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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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Singapore falls to 10th place in US Chamber International IP Index

Lack of transparency and high software piracy levels dragged the city’s headline score.

Singapore placed 10th out of 50 global economies in the latest US Chamber International Intellectual Property Index which analysed the intellectual property (IP) climate of markets around the world, an announcement revealed.

Singapore was displaced from its previous ninth spot by Switzerland, as the city-state’s overall score dropped from 83.63% in the sixth edition of the index to 82.49%. The US maintained its top spot, followed by UK and Sweden. Japan, which came in 8th, accompanied Singapore as the top countries in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region.

The report’s authors commented that this reflected a mixed performance on the new indicators included in the index of which Singapore underperformed, although the Lion City did witness an improvement on certain indicators such as stronger copyright enforcement. The new indicators included barriers to technology transfer, registration and disclosure of licensing deals, criminal sanctions and tax incentives for creating IP assets.

The report revealed that Singapore’s key areas of weakness lay in its lack of transparency and data on customs seizures of IP-infringing goods, as well as an estimated 27% software piracy which is considered high for a developed high-income economy.

Also read: Singapore inks intellectual property deal with Russia

Nevertheless, Singapore’s advanced national IP framework and active efforts to accelerate patent prosecution mitigated its weak performance on other indicators in the index. The report also added that Singapore is a global leader in online copyright enforcement.

“The strong performance of smaller economies such as Singapore and Switzerland also stands out,” the report’s authors said. “Despite their relatively small size in terms of both population and economic output, these economies are highly integrated into the global economy and benefit from high rates of in-licensing.”

Under category 1 which looked at an economy’s environment for patents, related rights and limitations, Singapore narrowly defended its top spot from Switzerland, Japan, South Korea and the US which all tied for second place.

The report noted how in 2014, Singapore passed amendments to its Copyright Act in a bid to strengthen rights holders’ recourse mechanisms against online piracy. 2018 also saw further developments to this law with the High Court ordering internet service providers to disable access to an additional 53 websites after a request from the Motion Picture Association of America in May.

“We hope that the Singapore government can use its position as a global IP leader to help pursue more effective policies in other regions,” Ellen Syzmanski, executive director for international policy at the Global Innovation Policy Centre (GIPC), said in a statement. "Opportunities through regional free trade agreements, and within the multilateral organisations provide a platform for Singapore to show off this robust model for fostering innovation and creativity."

In January 2019, the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) announced it would amend the Copyright Act further to update Singapore’s copyright regime and better support creators and the use of their works in an increasingly digital environment. The proposed changes will include a new right of attribution for creators and new enforcement measures to deter retailers and service providers from profiting off illegal streaming and illicit streaming devices.

Also read: Ministry of Law to introduce new laws on copyright and commissioned work

Meanwhile, the report highlighted how the Singaporean tax law offers a generous capped research and development (R&D) tax credit of up to 400% on qualifying R&D expenditure which provides a major relief for R&D activity in the country. Likewise, the government also has an angel investors tax deduction program which provides a tax deduction for 50% of the qualifying investment amount.

The report’s authors also applauded Singapore’s systemic efficiency in that it provides targeted incentives for the creation and use of IP assets for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Whilst the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) does not offer reduced fees or expedited review or SMEs, it offers an IP business clinic and IP legal clinic which include a session with professional service providers to help SMEs maximise their commercial potential and use of their IP.

“Until 2018, IPOS offered direct assistance with obtaining financing and loans through the IP Financing Scheme, whereby businesses were able to obtain debt-based financing by using IP as collateral,” the authors noted. “IPOS is in the process of replacing it with a new equity-based financing scheme based on venture capital and private equity model of investment.” 

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