Speech by Senior Minister of State for Law Ms Indranee Rajah at NUS Centre for Law & Business Conference on Framing Intellectual Property Law in the 21st Century
14 AUG 2014
14 Aug 2014 Posted in Speeches
- A very good morning to our distinguished guests. For those of you who have flown in from other parts of the world for this seminar – welcome to Singapore!
Understanding the relevance of IP in the world we are living in
- Intellectual property is all around us, what with the content we consume through various media, the brands of the apparel we wear, the designs of furniture and jewellery that we use, and the inventions that help us around the home.
- Therefore, in opening this conference, I would like to affirm the importance of studying the intersection of IP and key issues which this conference aims to examine: incentives, culture, human rights, development and trade.
- Understanding such intersections will reveal to us the relevance and value of IP in the world we live in, especially in times of great change. It will help us to understand how changing times in Asia are going to impact IP, and the consequences for our society, our businesses, and us as individuals.
- For example, the underlying basis of incentives for creating IP may be changing. Companies may be willing to grant royalty free licences from the start, in hopes of launching an entirely new ecosystem in which they are the leader. This is the strategy of Tesla, the electric car pioneer, and of Google’s Android, the dominant mobile operating system today, just to name a few examples. While IP rights are not completely given up in such cases, this model is quite different from the traditional model of guarding monopoly rights for an entire 20-year patent term to maximise profits.
IP in Asia
- Many of the intersections with IP that this conference will examine are very much in play in Asia.
- Asia is the most populous region in the world, and culturally diverse. It is the fastest growing economic region, and societal norms are also shifting rapidly. This vast expanse of more than 40 countries comprises economies at various stages of development, from areas subsisting on agriculture to some of the most sophisticated economies in the world. While its economies on the whole are catching up fast in terms of IP exploitation, they are also in various stages of using and creating IP. There will invariably be differences within Asia on how and whether strong IP protection incentivises development, whether IP protection should be accorded to cultural assets, when exceptions to IP should be deployed to facilitate access to drugs, and so on.
- Given Asia’s diversity, interpreting and studying the convergence of IP and other disciplines in the Asian context are critical, if we want a deeper appreciation of how IP can be effectively developed and deployed in various countries.
- A failure to do so may delay the acceptance of IP as a legitimate way to promote economic development and international trade.
- Some statistics may underscore the importance of looking at IP in Asia today:
- China and Korea have joined Japan in the list of 5 fastest growing IP offices in the world in terms of patent applications for 2011-2012. Korea and China were also amongst the 5 fastest growing IP offices for registered design applications. In contrast, IP activity in Indonesia and Indo-China remain nascent. This illustrates the uneven level of exploitation of IP in Asia.
- Nevertheless, in quantitative terms, Asia clearly leads Europe and US in filings for patent, trademark and registered designs. Asian IP offices received a combined share of 55.9% of all patent applications worldwide, in contrast with Europe’s 14.7%. For trademarks, Asia accounted for 47% of all trademark filings, in contrast with Europe’s 30.6%.
- Clearly, major Asian economies are strong creators of IP; from being mere users of IP, they have seen the rise of conglomerates such as Huawei and Samsung which clearly have to rely on their own IP for business expansion.
- Cross-border IP disputes between regions show that IP is increasingly significant for Asian companies, the classic case being the long running disputes between Apple and Samsung, which have just ceased last week outside the United States.
Developing IP Thought Leadership for Asia, in Singapore
- Singapore has been recognised as a country where IP is important. In the past five years, we have been consistently ranked amongst the top 3 countries in the world for IP protection by the World Economic Forum. Singapore’s 7th position in WIPO’s Global Innovation Index (GII) 2014 also underscores the importance we place on IP.
- Singapore sits at the crossroads of Asia – we are a melting pot of Asian cultures as well as influences from the Western world. We are an open economy which has increasingly embraced IP; after being mere users of IP, we now seek to create our own.
- As the regional HQ to many IP-rich businesses, and as we push forward with entrepreneurship and knowledge-based industries, Singapore bears witness to the changes impacting IP, and the impact of IP on countries in Asia. We were the first country in Asia to seal a “gold standard” Free Trade Agreement with the United States containing an extensive IP chapter. That chapter resulted in a slew of changes to domestic IP legislation. On the academic front, the Law Faculty at the National University of Singapore has evolved into an internationally well regarded facility which provides students with global and inter-disciplinary perspectives.
- We are therefore well positioned to contribute to thought leadership in this area, in line with our aims under the IP Hub Master Plan. The NUS Centre for Law and Business (CLB), along with other institutions with a similar inter-disciplinary focus, is starting a conversation on such issues. This conversation is not only for academics – rights holders, users, and businesses must start reflecting on how they view IP against the backdrop of evolving values and business models in the 21st century.
- This conference is timely as it comes almost at an inflection point in the development and exploitation of IP in Asia. It will be challenging – Asia is too diverse and IP too sophisticated a subject for easy solutions. The conversations in this conference may see difficult issues with few answers. However, it is a conversation we must initiate, if IP is to continue to be relevant and if it is to play a role in the extraordinary growth story of Asia.
- I wish you an insightful discussion ahead. Thank you.
Last updated on 14 Aug 2014