Address by Law Minister K Shanmugam at the opening of the 55th Council Meeting of the Asian Patent Attorney's Association
18 Oct 2008 Posted in Speeches
Mr Alonzo Ancheta, President of APAA
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good evening and a very warm welcome to Singapore. It is my pleasure to be here today at the opening of the 55th Council Meeting of the Asian Patent Attorneys’ Association (APPA).
The mission of the APAA is to promote awareness and understanding of IP rights in the Asia Pacific region. The Association plays a useful role in helping its members stay abreast of developments and ensuring that they are able to keep up with changing demands.
Changing Demands of the IP Profession
- The demand for IP professionals worldwide has been growing. The twin forces of globalization and rapid technological developments have led to the tremendous growth in IP-related activities worldwide. According to WIPO, PCT international applications increased nearly 40% over the past five years. Trademark filings under the Madrid system grew by nearly 70% over the same period.
- The nature of work for IP professionals has also grown more complex. More companies now realise that IP management is not just about protecting and enforcing IP rights. It is also about using IP strategically to achieve business goals. Companies have to decide which technologies to patent and which to keep as trade secrets; which IP rights to license in and which to license out; or in which markets to seek trademark protection. For IP professionals, this means that increasingly they are also expected to work with technology experts and business development managers to help clients integrate IP into their business strategies. Demand for IP legal advice is also set to rise as more businesses find themselves having to grapple with the complexities of IP protection and commercialisation in the digital environment.
Developing the IP Profession in Singapore
- In Singapore, the demand for IP professionals has been growing as we move towards an innovation-driven economy. In 2006, we launched the Science and Technology 2010 Plan to develop R&D as a significant driver for the Singapore economy. The target is to raise our national R&D expenditure from 2.4% of GDP in 2005 to 3% by 2010 towards the level of leading innovative economies like Japan and Finland. A key focus area is biomedical research to turn laboratory discoveries into clinically useful and commercially viable technologies and products. Two other focus areas have also been identified, namely interactive and digital media and environmental and water technology.
- The demand for IP professionals will not come only from the R&D sector. Singapore is increasingly becoming a choice location for IP management activities. MNCs like Honeywell and Hewlett-Packard manage their regional IP licensing activities from Singapore. The Global Brands Group, which commercialises leading brands, trademarks and copyrights, set up its corporate HQ in Singapore a few years ago. In addition, SMEs in Singapore are becoming IP savvy, with more of them implementing IP management systems in support of their operations. These businesses will require quality IP professional service.
- Thus, the challenge for us is to build a vibrant IP professional services sector with the expertise and skills to meet the demands of businesses. For this, we will need to work in partnership with IP professionals, firms and associations. For example, to enhance our patent drafting capabilities, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore or IPOS has a programme to help IP firms engage experienced foreign patent agents to mentor trainee patent agents. Such talents will help us nurture the next generation of patent agents, whilst boosting the number of highly-skilled patent agents here to meet demand. In consultation with the Association of Singapore Patent Agents and the APAA Singapore Group, the Singapore IP Academy launched an intermediate patent drafting course this year for patent agents to further hone their skills. The feedback from the professional associations was invaluable in ensuring that the course meets the practical needs of the patent profession.
- While technical competencies are important, they are in themselves not sufficient to meet the needs of businesses today. With globalization, IP professionals and firms, especially in small markets like Singapore, will need to have an international outlook. Thus, we welcome IP firms with international practice to set up in Singapore and contribute to the vibrancy of our IP services eco-system. We also hold regular seminars for IP professionals to get updates on IP legislative developments and prosecution practices in major markets such as the US, Europe and China. These include those organised by IPOS in collaboration with its overseas counterparts and the Singapore IP Academy.
Contributing to the Region
- As a responsible and constructive member of the international IP community, Singapore is committed to supporting and contributing to IP manpower development in the region. For instance, the Singapore IP Academy has seen an increasing number of overseas participants in its courses and seminars. IPOS also collaborates with WIPO and regional groupings like ASEAN and APEC in their capacity building initiatives.
- IP will continue to grow in importance in the development of many economies, particularly those in Asia, and IP professionals like you play a critical role. I am confident that the IP profession and the IP services sector in the region will grow from strength to strength on the back of the surge in creative endeavours, technological advances and enterprise that we are witnessing today. There will be many challenges ahead for the profession, but there will also be vast opportunities.
- I would like to wish all of you very fruitful discussions at this APAA Council Meeting.
- Thank you.
Last updated on 26 Nov 2012