Saturday, January 8, 2011

On track to be region's IP hub

AS demand for intellectual property services is set for a boost with robust economic growth, Singapore is positioning itself as an intellectual property hub for the region, Law Minister K Shanmugam said yesterday.

'Innovation-centric economic activity in the region will become an important engine of future growth,' he said at the opening of the third Global Forum for Intellectual Property (IP), organised by the IP Academy (Singapore).

Firms will demand more innovation in areas such as environmental technologies, natural resources management and clean energy, as the emerging East Asian economies move from simple cost-competitive production to higher value-add businesses by creating and exploiting their own intellectual property, he said.

Singapore saw a 12 per cent jump in the number of patents filed last year, compared to 2009. This reverses most of the fall in the number of annual applications, from 2007's 9,955 to 8,736 last year, according to data from the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore.

The IP Academy - which provides professional education on IP - and the opening of the Singapore office of the World Intellectual Property Organisation Arbitration and Mediation Centre at Maxwell Chambers last year, are important elements that Singapore has put in place to position itself as a regional IP hub, Mr Shanmugam told the forum's more than 400 participants yesterday.

But legal framework aside, the economic incentives are in place too. 'From the economic side, Singapore has positioned itself as a place that welcomes creative people and talent and businesses that want to create value and locate their IP in Singapore,' he told reporters.

David Llewelyn, deputy chairman of the IP Academy, agreed. 'Everybody is in this drive to attract innovative and creative businesses and Singapore has been at the forefront of that in the past few years.'

For now, Singapore is 'the model to which the rest of the region looks to (to) see how to do things in IP', but it's a 'constant battle' to make sure its offering beats alternative locations, he said.

And other Asian economies are catching up.

China's IP infrastructure, for instance, has shown rapid development with a sharp surge in the number of Chinese patents filed since the mid-2000s, said Cambridge University professor of international management Peter Williamson at the forum.

These patents are filed on a wide range of scientific, product and process innovations, with a significant proportion (66 per cent compared to 78 per cent in the US) sourced from corporate-led R&D.

He thinks that the future would yield more acquisitions of global R&D units by Chinese companies for their technology, as well as more partnership between foreign and Chinese companies to commercialise IP. China also has the ability to do large-scale experimentation very swiftly, Mr Williamson added.

The two-day forum features sessions on the developments in IP and related aspects of doing business, IP in sectors such as fashion as well as food and beverage, and IP issues arising from the use of social media.

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