Keynote Speech by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, and Second Minister of Law Edwin Tong SC, at 145th International Trademark Association (INTA) Annual Meeting
17 May 2023 Posted in [Speeches]
Ms Jomarie Fredericks
President of INTA
Mr Etienne Sanz de Acedo
CEO of INTA
Mr Daren Tang
Director-General of WIPO
Our visitors from overseas
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Good afternoon and welcome to Singapore. Thank you very much for being here, taking time to be at INTA. I want to wish you, right at the start, a pleasant stay in Singapore. I hope you also find some time outside of the work that you do at INTA to see a little bit of Singapore, and taste a little bit of Singapore food.
2. I am very honoured and privileged to launch the 145th INTA Annual Meeting in Singapore, and also thrilled that we are able to host all of you and host this event in Singapore for the very first time.
3. First of all, to the over 8,000 participants that we have from 140 countries, let me just say – ”Welcome to Singapore, ladies and gentlemen, and to all Singaporeans and residents of Singapore, Welcome Home”. If you find this line familiar, yes, it is the Singapore Airlines’ landing announcement. Some of you would have heard that on your way into Singapore. But no, that line is not trademarked, because it does not meet the registration criteria.
4. But as you know, there are many other taglines, which are trademarked, and as a trademarked tagline, they form part of the brand – just like other trademarks, such as the brand name, or the logo.
5. Keeping in mind that I am speaking at an event where the main focus is obviously on trademarks, and the very intense programme that you will be having over the next two and a half days or so, I thought that in this speech I would do something a little bit different. I will weave in some of these taglines into my speech. These are taglines which form part of the brand, but may not necessarily have been trademarked in all their markets, due to different registration criteria in different jurisdictions, but I will use some of them anyway here. At the end of my speech, I will ask you how many of these you have recognised, and hopefully, you will therefore pay attention to me. You “gotta catch ‘em all!”
6. Today, I would like to speak on two areas:
(1) Trademark developments globally, and also specifically, in Asia. (2) And how Singapore is playing a part to support these developments.
Trademark Developments Globally and in Asia
7. First, trademark developments globally, and also in Asia.
8. Trademark, as the name suggests, is a mark used in trade to identify a specific product or a service.
9. It is therefore not surprising that trademark filings follow trade consumption activities. “Everywhere you want to be”, you file a trademark to protect yourself, and you “just do it”, because:
(1) You want to sell your products and services in those markets. (2) You want the right to able to use your mark uninhibited and protected. (3) You want to guard against counterfeit and fraud, which will of course damage your reputation.
10. So, as trade increases, particularly where we have a significant amount of cross border trade today, involving multinational companies in different jurisdictions, as our population grows, as income and purchasing power around the region and the world rise, as consumers become more discerning, trademark filings increase. “The ultimate driving machine” is the markets and the consumers.
11. You see this trend happen not just globally, but I think you see this trend happen specifically in Asia. Let me say a little bit about that.
(1) Globally, trademark filings grew for the 12th year running, with a whopping 18.1 million trademark classes filed in 2021, and that was in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. (2) Offices located in Asia accounted for almost 70% of the trademark filing activity that year. (3) And if you bear in mind, that just about a decade ago in 2011, these same offices accounted for about 45% – not even half. That has grown, significantly, to 70%. That tells me that not only are trademark filings growing in Asia, but the rate of growth is tremendous.
12. And I expect this trend to continue, in this part of the world. If you look at the other markers for example, foreign direct investments coming into this part of the world, has continued unabated despite COVID-19. In fact it has risen over the years. The head room for growth in both infrastructure projects and social development projects has been significant.
Emerging areas – Metaverse and Non-fungible Tokens
13. This also extends to trademarks related to the metaverse and non-fungible tokens (NFT), two very quickly emerging areas. Asia in particular, is emerging as a frontrunner.
(1) Earlier this year, the Nice Classification – the international classification system for trademark applications – was updated to address such new digital assets. (2) INTA has also published two white papers on “Trademarks in the Metaverse” and “Non-Fungible Tokens” in April 2023.
14. I think many of you out here, in the audience at this conference – being IP owners, practitioners, and advocates – would be very much aware of the value that trademarks, and IP in general, can bring to a firm. Indeed, when I say this, I am certainly preaching to the converted.
15. But let me just share the results from two interesting studies that IPOS has conducted, illustrating the value of branding and patents. First, looking at the pool of Singapore’s largest businesses – businesses with strong established track records, with brands or patent portfolios – they had almost doubled, and in some cases more than doubled, the revenue, the net profit, and the market capitalisation, compared to those without. So the difference is stark. Second, firms which own registered trademarks as part of their IP portfolio enjoy between 13% and 470% higher average profit before tax, compared to firms without registered IP. These findings underscore the importance of trademarks and IP, enabling firms indeed, to “go further”.
Singapore’s Efforts in Supporting Trademark Developments
16. You might ask what is Singapore’s role in this? After all, we are a small market, with a population of 5.5 million. 5.5 million is no more than about 0.1% of Asia’s population. If businesses file trademarks and IP in markets where their customers are, why would anyone want to do anything here in Singapore, with a small market?
17. To remain relevant, we have to “think different” and “think big”. For us, nothing is impossible, and of course, “impossible is nothing”.
Progress of the Singapore IP Strategy (SIPS)
18. For that, we have the Singapore IP Strategy (SIPS), launched in 2021, with the aspiration to position Singapore as a global hub for IP and also intangible assets (IA).
(1) Whilst we may ourselves not be the key market for businesses, we can still support them in their IP and their IA aspirations in other countries, including by contributing to the establishment of common international standards. For example, the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks, which aims to harmonise the administrative trademark registration procedures. (2) By developing a credible and trusted valuation standard, to support the raising of capital; providing the IP talent, the skillsets and the expertise to advise the firms on how to manage their IP; and also helping to resolve IP disputes, when they arise. We want to tell businesses that “you’re in good hands” if you come to Singapore.
19. To give you a few concrete examples of what we have done recently, or which we will be embarking on in our SIPS 2030 programme, let me share a few of these topline examples:
(1) First, we will launch the Intangibles Disclosure Framework later this year. It is something we have been working at very closely, co-developed with the industry, and which will enable businesses to disclose their own IP and IA, in a consistent and comparable manner. We want people to be speaking the same language when they speak about disclosures of IA and IP, so that they can understand each other, and there can be a commonality of standards across the board. This in turn, will support them in monetising their IA and their IP. (2) Second, the International Valuation Standards Council (IVSC) Asia Office and IPOS will launch a study on the importance of IA to the value of companies. The study looks to provide insights and actionable steps on how we can strengthen the valuation of IA. For example, it will look at how companies can monetise and extract value from IA, through a more consistent IA valuation practice, or guidance on valuing emerging types of IA. (3) Third, IPOS and WIPO Singapore Office will be launching the ASEAN Mediation Programme. From time to time, disputes in IP will arise. The Programme aims to help parties in ASEAN to resolve their technology and IP disputes in a more cost-effective manner, through the use of WIPO mediation services in Singapore. Mediation is something which Singapore has been deeply advocating, because it is a dispute resolution mechanism that can truly offer win-win solutions, and help to preserve hard-fought, hard-earned and longstanding relationships, which have been painstakingly built over many years. (4) Lastly, IPOS has collaborated with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, to put together a list of experts specialising in IP valuation. Parties can tap on these experts, to support the dispute resolution process, for example to act on the occasional case as expert witnesses.
20. So you can see from these and other measures, Singapore is constantly trying to keep ahead, to evolve, to try and track what the industry needs, so that we can constantly look at improving the quality of our services. After all, we have not much to offer as a small country, limited hinterland, limited natural resources, but the value proposition we constantly tell ourselves that we must live up to, is how do we remain relevant, and how do we provide service, and be of value to others. So, you can feel assured when you use Singapore’s IP offerings. After all, as they say, “quality never goes out of style.”
21. Now, back to the very important question, now that I have practically finished my speech, How many these taglines did you catch? Was it Lucky 7? Auspicious 8? Perfect 10? Or 14.5, because it is after all INTA’s 145th Annual Meeting?
22. I will put the answers up here and you can do your own tallying.
23. So there you are:
(1) “Gotta catch ‘em all!” – Pokemon. (2) “Everywhere you want to be” – Visa. (3) “Just do it” – Nike. (4) “The ultimate driving machine” – BMW. (5) “Go further” – Ford. (6) “Think different” – Apple. (7) “Think big” – Imax. (8) “Impossible is nothing” – Adidas. (9) “You’re in good hands” – Allstate Insurance Company. (10) “Quality never goes out of style.” – Levi’s.
24. So thank you very much, all of you, for humouring me, and for listening to my speech with these taglines. The real message that I want to give to all of you, is that we are so glad to be able to welcome all of you, guests from overseas, from different climates to Singapore. We have managed to turn down the temperature a little bit this week for you. We want to make you feel as welcome and as at home here as if you were at home. We want you to also be here, not just to listen to speeches, and to gain knowledge, but most importantly, to build networks. Because after all, through the use of IP, we can really push in the development of our own economies, and make a big difference to the progress of our own societies. It will be a gamechanger if we use IP correctly. As we rely on the thought leadership that all of you bring to the table, as we make these connections, and as we have these discussions and little exchanges at the exhibition booths, over coffee or over a meal, they will level up in our understanding, our know-how, and help us to understand each other across different jurisdictions, and indeed, across different cultures.
25. On that note, I wish all of you a very pleasant couple of days here. Please, if you can, make some time to stay and see Singapore, and sample a little bit of our local fare, and I hope that you will be back for more.
26. Thank you very much.
Last updated on 17 May 2023