Rapid digital transformation, as well as forthcoming innovation of the digital economy, has brought new challenges and opportunities for businesses, legislators, and consumers in the Intellectual Property (IP) sector. Intellectual property, broadly defined, refers to “products of original human thought.”1 The growing popularity of virtual assets, online marketplaces, general online platforms, and artificial intelligence has raised a number of salient considerations in the IP realm. This particular section will consider this broad issue from two perspectives. With the contribution of the SEA IP SME Helpdesk, the below section examines the top issues to do with IP and the digital economy in Singapore, as well as solutions from the Government to address IP-related challenges.
THE ROLE OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY (IP) IN THE DIGITAL ECONOMY IN SINGAPORE
The EUSDP marked a milestone in digital cooperation.2 The development of the digital economy with new forms of technological trends continues to create challenges for legislators and consumers. IP protection is a crucial driver of economic growth and industry transformation in the global market, particularly in Singapore. Within this context, EU enterprises need to be aware of the main IP issues and given the necessary tools to manage their IP effectively to maximise their economic upswing in Singapore.
TOP IP ISSUES IN THE DIGITAL ECONOMY IN SINGAPORE
IP AND DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
The integration of digital technology in business activities not only affects the companies’ inherent business model but also changes the ways of approaching customers when providing services/goods. To thrive in the digital economy, companies should prioritise online experienc- es. This may generate some IP issues: a new software or technology implies a licensing strategy and the need to synthesise an IP protection strategy as one’s IP rights (trademark, patent, copyright, and trade secret) will be vulnerable in an unknown environment (ownership of virtual assets, online enforcement, etc).3
IP AND ONLINE PLATFORMS
IP infringement and data theft are now widespread across online platforms which serve as a prominent environment for the digital economy. This raises obligations to regulate data use, storage, and security, along with a necessity to implement cybersecurity measures.4 On an online platform, you may not only suffer from IP infringement but you could also be held liable for letting infringers take advantage of your platform to violate third-party’s IP rights – notably, trademark and copyright on music and/or e-commerce platforms.
IP AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)
AI evolution contributes significantly to economic development; however, it raises several IP issues. A concern emerges with copyright own- ership for AI-generated content/work. For instance, Singapore requires the existence of one or more human authors in the creation process for the work to be eligible for copyright protection.5 Furthermore, by using AI systems trained on large datasets (including trade secrets), many companies may face the risk of losing their valuable business information. Companies may also commit or be victims of copyright and patent infringement. When using open-source software (OSS), risks may arise when a licensed OSS is used outside the scope of permission granted under the OSS licence terms.6
A new digital era comes with new potential threats; therefore, IP owners should constantly adapt by increasing IP protection, monitoring new forms of infringement, and handling cross-border enforcement issues as well as data theft/leaking. Fortunately, business adaptation is now greatly facilitated by Singapore’s IP initiatives.
PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS FROM THE GOVERNMENT OF SINGAPORE
Singapore is considered a global and regional IP hub with a strong IP regime and well-developed IP infrastructure presenting practical solutions. This environment makes it an attractive destination for businesses that wish to protect their digital innovations. In 2021, the IP office of Singapore (IPOS) published the Singapore IP Strategy (SIPS) 2030, confirming its IA/IP-driven vision to support businesses.
IPOS MOBILE GO
This world’s first mobile app for trademark registration has served as an efficient platform to file trademark applications directly and quickly. This process is very efficient, only taking approx. 10 minutes overall. Via this app, IP owners may also file IP renewals (trademarks, patents, designs) and conduct IP searches to detect prior rights.
To reduce a usually lengthy and expensive procedure for patent protection, Singapore is a party to certain ‘Acceleration Programs’ that EU enterprises may utilise, such as the PCT-Patent Prosecution Highway and the ASEAN Patent Examination Cooperation (ASPEC).7 Through these programs, the patent examination results from members’ IP offices can be used as a reference in the examination process. The national acceleration program SG IP Fast Track may also help expedite patent, trademark, and design grant processes.8
IP AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE INFORMATION NOTE
In support of the objective and implementation of the Singapore National AI Strategy (NAIS), the IPOS released a note focusing on key IP issues and different IP rights protections related to AI. The note also lists national incentives for AI innovators.9
1.“Intellectual Property,” Cornell Law School, June 2023, https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/intellectual_property.
2.Johannes Bahrke et al., “Joint Statement on the EU-Singapore Digital Partnership,” European Commission, December 14, 2022, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_22_7743.
3.Anne-Marie Allgrove, “International: Top 5 IP and Data and Technology Issues in a Digital Economy,” Baker McKenzie, accessed July 25, 2023, https://insightplus.bakermckenzie.com/bm/intellectual-property/international-top-5-ip-and-data-and-technology-issues-in-a-digital-economy.
5.Pin-Ping Oh, “Copyright Protection for AI-Generated Works in Singapore,” Bird & Bird, August 1, 2022, https://www.twobirds.com/en/insights/2022/singapore/copyright-protection-for-ai-generated-works-in-singapore.
6.“IP and Artificial Intelligence Note” (Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, n.d.), https://www.ipos.gov.sg/docs/default-source/default-document-library/ip-and-ai-info-note.pdf.
7.“PCT-Patent Prosecution Highway Program (PCT-PPH and Global PPH),” WIPO, January 19, 2023, https://www.wipo.int/pct/en/filing/pct_pph.html; “What Is ASPEC,” ASEAN Intellectual Property Portal, accessed July 25, 2023.
8.Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, “Acceleration Programmes, Expedite Patent Filing,” IPOS, June 30, 2023, https://www.ipos.gov.sg/about-ip/patents/how-to-register/acceleration-programmes.
9.“National Artificial Intelligence Strategy” (Smart Nation Singapore, November 2019), https://www.smartnation.gov.sg/files/publications/national-ai-strategy.pdf.; “IP and Artificial Intelligence Note” (Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, n.d.), https://www.ipos.gov.sg/docs/default-source/default-document-library/ip-and-ai-info-note.pdf.
10.Tay Hong Yi, “EU and Singapore Open Negotiations on Digital Trade Agreement | The Straits Times,” Straits Times, July 20, 2023, https://www.straitstimes.com/business/eu-and-singapore-open-negotiations-on-digital-trade-agreement.