Singapore can become hub for IP dispute resolution, says Minister

Out-Law News | 02 Aug 2013 | 9:35 am | 3 min. read

Singapore can become a global hub for resolving disputes over intellectual property rights, the country's Senior Minister of State for Law has said.

Indranee Rajah told a conference in Singapore that an increasing number of companies are choosing the country as a jurisdiction in order to settle foreign disputes, according to a report by Singapore Law Watch

"Clients experiencing arbitrations here should go away feeling that their dispute was handled fairly and professionally irrespective of the outcome," Rajah said. "This is a good time to position ourselves as a hub for IP dispute resolution by establishing a panel of top international IP arbitrators in Singapore to enhance the international profile of our IP arbitration capabilities, and attract more IP-related cases."

Earlier this year the Ministry of Law in Singapore unveiled a 10 year plan to establish the country as a "global IP hub" has been outlined by the Singapore government.

The Ministry of Law said it wants Singapore to become a base from which businesses will choose to "manage and transact" their intellectual property (IP) internationally.

It also said that it wants the country to establish itself as a "gateway" for businesses to register their IP across international markets and for Singapore to be a place where IP disputes are brought "for expeditious and effective resolution through litigation or alternative dispute resolution".

At the time, the Ministry said it had accepted recommendations made by an IP Steering Committee earlier this year.

"The rapid evolution of the global IP landscape presents not just challenges but also opportunities for Singapore," Teo Ming Kian, chairman of the IP Steering Committee, said in the IP Hub Master Plan report (80-page / 1.67MB PDF). "Singapore has always been able to capture value from the global flows of goods, people and capital. We hope that the Master Plan will better prepare Singapore to act boldly and decisively to capture the flow of ideas in the next phase of development of our globalised economy."

In order to achieve the three strategic outcomes identified in the Master Plan, Singapore will need to develop "skilled manpower resourced networked to the region and beyond" that can "effectively serve the international needs of companies" and develop "a conducive and progressive environment for IP activities", so as to create "a hive of IP activities" in the country, according to the Ministry.

It said that it would drive a number of initiatives in order to meet the objectives of the Master Plan.

Among the measures to be taken include the introduction of a new IP financing scheme in which the Singaporean Government will partially underwrite the value of patents businesses put forward as collateral when trying to raise capital.

"This new IP financing scheme will serve to encourage banks to recognise IP, in particular, patents, as a class of asset," Rosemary Lee, expert in technology, media and telecommunications law at Pinsent Masons MPillay, the Singapore joint law venture partner of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said.

"In Singapore’s economic development, manufacturing and R&D has always been focal points. These plans go towards fostering a favourable climate for innovation in Singapore and build on existing schemes, such as R&D tax incentives which encourage businesses to build competitive advantage through research and development activities," she said.

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) will also invest SIN$50 million (approximately £25m) to "build up patent search and examination (S&E) capabilities in technology areas of strategic importance to Singapore".

"This will draw companies to register IP in Singapore," according to the Ministry of Law. IPOS staff have been receiving training from the European and Japanese Patent Offices in this area, according to the Ministry.

IPOS is also to cooperate more closely with other national IP offices, whilst procedures are to be changed to enable judges in Singapore's courts "to build greater familiarity with IP cases" when they are filed.

"Singapore’s development as a global IP hub in Asia will create high value job opportunities for Singaporeans and generate benefits for the legal and IP service sectors, as well as IP owners," the Ministry of Law in Singapore said in a statement.

The benefits include increasing demand for IP services and legal advice, greater jobs opportunities for professionals in these areas and "greater availability of services and avenues for IP owners, such as our SMEs, to protect, manage and maximise value from their IP assets." it said.