Singapore Seeks To Liberalise Patent Law In Bid To Become IP Hub

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Southeast Asia’s economic juggernaut Singapore will hold a public consultation on a proposal to liberalise its patent law in a bid to cement its position as the intellectual property (IP) hub in the region. [Updated with speech and fact sheet]

In a press release, Singapore’s Ministry of Law said the tiny island state could excel in global patent work, hosting services such as drafting and filing of patents for different jurisdictions.

“As mentioned by the Minister for Law during the recent Committee of Supply debate in Parliament on 6 March 2012, this is a window of opportunity to establish Singapore as an IP Hub to service the growth in demand for IP services, especially from the region,” it said.

The speech of Minister for Law, Mr. K Shanmugam, is available here. A fact sheet is available here.

The consultation period runs from 16 March to 12 April.

Under the proposed amendments to the law, Singapore will allow foreign-registered patent agents to undertake offshore patent agency work, even if they do not meet the local registration requirements such as completion of a graduate certificate in IP law, passing of four qualifying patent exams and an internship in a patent agency.

The link to the press release is here.

“Firms will be allowed to carry on a business of and undertake offshore patent agency work, as long as the firm has at least one partner or director who is a foreign-registered patent agent registered with IPOS [Intellectual Property Office of Singapore],” it added.

The change is aimed for global IP companies with a client base in Asia.

Currently, the number of Singapore-registered patent agents in practice stands at about 100. The ministry said patent filings in Singapore have increased by 20 per cent since 2001 to almost 10,000 in 2011.

Further, the proposal seeks to allow individuals who met the local registration requirements for patent agents to also use the title of “patent attorney” to conform with the current set-up in several established jurisdictions such as Europe and Australia.

Singapore is the only Southeast Asian signatory to the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the multinational treaty that seeks to establish international standards for IP rights enforcement.

It also is the site of the regional office of the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Maricel Estavillo, an intern at Intellectual Property Watch, is an LL.M. in Intellectual Property and Competition Law Candidate at the Munich Intellectual Property Law Center (MIPLC). A former business journalist in Manila, Philippines, she is currently working on research on copyright in digital media for her Master’s thesis.

Maricel Estavillo may be reached at maricelestavillo@gmail.com.

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