Singapore inks Asean partnerships to drive technology patents

A two-year agreement has been signed to prioritise patent applications in emerging technologies such as fintech, cybersecurity, and robotics, which aims to fast-track the turnaround time for initial action to six months.

Singapore has unveiled several initiatives with the aim to drive innovation in the region and speed up patent applications in key emerging technologies, such as finech, cybersecurity, and robotics. It has also inked agreements with countries such as the UK and Brazil to identify potential collaboration in the areas of intellectual property (IP) and patent work.

These efforts are geared towards boosting the city-state's role as a hub to facilitate technological work and fuel economic growth for Singapore as well as the region, said the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) in a statement Wednesday.

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For one, it would work with eight other Asean IP offices on a two-year pilot project that would see them prioritise patent applications in those emerging technologies, fast tracking the initial office action turnaround time to six months. This initial report is a document submitted by a patent examiner in response to a patent application, which cites the prior art and details reasons for allowing, approving or rejecting the patent claims. 

This was inked under the new Asean Patent Examination Cooperation (ASPEC), a regional work-sharing programme that aimed to reduce the cost and time to obtain patents in an Asean economy. 

The participating IP offices also agreed to broaden the programme's scope to include Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) reports as part of a three-year pilot, giving patent applicants the option to use their reports from an Asean International Searching Authority and International Preliminary Examining Authority. This would speed up their patent applications in another Asean market, explained IPOS, . 

The Singapore IP office also signed an agreement with the UK IP Office that would see both countries to explore cooperation in IP protection, commercialisation, and utilisation. In addition, IPOS said it would work with Qatar Free Zones Authority to exchange best practices and knowledge in the management of IP, to facilitate bilateral economic engagements.

The Singapore office also would work with China's IPR Daily to jointly develop activities such as training programmes and seminars, to enable Chinese businesses to promote and expand their knowledge and capabilities in protecting, commercialising, and managing IP assets.

With Brazil's National Institute of Industrial Property, IPOS said efforts would be made to help organisations from both countries  protect and commercialise their IP as well as explore other collaborative arrangements, such as a pilot Patent Prosecution Highway. 

IPOS and the Intellectual Property Office of Viet Nam also would collaborate in the areas of IP commercialisation and patent work-sharing.

Alibaba secures AI patent in three months

In its bid to accelerate patent application, the Singapore IP office said it granted an artificial intelligence (AI) patent to Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group in just three months, where it previously would take an average of two to four years.

Facilitated under IPOS' Accelerated Initiative for AI, the fast-tracked application process would allow Alibaba and other inventors to bring their AI products faster to the global market as well as help boost Singapore's place as an IP hub. 

Benjamin Bai, vice president and chief IP counsel at Alibaba's Ant Financial, said: "Companies looking to implement AI solutions globally have grown exponentially. Against this backdrop, the speed at which a patent can be granted is critical. Singapore plays a pivotal role as it facilitates our entry into markets of our interest rapidly. We applaud the efficiency and speed of the Singapore's IP office and look forward to filing more patent applications in Singapore under this initiative."

Alibaba's patent applied to a modified metric that helped improve the accuracy of object detection in areas such as image and text recognition.   

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