New search function to help firms decide on brand names among new IP resources to help companies

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong speaking at the opening of IP Week @ SG at Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Aug 24, 2021. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - More intellectual property (IP) resources to help enterprises grow their business amid the Covid-19 pandemic were announced by the Government on Tuesday (Aug 24).

They include a new search feature companies can use to check if a brand name is available, and plans for firms to access a wider pool of legal experts to advise them.

The new Brand Search function on the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore's Ipos Go mobile app will allow new business owners to do a quick search for business names, trade marks, available domain names, and social media usernames already in use before deciding on a suitable name for their brand.

More legal expertise on IP matters will be available to companies too.

The pool of IP law firms and consultancies that companies can tap during the weekly legal clinics run by Ipos will also be expanded from September.

To improve IP dispute resolution proceedings in Singapore, Ipos has also compiled a list of Singapore-based IP expert witnesses who can assist in court proceedings or arbitrations relating to IP and technology disputes.

The list currently comprises 16 expert witnesses from various industry sectors, including engineering, healthcare, manufacturing, infocomm technology and pharmaceuticals.

Another new resource announced is a Mentoring IP Leaders programme to grow the country's IP talent pool, made possible through a partnership between the office and the Singapore Management University's Yong Pung How School of Law.

Under the programme, third- and final-year law students will be mentored by participating law firms during Ipos' IP legal clinics.

A training grant of $5,000 each for up to 30 Singaporeans to build their IP capabilities and skills, called the SkillsFuture Study Award for IP, will also be extended for a third run and is now open for applications. The award was first launched in 2017.

Announcing the initiatives at the launch of the annual IP Week at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong said the resources are intended to help enterprises maximise the value of their intangible assets and IP.

"We hope that these initiatives will provide continued growth opportunities for Singaporean enterprises and IP professionals and, in turn, strengthen Singapore's position as a global intangible assets and IP hub," said Mr Tong, who is also Minister for Culture, Community and Youth.

"This has also taken on added importance as enterprises position themselves to emerge stronger from the Covid-19 pandemic," he added.

More legal expertise on IP matters will be available to companies too. PHOTO; IPOS

Mr Tong pointed to how IP and intangible assets are the engines of an increasingly innovation-driven global economy.

For instance, in 1975, intangible assets made up just 14 per cent of total assets in the Standard and Poor's 500, a stock market index that tracks how well 500 large firms listed in United States stock exchanges fare.

By 2020, the figure hit a historic high of 90 per cent, representing more than US$21 trillion (S$28.5 trillion) in value.

The initiatives announced are also timely, said IP experts.

Ms Catherine Lee, a senior partner in law firm Dentons Rodyk's intellectual property and technology practice, said that even as companies deal with the challenges the Covid-19 pandemic brings, they should not forget the value of their IP, and may want to think about how they can monetise it, or otherwise use it, to explore new ways to develop their business.

The new initiatives can help companies with this, as well as offer training if needed, said Ms Lee.

"Hopefully, with more awareness, companies - and even individuals - will know what to do, and as a first step at least protect whatever IP they might generate," she said.

Dr He Cairan, a senior manager in NUS Enterprise's Industry Liaison Office, said that schemes like the SkillsFuture award will definitely help founders of start-ups that are supported by the National University of Singapore's entrepreneurial arm, as well as complement related programmes it runs.

Noting that IP has a significant impact on a high tech company's valuation, Dr He said: "It's critical for the founders or entrepreneurs to realise, understand and appreciate the importance of IP, and how it benefits the company and maximises the firm's value."

IP Awards

On Tuesday, companies were also recognised at the World Intellectual Property Organization (Wipo)-IPOS IP For Innovation Awards during IP Week.

They were honoured for their outstanding innovations and IP management strategies that have helped them grow.

The awards consider factors such as the strength of an organisation's intangible asset and IP portfolio, its business strategy to leverage the portfolio including commercialisation efforts, and the impact on stakeholders and industry, as well as society.

Singapore molecular diagnostics firm INEX Innovate won two awards. It holds 48 patents and 12 trademarks for women's and foetal health diagnostics. These innovations help with the diagnosis of ovarian and breast cancers, as well as foetal genetic conditions.

The IPs INEX owns have been developed in Singapore, including innovations co-developed with NUS and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

The diagnostics tests are offered here as well as in the region, including in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh and India.

Another winner was Mycotech, an Indonesia-based firm with a Singapore office.

The firm has three patents relating to the development of leather made from mushrooms - specifically the mycelium of the fungi - that is used as material in the fashion industry.

The patents are owned by the Singapore office and the research was done here as well.

Aside from having a smaller carbon footprint, the mycelium leather technology is said to have the potential to cut 70 per cent of water used and 90 per cent of the toxic waste that arises from the production of animal leather.

Lenovo Singapore won an award as well during IP Week. The office here is one of Lenovo's global hubs for managing and commercialising IP assets, including patents and trademarks.

For instance, the IP for Lenovo's 5G products is managed through Singapore.

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