Singapore puts intellectual property focus on innovation, intangible assets

Country's new 10-year IP roadmap puts emphasis on the role of innovation in driving its digital economy, with anticipated legal changes involving the use of big data and artificial intelligence technologies.

Singapore has released a new decade-long roadmap paving out plans to boost its role as a global hub for intangible assets (IA) and intellectual property (IP). These are expected to include changes to its legislative framework involving the use of big data and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. 

Spanning through to 2030, its new IP blueprint would be led by a committee with representatives from more than 10 government agencies including Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), Ministry of Trade and Industry, Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), and Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*Star). 

The 10-year roadmap was formally announced Monday and laid out recommendations aimed at bolstering Singapore's place as a global hub for IA and IP, attracting and growing innovative businesses using IA and IP, as well as  developing skillsets and jobs in the two areas. 

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Intangible assets typically are defined as non-monetary assets that have no physical substance and largely comprise--though, not limited to--IP including patents, copyrights, and trademarks, as well as assets that yield economic benefits such as data and software algorithms. 

According to Edwin Tong, Singapore's Second Minister for Law and Minister for Culture, Community, and Youth, the value of IA currently accounted for 54% of the world's total value listings, outstripping the value of tangible assets. 

Previously seen more as a legal or technical function, the management of IA and IP increasingly was seen as an essential part of strategic management decisions that impacted shareholder value, Tong said. 

With the global IA value tipping at more than $65 trillion, Singapore believed its 10-year IP blueprint would ensure it remained a "conducive environment" for businesses to safeguard, manage, and transact their IA. 

Part of such efforts would include the introduction of an exception for computational data analysis in its Copyright Bill, to enable the use of copyrighted works for various purposes such as text and data mining, data analytics, and machine learning. 

"Technological and market changes in the digital economy significantly affect how data is created, distributed, and consumed," the Singapore IP Strategy 2030 report stated. "The 'big data revolution' has seen huge growth in the generation and collection of digital data, and driven the creation of large datasets and databases that are the 'stock feed' on which new technologies such as machine learning rely on."

It added that IPOS would continue to assess the importance of big data in Singapore and determine if further changes to its IA and IP laws were needed to enable innovators and enterprises to "capture economic opportunities" in the digital economy. The aim here was to find "a balance" between the interest of creators and providing access to third parties. 

IPOS also was in the midst of reviewing the country's regime for trade secrets protection to ensure it remained conducive for innovative businesses. 

In addition, with AI increasingly used in create products, inventions and content, the IP office was assessing Singapore IP regime so it supported the development and use of AI technologies. 

With other global IP offices such as the UK and US also conducting public consultations on similar AI issues, IPOS would collaborate on a research initiative with the Singapore Management University Centre for AI and Data Governance as well as IMDA to collect views on AI. This would explore concepts in IP that had been under increasing scrutiny with the advent of AI technologies. 

Singapore last October released an AI Ethics & Governance Body of Knowledge (BoK) to provide businesses a reference guide on the ethical aspects related to the development and deployment of AI technologies. It encompassed use cases to outline the positive and negative outcomes of AI adoption, and looked at the technology's potential to support a "safe" ecosystem when utilised properly. The reference guide was developed based on Singapore's Model AI Governance Framework.

Amongst its list of recommendations, the Singapore IP Strategy 2030 report noted that the country should continue to boost IP ties with other Asean markets, including through international treaties and IP work-sharing agreements. 

It further stated that Singapore should work with Institutes of higher learning to support local sectors, such as biomedical science, electronics, and precision engineering, and better address their IA and IP needs. Such efforts should include the development of training programmes to help senior management executives better appreciate the value of IA and IP in driving business growth. 

In addition, Singapore should develop nationally recognised standards and certification programmes that could be adopted by the industry, providing local businesses assurance that they were hiring workers or engaging service providers with the right skills.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said: "Intangible assets and intellectual property management has far-reaching effects on product development, go-to-market decisions, and strategic partnerships. 

"A clear set of nationally recognised standards and certification programmes will also help companies to build IA and IP management into their business development and strategic management decisions, which will give them an edge in protecting and commercialising their innovations quickly," Chan said.

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