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5 Intellectual Property Initiatives Businesses Should Tap in Singapore

23 Apr 2021

This article was first published by the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) here. EDB, a government agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, is responsible for strategies that enhance Singapore’s position as a global centre for business, innovation, and talent.

Withers KhattarWong partner Jonathan Kok and business patent executive Eileen Ng highlight the benefits of IP for businesses and shortlist 5 initiatives in Singapore to accelerate the patenting process.


As digitalisation and innovation increasingly become the new normal, more businesses will want to maintain a digital edge and Intellectual Property (IP) protection is key. IP protects more than just an idea or invention – it secures intangible assets, enables businesses to stay competitive, and nurtures a safe environment for innovation to thrive.

According to Brand Finance, intangible assets value hit an all-time high of US$65.7 trillion in 2020. This reflects a worldwide trend where enterprise value is increasingly found in intangible assets, including IP. Therefore, it is crucial that such assets are adequately protected, managed, and used to drive business growth. Only through the protection and strategic management of IP can businesses and individuals fully reap the benefits of their innovation and embrace research and development (R&D).

Organisations are also paying attention to the laws put in place to protect IP rights in different countries. These laws are notably stronger in countries like Singapore, which are focused on innovation-driven economic growth. Singapore reviews its IP laws regularly to ensure that they remain technologically relevant.

The city-state has been recognised globally for its robust IP regime in protecting intellectual assets:

  • 1st in Asia and 2nd globally for IP protection
    (World Economic Forum's 2019 Global Competitiveness Report)
  • 1st in Asia and 8th globally for innovation performance
    (WIPO, Cornell University and INSEAD's 2020 Global Innovation Index)

As part of the move to enhance Singapore's standing as an IP hub in Asia, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) has in recent years introduced a slew of programmes to accelerate the patenting process.


Below are five shortlisted initiatives for businesses to take note of:

1. SG IP Fast Track Programme

Many inventions conceived as part of the global COVID-19 response are in a race to meet pressing market needs. Consequently, an expedited grant may be critical for businesses to secure funding in the current challenging global economic landscape.

The SG IP Fast Track programme (SG IP Fast) is a pilot scheme introduced last May amid the pandemic that speeds up grants of patent applications across technology fields. Under SG IP Fast, it is now possible for companies to obtain a grant of a Singapore patent in all technology fields within six months from filing.

For businesses seeking to obtain related IP rights for their portfolio, the programme also includes the acceleration of related trademark and design applications. Under this expanded initiative, successful applications of trademark can be granted in as fast as three months, while the timelines for registered design applications can be shortened to one month.

Applicable to all technology fields, the accelerated timelines will benefit businesses operating in key emerging technology spaces and those that develop products or solutions with short product life cycles or lead times to market.

2. IPOS Go

In 2019, IPOS launched IPOS Go, the world’s first app for trademark applications, bringing the convenience of IP registration to a mobile app. Businesses can do a quick search for similar trademarks that are already registered and use it for IP renewals. An enhanced feature to search similar business names, domain names and social media account names will be launched in the next few months.

After obtaining a patent grant in Singapore, companies can tap the following programmes to process their patents internationally or regionally.

    3. Patent Prosecution Highway

    Proprietors can benefit from the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) programme, whereby the examination results from IPOS can be used to accelerate the inspection of corresponding foreign applications. In addition to bilateral PPH programmes with partners such as China, Mexico, Brazil, and the European Patent Office, IPOS is also a participating office of the Global PPH (GPPH) pilot programme. This allows applicants to obtain corresponding patents faster and more efficiently.

    4. ASEAN Patent Examination Co-operation

    The ASEAN Patent Examination Co-operation (ASPEC) expedites the patent application process by sharing search and examination results between nine participating offices in Southeast Asia including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Through this programme, applicants in ASEAN can obtain patents faster and more efficiently if they seek protection in more than one participating ASEAN member state and reduce duplication on the search and examination work in the second ASEAN IP Office of application.

    5. Re-Registration of SG Patents in Cambodia and Laos

    IPOS has established cooperation with Cambodia and Laos to support companies seeking to re-register their granted Singapore patents in the two countries. This is a substantial benefit to owners of Singapore patents as they will be able to apportion the prosecution costs in Singapore over Cambodia and Laos, while also enjoying time savings.

    Jonathan Kok is a partner in the intellectual property and technology team at Withers KhattarWong. He has been engaged by international media and tech companies to represent them on complex licensing and IP acquisition transactions involving parties in different jurisdictions. Jonathan is a member of Withers tech, which comprises a team of highly-experienced lawyers with expertise in the investment funds, tax structuring, investments in tech companies, mergers and acquisitions of tech companies or technology assets, and commercialisation of digital assets.

    Eileen Ng is a patent executive in the intellectual property team at Withers KhattarWong. She handles patent work encompassing drafting and prosecuting patent applications for a wide range of clients across an array of industries. She has experience working with startups to build and manage their patent portfolios to achieve their target objectives. Eileen also assists various clients in formulating patent strategies, strategically managing their patent portfolios and securing multi-jurisdictional protection.

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