13 Mar 2006 Posted in Speeches
Your Excellency Dr Kamil Idris
Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization and Mrs Idris
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First, let me welcome all the distinguished delegates to Singapore for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Diplomatic Conference for the Adoption of a Revised Trademark Law Treaty. I hope your discussions lead to a successful conclusion and I also hope during your three weeks here, you will have a pleasant stay and get to know a bit about Singapore.
I am also pleased to welcome Dr Kamil Idris to Singapore. He has kindly taken up our invitation to make an official visit under the auspices of Singapore’s United Nations Distinguished Visitors Programme. Under his stewardship, WIPO has made an invaluable contribution to international governance of intellectual property issues. And as a result of his leadership, WIPO has become an essential partner for countries, especially developing ones, in dealing with the challenges of intellectual property in a globalised economy.
IP’s Increasing Relevance in a Globalized World
- Intellectual Property, (IP), has received greater attention and prominence in the last decade. Intellectual property is no longer an arcane subject, largely confined to specialist lawyers and academics. Today, it has become a central issue of modern business and economic development. IP is an important topic not just in corporate boardrooms, but also in discussions among Governments and international organisations.
- Much of this change is a result of globalization and the advent of a truly global marketplace, brought about by rapidly growing international trade. In 2004, world merchandise exports crossed the $9 trillion 1 mark - an unprecedented level. As the volume of trade has increased, the speed and ease of its conduct have also improved tremendously. This has led to the emergence of globally-distributed production chains, where an idea conceptualized say in the US can be put to design in Europe, manufactured in Asia, and marketed all over the world.
- The advent of information and digital technology has also revolutionized the way global transactions and businesses work, creating a new level of business networking and collaboration. A design drawing for a new car model can be worked on simultaneously and in real-time by designers based in different parts of the world. A news article placed on the internet in one country can be accessed internationally and simultaneously by millions of readers around the world, and the contents, re-packaged and re-transmitted in different forms.
- With the emergence of the knowledge economy, competitive advantage will depend less on traditional factors of production, like land, natural resources and labour, and increasingly more on the quality of talent, ideas and innovation. As a result, companies are looking to IP protection to gain an advantage in this increasingly competitive global marketplace. This can be seen in the shift in the relative weight of companies’ intellectual intangible assets versus traditional tangible ones. With IP becoming an integral factor in business strategy, it is not surprising that IP filings in many countries have reached record levels.
- While globalization, information technology and the knowledge economy create fresh opportunities, they also present new challenges to the existing international IP system.
- As goods, services and even IP, transcend national boundaries and travel through different media, the challenges have become more complex. Operating in the global marketplace requires our companies to navigate the ins-and-outs of different national IP systems. This is an often costly and daunting exercise, especially for smaller companies. This consumes the time and resources of our inventors, entrepreneurs and businesses, and dampens their innovative capacity, with the result that many abandon the potential of their intellectual property.
Expanded Role of National IP Organizations
- The challenge for Governments is how to respond to the needs of these constituents and to help them unlock the potential of their IP. A robust national IP framework not only reassures investors and promotes trade; it can also spur a country’s innovation and creativity to gain it an edge in the global knowledge economy.
- A robust national IP regime requires a strong legislative framework, supported by an effective enforcement mechanism. However, in today’s fast-changing world, this may no longer suffice. Legislation, at best, can only keep pace with advances in technology. In the area of IP, where novelty and innovation are the key ingredients, it would be naive to expect IP laws to anticipate and deal with all the challenges brought about by rapid technological advancement.
- So a more comprehensive strategy must also address the “demand” side of the equation. Apart from maintaining an effective and transparent IP registration system, the role of national IP organizations should include changing people’s mindset towards IP. One key area is obviously education. We need to raise awareness with our citizens that infringing an IP right is no different from stealing tangible property, like a car, handbag or handphone.
- Over the years, we in Singapore have taken steps to modernize its IP legislation. We have also set up a dedicated IP rights branch within the Police force to ensure that IP laws are enforced and offences are dealt with speedily. Increasingly, we recognize that to effect a longer-term change in mindset, we also need to do more to help our constituents appreciate the value of IP and to encourage them to create and protect IP as they operate in the global markets. The IP Office of Singapore does this by working in partnership with fellow stakeholders such as IP right holders and practitioners so that the IP message can be spread more effectively.
Forging an International Approach
- As national IP organizations expand on their roles, the work of inter-governmental IP organizations, such as WIPO, would also correspondingly grow. WIPO’s work to foster a common international approach and consensus for IP protection must continue. With the increase in cross-border trade and transactions, this work will obviously continue to grow in importance. Treaties administered by WIPO make it easier for our innovators to reach out to the marketplace and be assured of IP protection. They enable companies to take advantage of globalisation’s opportunities and to reap the fruits of the knowledge economy.
- WIPO has consistently helped member states, especially developing countries, to leverage on IP as a tool for economic development. WIPO has launched various programmes to raise IP awareness and promote joint action. In today?s environment, WIPO plays a critical role to raise the capacity of its constituents for IP, and also to promote the exchange of best practices for IP management, and increase awareness and training amongst its member states.
- In Singapore, when we started building our IP capacity and framework in the early years, we received invaluable technical support and assistance from WIPO, for which we are grateful. Many developing countries today recognise the value of using IP as a tool for economic development and we are working in partnership with WIPO to improve their IP institutions and policy framework. WIPO has been doing good work over the years and Singapore, let me assure, will continue to partner WIPO to contribute in our own small way by sharing best practices from our experience, as well as to participate in the ongoing discussion of international IP issues. We will also work closely with the WIPO office in Singapore to better serve its constituents in the region.
Developments in Asia
- I am particularly glad to note that the work of WIPO has made considerable progress in Asia, which represents both an opportunity and a challenge for WIPO. With the exception of Japan, Asia is a relative newcomer in the IP arena. Its 20% share of Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) applications does not reflect its demographic weight or capacity for innovation. However, I think there are grounds to be optimistic. In 2004, the Republic of Korea and China joined Japan in the list of the top 15 PCT filers. Growth of IP filings from Asia has outpaced aggregate growth worldwide, which underscores the emergence of Asia in this area.
- It is therefore timely that this Diplomatic Conference is being held in Asia. It is the first WIPO Diplomatic Conference in this part of the world. It also signifies Asia’s growing role in the furtherance of our common IP agenda as well as the importance which the region places on IP. Singapore is privileged to host this event and to contribute to the development of the international IP framework.
- In closing, let me say that for WIPO member states, the challenge is to look beyond narrow national perspectives and agree on a common approach to reap the benefits of the knowledge economy and the global marketplace. If successfully adopted, the proposed Treaty will introduce greater regularity and streamline administrative procedures across member countries for the registration of trade marks. It will allow us to take advantage of advances in digital and info-communications technology to reduce the costs of trade mark registration. It will also facilitate licensing activity for greater ease in bringing our brands to the international market. As it can make a significant difference to our business communities and peoples, I have no doubt the outcome of the Diplomatic Conference will be closely watched.
- I know that this Diplomatic Conference is the culmination of three years of hard work at the negotiating table. I congratulate those who have laboured hard to bring this important work to this final lap. In the next three weeks, you will have to work together for the common good to bring this work to completion. Your success here will increase the opportunities for all our IP constituents and bode well for the international IP regime. I wish you a fruitful discussion and look forward to a successful adoption of the revised Trademark Law Treaty.
 WTO publication "International Trade Statistics 2005". http://www.wto.org/english/res_e/statis_e/its2005_e/appendix_e/a06.xls
Last updated on 28 Nov 2012