Turning Today’s Ideas Into Tomorrow’s Assets

Experts from the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore help innovative enterprises use intangible assets to grow.
Gain a competitive edge with innovative ideas from Mr Dixon Soh and Ms Trina Ha from the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore.
Mr Dixon Soh and Ms Trina Ha from the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore help enterprises bring innovative ideas to market and gain a competitive edge.

A smart wearable technology. A special mix of ingredients that go into an anti-itch cream for eczema. A specialised programme teaching kids to read.

These are the sort of unique ideas, inventions and innovations that will drive Singapore’s future economy.

For public agencies, this might come from R&D grants, or collaborative research with other agencies or enterprises.

These innovations contain “intellectual property” or “IP”, i.e., creations that are protected by law, such as trademarks, patents, trade secrets and copyright. In order to capture value from these innovations, such IP must be properly protected and managed to derive commercial value and allow enterprises to gain a competitive edge in the market.

Further, anyone who tries to steal the ideas or copy them without permission would be liable for IP infringement and may face legal action.

Enter the IP Strategists from the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS).

Bringing Ideas to Market

Mr Dixon Soh, Deputy Director, IP Strategy Solutions, says: “My team’s main aspiration is to produce strategies and solutions to assist enterprises, in particular Singapore enterprises, to use intangible assets and intellectual property to scale and grow.”

Boasting Singapore’s largest community of IP experts with technical, legal and business expertise, IPOS not only helps private individuals and enterprises, but is very much involved in advising public agencies on strategic management of IP arising from publicly-funded R&D.

In fact, a special IP Management (Government) team was set up in August 2017 to render such advice and assistance to public agencies.

IPOS not only helps private individuals and enterprises, but is very much involved in advising public agencies on strategic management of IP arising from publicly-funded R&D.

In addition, a National IP Protocol was unveiled in April 2018, which gives public agencies a standard and streamlined approach to managing the IP that emerges from publicly-funded R&D projects.

“We want to help public agencies extract value from publicly-funded R&D by facilitating the commercialisation efforts of enterprises to bring their innovations to market. This will go towards developing local industry and expertise, as well as enhance Singapore’s competitiveness,” says Ms Trina Ha, Director of the IPOS Legal Department and who established the IP Management (Government) team.

Their efforts also help agencies to minimise potential pitfalls from poor management of IP. For instance, others might accuse a public agency of stealing an idea or infringing IP. They might sue, the agency’s reputation and Singapore’s standing could be affected, and the idea or technology could no longer be used.

Types of Risk for IP Management

IP infringement may result in legal proceedings.

  • Legal: Claims of IP infringement that may result in legal proceedings against the agency

IP infringement could impact domestic and international standing as a public body.

  • Reputational: Impact on an agency’s domestic and international standing as a public body if it faces claims of IP infringement

IP infringement could yield non-compliance with Government IMs

  • Regulatory:Non-compliance with Government IMs and related guidelines

IP infringement could affect the operations and/or statutory functions of your assets.

  • Operational: Inability to use assets affected by claims of IP infringement for its operations and/or statutory functions

Public Service Successes

Since 2017, the IPOS team has worked on about 50 public agency IP management projects.

These could be straightforward projects that take a few days or weeks, like determining who owns the IP rights in a collaboration, or more complex projects that require several months to come up with comprehensive IP management policies and processes.

For instance, JTC Corporation pioneers cutting-edge industrial infrastructure solutions, which generates new technologies.

Through surveys, interviews and focus group discussions, the IP Strategists worked with JTC to develop an IP management policy, which gives officers guidance and tools to aid efforts of the industry to potentially monetise these solutions.

They also advised the Civil Service College (CSC) on how to manage IP rights in the digital space.

The CSC had created a LEARN app as a one-stop digital learning platform for public officers in Singapore, but needed help on clearing rights to digitise existing content, and securing the necessary rights to host new content.

Said Trina: “Our IP strategists not only provided the CSC with guidance but developed a set of operational processes and checklists to enable CSC officers to deal with the many IP issues in building a repository of digital content for the LEARN app.”

An interesting and challenging project she worked on was conducting technology scans for six different public agencies in late 2018.

This included the study of 3-D printing in building and construction with the Ministry of National Development, autonomous vehicles with the Land Transport Authority and cloud security with the Government Technology Agency.

For each scan, which has been made publicly available, the team dived into searching and analysing all the patent applications filed globally for specific tech areas in each sector, to identify potential opportunities for Singapore.

They found, for instance, that when it comes to inventions relating to self-driving or autonomous vehicles, China led the pack with more than 45% of the world total between 2009 and 2018. There were around 20 inventions contributed by Singapore local applicants.

They also gave recommendations on how Singapore is in a good position to develop communication technologies which enable the vehicle to “talk” to its surroundings.

Said Trina: “It was an extremely interesting project as we got to explore and learn about new areas for research in different industries, as well as get to know the work of our fellow agencies better.”

Holistic Perspective

Clearly, IPOS does not just provide advice on IP laws.

“One main misconception is that IP strategy is by and large legal work,” says Dixon. “It is definitely not. A successful IP strategist needs to look at a situation in a holistic manner.”

The multi-disciplinary team comprises people who have legal, finance, business, technology and research skills.

He adds: “This allows us to have a wide range of perspectives when we approach our work. A good IP Strategist needs to understand the client’s exact needs and be able to deliver solutions that are both pragmatic and economical.”

To learn more about IP management, or get in touch with IP Strategists, please visit the IPOS website.
    Jun 26, 2020
    Wong Sher Maine
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