S'pore: Asian patent filings on the rise

The resulting resource drain on Asian patent offices can be overcome by establishing greater cooperation with Europe, says government official from the island-state.
Written by Aaron Tan, Contributor

SINGAPORE--With the rising number of patent filings from Asia, bilateral cooperation is necessary to seize business opportunities in intellectual property (IP) services.

According to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos), the proportion of patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that originated from Asia grew from 23 percent in 1995 to 30 percent last year. Asian economic powerhouses China and India, led the pack with the fastest growing number of registered patents.

Speaking at the opening of the 4th Europe Asia Patent Information Conference (Eapic) today, associate professor Ho Peng Kee, Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs, noted that Asia has seen rapid development in IP within a short period. The yearly event is organized by Ipos and the European Patent Office (EPO) to provide a platform for businesses to gain knowledge on the various facets of IP management.

"As we consider how the IP landscape will evolve, two trends are especially pertinent," Ho said. "First is Asia's growing importance due to its increasing patenting growth rates; and second, is the increasing emphasis that businesses are placing on IP," Ho said.

Indeed, during the recent Global Forum on IP held here last month, delegates noted a growing appreciation of IP among Asian businesses, though the officials also called for more work to be done in educating local populations.

However, challenges abound with the increasing awareness of IP.

Ho said: "IP offices have to invest in new resources and systems, and devise new mechanisms to cope with handling ever increasing numbers of applications. The challenge to optimally balance efficiency against quality cannot be underestimated."

To overcome such challenges, cooperation between countries in Europe and Asia is pertinent in order to seize growing business opportunities in IP services, he said.

Singapore cemented its efforts in this area today when EPO and Ipos announced a three-year extension to a MOU (memorandum of understanding), first inked by both parties in 2003. The agreement provides a framework of cooperation between Singapore and Europe in areas including IP awareness, human resource development and patent processes.

Within the Asia-Pacific region, Ho noted that Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia will also launch a new program to equip developing Apec (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) member countries with skills and resources to protect and enforce IP through public education programs.

This year's Eapic will see international IP practitioners, academics, policy decision-makers and IP professionals discuss topics on patent management and information. There will also be workshops providing hands-on tutorials on patents searches in biotechnology, information, communications and technology sectors as well as patent information updates.

Alongside Eapic 2006, Singapore is also hosting the Heads of IP Offices Conference, where national agencies and policy makers will meet to discuss key issues affecting patents and strategies to meet future challenges.

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