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Singapore is currently in the middle of its first ever IP week: a series of events that today saw the inaugural Intellectual Property Management for C-suite Seminar take place at Sentosa Island Resort. One of the speakers at the event was Francis Gurry, director general of WIPO. IAM managed to grab a few minutes with him to hear his thoughts on IP developments in the region.
Acknowledging the work that the Singaporean government has done to boost the business of IP, he explained that WIPO is planning to increase its presence here. “Our office in Singapore is in the process of strengthening,” he said. “We have a new director and another member of staff will be starting in October, which will make four professionals in the office. We want it to be active, not just in Singapore, but for the whole ASEAN region. ASEAN has an ambitious IP policy, and we want to support that.” So why Singapore? Gurry explains that WIPO already had an office here, which made it an obvious choice, but he also cited its infrastructure, centrality and commitment to IP as attractive qualities.
Singapore has ambitious plans to become the IP hub of the region, and has been taking concrete steps to making that a reality. It recently altered the law to allow foreign patent agents to practice off-shore work and to also to change patent registration to a ‘positive grant’ system. Further strengthening of Singapore’s IP infrastructure came with the establishment of WIPO’s arbitration and mediation centre here in 2010 – the organisation’s only such centre outside of Geneva. While Gurry says that mediation can never be a complete substitute for other means of dispute resolution including litigation, it does offer a lot of advantages in IP. “Firstly, it’s quick,” Gurry said. “In IP it’s important not to freeze the asset. A second reason is that it covers more than one jurisdiction, so mediation can be more efficient. And thirdly, it allows for a continuing business relationship between the parties involved.” While there is no shortage of IP litigation taking place across the region, it is often said that Asian businesses prefer to avoid court cases (and the resulting publicity) as much as possible. “Generally speaking, Asian companies are more inclined to try to find consensual solutions by agreement rather than conflict,” Gurry said. “For example the cross-examination that you find in Anglo-Saxon courts can be quite aggressive, and this is detested by Japanese companies.”
During his speech at the seminar Gurry remarked on “a greatly enhanced conscience of the value of innovation was one remarkable increase in the importance of innovation”, as evidenced by a huge leap in the number of books and business press reports focusing on the topic. The second trend he noted was the shifting of the geography of innovation towards Asia: Singapore’s ongoing efforts to create an IP-friendly environment put it in a good position to capitalise on this trend.
IP Week continues tomorrow with the 10th annual Europe Asia Patent Information Conference.
IP politics, IP business