP-related procedures. The Chief Executive Officer of the International Trademark Organization (“INTA”), Mr Etienne Sanz de Acedo, had also provided a great overview on recent developments especially in the trademark scene, backing his presentation with impressive data collated by INTA itself.

2. GRIT Series: IP in the Arts and Entertainment Sectors

Growing with Resilience through InTangibles (“GRIT”) is an inter-agency initiative to partner businesses and communities to better manage and monetise their IP in the COVID-19 environment and beyond. For this webinar, representatives from IPOS, Zouk Group, ONE Championship, Believe, Loudanclear, and Ella Cheong LLC shared first-hand issues relating to IP in the arts and entertainment sectors, and various government support schemes available for these sectors.

GRIT will facilitate access to government support schemes and grants. For example, media companies can tap on the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (“IMDA”) content production funding schemes to acquire IP such as soundtracks. IMDA also supports the creation of original IP through initiatives such as WriterLabs, New Talent Feature Grant, and the Capability Partnership Programme.

There is funding support for the arts sector for the creation and marketing of IP through the National Arts Council’s Creation Grant, Production Grant, and the Market and Audience Development Grant.

The Singapore Tourism Board’s Business Improvement Fund provides funding support for companies in the tourism sector to adopt capability development, such as business strategy, and strategic branding and marketing.

Businesses can also tap on Enterprise Singapore’s Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) for their qualifying costs of IP-related services such as hiring IP service providers (e.g., IP lawyers and patent agents).

Check out IPOS’ one-stop webpage for more details.

3. FLINT: Nurturing the Next Generation of IP-savvy Youths

At this first-year milestone of the Future Leaders in INnovation Transformation (FLINT) programme launched at IP Week @ SG 2019, Mr Daryl Ong from IPOS had outlined and rehashed the importance of nurturing youths in Singapore to equip themselves with the knowledge of IP even before entering the workforce.

Our very own Mr Lenon Ong and Mr Lim Sze Yuan from IPSA also shared on how the learning of IP is important, the overview of key institutions and policy developments in the IP space in Singapore, as well as how members from IPSA have benefitted from the FLINT programme.

4. 10th COP on IP Management: Expeditious Innovation at a Time of Crisis

Titled Expeditious Innovation at a Time of Crisis, the COP was moderated by Mr. Mark Lim from the Intellectual Property of Singapore (IPOS), and the panel comprised of Dr Sidney Yee, Mr Choo Wei-Pin and Mr Gabriel Yap representing Diagnostics Development (DxD) Hub, Razer and Lucence respectively.

Traditionally held behind closed doors, this marked the first time the COP was open to the public, given the importance of the issues and the prevailing public interest. The COP dealt with the innovation process in response to the current public health crisis amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, with strong focus on how the intellectual property of these companies remain protected while simultaneously allowing for increased collaboration.

The panel was kickstarted with a short message from Mrs Rena Lee, who noted the economic challenges that lay ahead, but assured everyone that IPOS will continue to support enterprises. Further, she highlighted robust IP management strategies to lay the foundations for such enterprises to tap on intangible assets for continued growth and emerge from the pandemic in a better state.

Next, the panellists gave a brief overview of how their companies have continued to innovate despite the challenges brought by the pandemic. This ranged from working directly with market users to improve and build their products to pivoting to completely new product lines.

Although DxD Hub, Razer and Lucence are not competitors at all, they shared the consensus that companies who invest in innovation are expected to thrive, and each of them were developing solutions in response to the various needs at different levels of the production chain. While Razer focused on mask production, DxD Hub, true to their name, focused on identifying technical and usability issues to allow for more rapid testing. Meanwhile, Lucence tapped on their expertise in non-invasive tests for disease detection to develop possible alternatives to the swab tests that are currently being administered.

All the panellists reiterated the need to be responsive and adaptable, and that laying the foundation for greater productive capacity is extremely important in times of peace. In particular, Dr Yee noted that the current COVID-19 crisis is a good reflection of how Singapore’s investment in a strong research and development (R&D) and entrepreneurship scene laid the foundation for a strong relationship between the public and private sectors, which was essential in allowing companies to pivot and respond effectively to the pandemic.

In response to regulatory hurdles, Dr Yee pointed towards the importance of supply chain security, as well as the highly supportive and progressive stance of the Health Sciences Authority (HSA). This was supported by Lucence, who mentioned that the HSA responded quickly and that it was the trust between the private and public sectors which allowed Lucence to approach the HSA early, thereby ensuring the impact of Lucence’s technology on a regional and international level.

Lastly, the panellists were asked on how their companies ensured protection of their IP. Here, Mr Choo mentioned the importance of involving the legal and compliance team early in the process instead of merely letting the project be spearheaded by a team member from the supply chain. Dr Yee also provided a key consideration – whether the product has the freedom to operate, which companies have to consider in order to determine if a project is worth pursuing. 

5. Associated events

Some of our members have also sat in the associated events such as the “Strengthening International IP Collaboration, Facilitating IP Commercialisation” webinar hosted by China Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City, where the speakers dove deep into the statistics of various filings in China and the various schemes that owners of IP might want to seek assistance from before venturing into the huge market that is China. The UK-US Breaking Barriers series of webinars also provided perspectives from leaders of companies and start-ups that grew because of their strategic use and commercialisation of intellectual property.

6. Closing statements

Through these webinars, it is evident that the importance of IP cannot be stressed enough in our increasingly globalised world. This pandemic has shown the degree to which the world has become interconnected, and how consumers consume products and interact with businesses they support. IPSA would like to thank these innovators who have continued to carry the torch in these trying times. We thank them for their willingness to share this information and all of their contributions in tackling the pandemic.

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