Asean firms offered funding support to resolve tech disputes

Southeast Asian businesses can get financial help for intellectual property disputes, thanks to a new initiative led by Singapore.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor
Fountain of Wealth at Suntec city in Singapore
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Businesses based in Southeast Asia now can receive financial support to resolve their technology or intellectual property (IP) disputes. 

Offered under a new initiative led by Singapore, funds of up to SG$8,000 ($5,915) are available for each case, but the monies will be shared equally between all parties involved unless otherwise agreed. 

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The funding support is provided under the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Singapore Asean Mediation Programme and is available to individuals or business entities involved in IP or technology-related disputes. 

To be eligible for the funds, at least one party must be an Asean national or entity. There are currently 10 member states in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), which include Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines. 

The subsidy scheme is led by the WIPO Singapore Office and Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) and supported by the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center. 

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There has been growing interest in alternative dispute resolution in the region, amid a global increase in IP and technology disputes, according to Thitapha Wattanapruttipaisan, director of WIPO Singapore Office. 

"We hope more businesses in Asean can benefit from mediation as a viable and cost-effective solution for their IP or technology disputes," Wattanapruttipaisan said.

IPOS Chief Executive Rena Lee urged businesses to look at mediation as a "preferred option" to resolve disputes involving IP or technology, as well as to negotiate terms of such deals. In the latter case, the mediator will help navigate the parties involved toward an agreement, such as during an ongoing patent-licensing discussion.

Under the new scheme, the mediator must be based in Singapore and requests for funding must be made to the WIPO Center by December 31 this year. The mediation can be held online or in any on-site location, but the mediator should still be Singapore-based.

Funds will be disbursed regardless of whether the disputes are resolved. 

Singapore has a decade-long roadmap spanning through to 2030 that aims to boost its role as a global hub for intangible assets (IA) and IP. The roadmap includes changes to its legislative framework involving the use of big data and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. 

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In 2019, Singapore also inked partnerships with eight Asean IP offices on a two-year pilot project that prioritized patent applications in key emerging technologies, such as fintech and cybersecurity. Efforts here were geared toward boosting the city state's role as a hub to facilitate technological work and fuel economic growth for Singapore and Asean.

WIPO's current Director General is Singaporean Daren Tang, who was appointed to the role in 2020, making him the first person from the country to take on a top role with the United Nations (UN). WIPO is a self-funding agency under the UN. 

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