The team is joined by Guest Kats Rosie Burbidge, Stephen Jones, Mathilde Pavis, and Eibhlin Vardy, and by InternKats Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo, Hayleigh Bosher, Tian Lu and Cecilia Sbrolli.

Friday, 8 September 2017

6th Global Forum on Intellectual Property: Ideas to Assets (part 1)


What has become a premier event in the IP firmament in Asia, Singapore’s IP Week @ SG, recently took place for the 6th time. Organized (not just “organized" but, as one participant was heard to say: “the best organized IP conference anywhere”) by the Intellectual Property of Singapore, IP Academy, IPOS-International and IP ValueLab, 3,000 participants took part in various programs, highlighted by the two-day Global Forum on Intellectual Property: Ideas to Assets” on August 29th and 30th. As this Kat will further describe, against the overarching focus of the conference, taking IP from idea to valuable asset to profits, several themes caught his attention: the diversity of roles played by various national IP offices, the increased recognition of trade secret protection, and the continuing uncertainty expressed by judges, practitioners and academics alike about how IP law should respond to relentless technological change.

The conference began with the Opening Address by Mr. K. Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Law, Singapore. He described the factors that support Singapore’s aspiration to become the IP Hub of Asia, devoting particular attention to three of them: (1) the place of the rule of law (the country is ranked 4th world-wide in IP protection); (2) the talent base available; and (3) the network that has developed between innovative entrepreneurs, investors and support services. The program then turned to a panel discussion by the director generals of five patent and trademark offices, from countries each at different stage of national development--Cambodia, Singapore, Israel, Turkey and Japan. First up was Dr. Cham Prasidh, Cambodian Senior Minister of Industry and Handicraft, who described the efforts to encourage IP in Cambodia and the mutual relationships (what he called a “two-in-one-package”) that have been established with Singapore and Japan for patent protection in Cambodia.

Mr. Daren Tang, the Chief Executive Officer of IPOS, described the current situation in Singapore. He characterized the role of IPOS as a “living organism” (in the words of author and consultant Suzanne Harrison), underscoring his view of the dynamic role that needs to be played by a national IP office in facilitating the innovation cycle from idea to the ultimate goal of IP, the creation of assets that generate profits. Mr. Tang referred to the recent establishment of a one billion dollar fund and the importance of viewing such investments in terms of “patient capital” [a term that Merpel imagines one would not have heard in the corridors of a national IP office a decade or two ago]. Innovation is global, he emphasized, and Singapore was seeking to play a notable role at the regional (and even international) levels.

Next up was Mr. Ofir Alon, who became the Executive Director of the IP Office of Israel in May of this year. In light of Israel’s reputation as “Start-Up Nation”, Mr. Alon described a less expansive role for the IP Office of Israel from the “idea to asset to profit cycle’ that is front and center in Singapore. Indeed, there is a separate Innovation Authority in Israel. For its part, the Israel IP Office seeks to assist Israeli entrepreneurs by such measures as providing for “accelerated patent examination”. Israel’s major challenge is that its best R&D tends to be sold to foreign concerns at a relatively early stage, rather than provide the foundation for the creation of Israel-based companies with long-term regional and international reach. From Israel, the panel then turned to Turkey and Professor Dr. Habip Asan, the President of the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office. Professor Asan recounted the flurry of recent legislation in Turkey, with the goal of supporting IP innovation and ultimate commercialization. Of particular interest are new laws, in addition to changes in the IP laws themselves, that have been promulgated in Turkey to support R&D incentives, tax incentives, and IP as commercial assets, reaching to financing and, it would seem, even IP valuation.

The final speaker on the panel was Mr. Kunihiko Shimano, Deputy Commissioner of the Japan Patent Office. Perhaps reflecting the place of Japan in the IP world, Mr. Shimano emphasized the role of IP at the international level. In particular, he spoke of “energizing IP harmonization” as a central means to enable IP to facilitate sustainable economy activity at the world-wide level. He also discussed the importance of doing a better job to support SME’s as part of this process. Despite Mr. Shimano’s call for further IP harmonization, this Kat’s overall impression from this session was the extent to which each of these national offices is fashioning its activities to reflect its own national concerns and interests. Query whether we will continue to be witness to divergence in the focus and activities of national IP offices.

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