Small enterprises should seek ways to protect intellectual property

With the calls for more innovation, higher productivity and international market development among Singapore enterprises, more importance and urgency should be given to protecting companies' intellectual property (IP).

IP protection involves measures to prevent (patent and/or trademark application), detect (investigation of possible infringement) and correct (legal action). Taking legal actions against patent infringement is costly, disruptive and time-consuming for a company.

Many technology enterprises start small and depend on their innovative products or unique creations to survive, prosper and expand.

Those targeting the world market face various challenges.

It may be difficult to enforce patents overseas, as copyright laws may be interpreted differently in countries that do not use English as a legal language. IP rights are also territorial and legal cases are often argued on different grounds.

Lawyers and judges may not have deep knowledge of how the technologies work. The IP laws may also be limited, and it may be difficult to put up a sufficiently substantive case against copyright infringement.

Small enterprises with limited resources may not be able to fend off legal challenges to their IP rights by large multinational corporations in many countries at the same time.

Hence, enterprises should seek to protect their IP in a number of ways.

A pre-emptive step is to partner large companies in key markets or to engage an international legal firm with an arsenal of IP firepower.

At the industry level, the enterprise could join a business association which has schemes in place for protecting its members' IP worldwide.

At the national level, the Government could provide legal aid through its agencies.

It is important to recognise IP protection as a real and present problem, and endeavour to find a solution to benefit Singapore enterprises.

Joachim Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2017, with the headline 'Small enterprises should seek ways to protect intellectual property'. Print Edition | Subscribe