More help for startups, SMEs and young innovators in managing intellectual property

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THE Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos) on Tuesday (Sep 6) announced initiatives to help innovators manage their intellectual property (IP) through free legal advice, patent drafting services, training and other resources.

An IP Start programme will help startups during the early stages of their business. The programme is offered through partner accelerators and incubators, and gives companies a 45-minute consultation on their intangible assets and IP, as well as access to a business course, an IP playbook, and special rates for training and advisory.

"Startups are hothouses for new ideas that could be brought to market, but may lack the expertise to identify and effectively exploit their innovations through IP," said Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong during an opening address at IP Week 2022, a global IP event held in Singapore.

IP Start is managed by Ipos' subsidiary Ipos International, which has advised over 200 companies on IP and intangible assets issues, according to the organisation's website.

The 12 accelerators and incubators in the programme's first phase include the Action Community for Entrepreneurship, Origgin Ventures and Quest Ventures.

Ipos' initiatives come as IP activity reached record highs both locally and globally, even in the midst of a pandemic. Ipos received a record number of patent and trademark filings last year, with patent applications growing almost 10 per cent and trademark applications increasing more than 10 per cent.

In Singapore, the net capital stock of intellectual assets increased 9.7 per cent per annum from 2009 to 2019, more than double that of physical assets. Globally, the number of international patent applications filed via the World Intellectual Property Organization (Wipo) Patent Cooperation Treaty grew to its highest level on record in 2021.

Ipos said it will help companies improve their knowledge of IP practices, including protecting trade secrets. A 2021 survey showed 98 per cent of businesses recognised that trade secrets were important for business growth, but only 45 per cent took steps to safeguard their trade secrets, mostly due to a lack of knowledge.

Ipos and other organisations have developed a guide on managing trade secrets, complete with case studies and a list of trade secrets tools available to enterprises.

To help youth in tertiary institutions secure patent protection, 5 volunteer patent attorneys from the Association of Singapore Patent Attorneys will be participating in the first phase of the Inventor Assistance Programme, a joint initiative by Ipos and Wipo.

The programme will start in Q4 this year and is expected to help young innovators bring their ideas to market.

Tong, who is also Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, said companies and entire economies feel the powerful effects of innovation, and IP is a versatile tool to facilitate that.

He pointed to a McKinsey study suggesting the top-growing companies in the world invest 2.6 times more in intangibles than low-growth companies, regardless of sector.

Between 1995 and 2020, countries that invested heavily in different types of intangibles, such as Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, were rewarded with above-average economic growth, Tong added.

Singapore last year announced the Singapore IP Strategy 2030, aimed at making the city-state a global node of technology and innovation through international initiatives and supporting local enterprises and the workforce.

Tong on Tuesday also highlighted the prospect of IP licensing for businesses. Globally, receipts for IP royalties and licensing fees amounted to US$444 billion in 2021, up from US$237 billion in 2010.

"The enormous scale of licensing activity reflects the extent to which innovation is being disseminated. These uses all go beyond the traditional idea that IP is simply about keeping others out," said Tong.

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