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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Singapore's plan to be the regional IP centre in Asia


What is Singapore up to with the consultation paper issued in mid March to open up it's patent attorney profession? Singapore moved from a re-registration system to a full patent system in 1995. Since then it's been an upward trend for patent attorneys and patent holders alike as numbers of local and international patent filings had been steadily increasing and a technically proficient patent agency profession has grown up.

Now Singapore proposes to regulate offshore patent filing by foreign registered patent agents. In truth foreign registered patent agents who may or may not practice offshore probably should probably not be 'regulated' since activities performed in Singapore relating to another legal jurisdiction should surely be irrelevant to Sinagpore? In Hong Kong for example many US patent attorneys file directly in the US, provided they comply with the basic requirements for having a qualification and an address for US service.

Singapore now seeks  to regulate that to attract more international patent firms.  It is part of a wider plan for Singapore to become a professional hub for IP in Asia, grabbing a slice of the pie that was for many years eaten by default in Hong Kong. This pie is now more like crumbling pastry, as mainland China IP work and IP jobs leave Hong Kong for the PRC. Hong Kong has an urgent need to revinvent itself, IP wise. Arguably this is happening with the government issuing a consultation paper on a full patent system, and two groups quibbling over the establishment of a patent professional qualification. But they are over a decade behind Singapore which now far outpaces HK in patent production. 

IP Komodo observes a trend for MNCs to split legal functions in the emerging Asian markets (excluding Japan that is), between the PRC and Singapore. In the past they might have one regional IP lawyer or even team in Hong Kong. Singapore's IP Academy quite separate from its IP office, IPOS, seeks to promote IP leadership in the city. Now the government has embraced IP through policies to attract more IP functions to create a  regional centre of IP excellence for Asia in Singapore. 

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