Speech by SMS A/P Ho Peng Kee during Committee of Supply Debate, 1 Mar 2006
1 Mar 2006 Posted in Parliamentary speeches and responses
Growth in IP Industry in Singapore
- Mr Chairman, Sir, I am pleased to inform Mr Khalis that the IP industry in Singapore has grown tremendously over the past few years in tangible ways. For example, more IP-intensive firms, such as Lucasfilm and Dell, are choosing to locate their operations here. Also, many MNCs have chosen Singapore as a base to manage and license their IP in the region.
Benefits of a Robust IP Regime
- Mr Khalis asked how Singaporeans have benefited from our robust IP regime, Sir, this regime is a key factor in drawing IP-intensive companies to Singapore. These knowledge-based companies provide a boost to our economy and also create value-added jobs for Singaporeans. Our sound IP regime creates a conducive environment for nurturing home grown innovations and creative activities. In addition, our copyright regime has helped protect the livelihood of home grown creative talents such as filmmakers, Jack Neo and Eric Khoo.
- Sir, on the patent front, patent applications filed by Singapore-based entities in the US, a major market, nearly doubled from 460 in 1999 to 880 in the year 2004. In addition, the number of local filings here in Singapore by Singapore entities rose from 523 in the year 2001 to 641 in 2004. Also the number of registered patent agents has grown from 69 in 2002 to 99 today. Therefore inventors who want to file their patents are not facing hurdles such as exorbitant costs. And in any case, there are funds such as the EDB-administered Patent Application Fund which inventors who need help can turn to.
Growth of IP Service Sector
- Sir, as to what more can be done to encourage practising lawyers and other professionals to include IP in their practices, I think the key driver must be demand for IP services. So in fact, the growth of IP-intensive industries in Singapore and increasing IP awareness of local firms have spurred the growth of our IP service sector. But beyond IP legal services, new IP consultancies and specialist boutique firms have emerged to offer services such as IP commercialisation, brand management and IP intelligence as a strategic business tool. The IP Academy plays its part by organising key events such as courses, also research projects and joint events with key partners, both here and overseas.
- Going forward, the demand for IP services here is expected to rise as we double our total R&D expenditure over the next five years. In fact, in a 2005 IPOS survey, 7 out of 10 IP service providers were optimistic that the IP industry will continue to grow.
- The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore or IPOS, will build up higher value-added specialist IP expertise such as patent agency services. There are also other financial support schemes to help companies defray the costs of IP manpower development. So for example, another EDB scheme called INTECH has supported 62 professionals in the last 3 years to undergo training in patent drafting and IP licensing.
- Sir, as Singapore companies internationalise, our IP service providers would need to be savvy about foreign IP regimes. IPOS will facilitate this by continuing to organise conferences with major IP offices, such as the upcoming conference on China’s IP regime with the State IP Office of China, and also the establishment of a WIPO office in Singapore last year, which is the first outside the US and Europe, will further create opportunities for knowledge networking among local and overseas IP experts.
Significance of Hosting the WIPO DC
- Mr Chairman, Sir, the WIPO Diplomatic Conference that Singapore will host, I think Mr Khalis mentioned that, in March this year over about 19 days, is significant for us because it will be the first IP diplomatic conference to be held in Asia. More importantly, it signals Singapore’s commitment to contributing to the development of an international IP framework. This Conference will provide a platform for knowledge exchange amongst several hundred IP experts from 183 countries to finalise revisions to the 1994 Trademark Law Treaty, which are expected to result in cheaper and more efficient trademark registration procedures for businesses globally.
- In summary, Sir, we have made good progress in creating a conducive environment for IP creation, protection and commercialisation. Going forward, we will ensure that our IP regime remains dynamic and forward looking in support of our innovation-driven economy. We will also step up efforts to foster greater IP awareness amongst our businesses and facilitate IP manpower capability development. Finally, we will continue to raise Singapore’s profile in the international IP arena to increase our attractiveness as a place for IP-intensive activities. Sir, this summarises our approach which has worked well and we will press on.
Electronic Record Keeping
- Now let me move on to Mr Magad’s cut on Electronic Record-Keeping. At the outset, I agree with the Member that businesses that keep their records and documents electronically can enhance their efficiency and reduce their business costs.
- A good example is NTUC which last year converted 40 million pages of document into electronic images, a move that will reportedly save NTUC about $10 million a year when fully implemented. This conversion which was done under a certified process in compliance with the Evidence Act, has paved the way for NTUC to redesign its work processes and to achieve greater efficiency and productivity.
- Sir, the Evidence Act provides a legal framework where electronic documents produced under a process which has been approved by a certifying authority will be admissible as evidence in court. To ensure that the integrity of the process is maintained, the process has to be certified once every year for the first 3 years and thereafter once every 2 years. As Mr Magad rightly points out, a proper legal framework, including audit requirements, is required to facilitate certainty in compliance. This is provided for under the Evidence Act.
- There are also other legal and commercial considerations that businesses will have to bear in mind. One such consideration is the Electronic Transactions Act or ETA which may apply to documents required by law to be retained for a certain period. The ETA allows certain records to be retained in electronic form provided certain conditions are satisfied. One condition is that the consent of the relevant Government agency must be obtained.
- Sir, I am happy to inform Mr Magad that the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, which oversees the Act, is reviewing it. One proposal being considered is to remove the need to obtain the consent of the relevant government agency, unless the agency expressly makes known that an electronic record cannot meet its purposes. So it’s a default approach, you do it unless they make it known that it cannot be done. As in the case of the Evidence Act, this move will promote certainty and streamline the process of compliance.
Last updated on 23 Nov 2012