Singapore has undergone a progressive advancement of its intellectual property systems. In 2019 we highlighted some examples of particular relevance to its patent system. From November 2015 to July 2020, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) was led by its Chief Executive, Daren Tang. It is therefore evident that responsibility for progress may well be attributed to his leadership. Indeed, perhaps one of the recent and most outstanding achievements was the establishment of a geographical indications registry which is administered by IPOS. The establishment of the registry arose out of the successful conclusion of the free trade agreement with the EU (EUSFTA) which commenced on 21 November 2019.

Director General of WIPO

WIPO had been led for two terms by an Australian, Francis Gurry, from 1 October 2008 to 10 October 2020. In a unanimous vote by the general assembly, Daren Tang was elected as the new director general for a six year term from 1 October 2020. Thus continuing a South East Asian focus on the world’s leading intellectual property body.

In recognising the achievements of Daren Tang, Loh Khum Yean, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Law and Public Service Division said, “We deeply appreciate Daren’s dedicated service and contributions to IPOS. Under his leadership we have seen Singapore’s IP ecosystem flourish and Singapore rise through the ranks to become the top in Asia for the best IP protection in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. We are confident that Daren will continue to do Singapore proud, and wish him continued success as he takes on the Director General position at WIPO.”

New Chief Executive Rena Lee

In a press release commenting on the appointment of Rena Lee as the new chief executive, Dr Stanley Lai, Chairman of the Board of Directors of IPOS, said “IPOS begins a new chapter of its journey with a change of CE. The Board thanks Daren for his years of dedicated service to the statutory board, and wishes him every success in his new endeavour which is due to commence shortly in the World Intellectual Property Organization. The Board warmly welcomes Rena as Daren’s successor, and we look forward to working with her to take IPOS into new levels of success in growing our robust IP infrastructure to undergird the proliferation of new innovations and solutions for Singapore over the next few years.” Rena Lee is a barrister specialising in international law. Such qualifications would seem to be ideal given the international nature of intellectual property rights.

Next steps

It is to be noted that the progression of Singapore’s IP systems continues. In August 2020, a public consultation was announced “Changes to Simplify Intellectual Property Processes and Improve User Experience with Digital Initiatives”. This consultation seeks input into a number of IP processes as well as the implementation of digital initiatives.

In the patent consultation, the processes are:

  • examiner-initiated informal communications
  • examination review
  • publication of translation of national phase applications.

In the trade mark consultation, the processes are:

  • partial refusal of national applications
  • series of trade marks.

In the general consultation, the processes are:

  • reinstatement of trade mark and registered design applications
  • amendments, corrections, rectifications of registers
  • application for registration of transactions for IP rights.

Digital initiatives:

  • use of artificial intelligence technologies in decision making.

The full details are available here.

Conclusion

It is to be expected that under the new leadership by Rena Lee, IPOS will continue to further develop with the objective of becoming an IP Asian hub. We look forward to seeing the future direction that IPOS takes.