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Audrey Yap

Here's what Singaporeans need to know about design and IP protection

BY AUDREY YAP

People think design is only a term in the fashion trade primarily because fashion designers get so much mention. Particularly given this Oscar season of “people watching” and the inevitable social chat on “what the celebrities wore” on the red carpet, fashion is so media-worthy but design is much, much more than clothing accessories and shoes.

It is interesting to note that the Singapore Design Business Chamber promotes the definition of Design as invention.

Invention is as a result of motivation to make the world a better place. If design is invention, then design can increase productivity, provide social benefits, and result in business sustainability.

How so you ask?

An inefficient processor can improve with a better design workflow that eliminates redundancies. A handicapped person can be more mobile with a great wheelchair design that includes concepts of aerodynamics for agility and speed, motorised tyres, and intelligent intuitive software.

An arid piece of public land can be changed by harnessing greening technology and converted into a landscaped park for all to enjoy. A dying enterprise can be revived by a robust business redesign that cuts out wastage and improves the bottom line.

We need to therefore better understand what design embraces; otherwise businesses and society will risk becoming dinosaurs with antiquated products, leaky business systems, and unattractive and dated packaging.

And is there intellectual property or IP in each of these aspects? Absolutely! Anything novel and inventive which has utility may be protected by patents.

A unique aesthetic appearance can be registered as a design. And great designs once entrenched become trademarks, or hallmarks of excellence of great companies such as the shape of the Coca-Cola bottle.

So the interconnection between fantastic designs in all its forms and functions can and should be captured as IP.

Registering IP ensures ownership is property attributed so that great design can be converted into real financial and commercial gain and provide the reward, and correspondingly the motivation to continue to design even more.

Is this a pipe dream? A clear ‘no’. A leader in the field of innovation, Apple Computers, took the world by storm because the late Steve Jobs highly prized unique designs for end user convenience and lifestyle. Design elements are key to all its product offerings.

Why did Apple “win $1.1 billion” in the USA? Lottery? No. Simply because of its phone design. How was this possible? Because Apple protects its IP! Otherwise that distinctive phone design is just a good idea that anyone can take for free.

Of course there is controversy raging as to who stole from whom and the origins of some of Apple’s Smartphone designs.

Regardless of the final outcome of the cases taking place around the world, the importance of IP in design therefore cannot be undermined. Hate it or love it, IP is the primary way to ensure you own your designs.

Must designs always be rocket science? No. The Trunki TM, which is a cute toy cum storage box, is the subject of a hugely successful product line that has over a short period of time cornered the luggage market for children because of its range of designs.

And Trunki zealously enforces its IP rights against copycats to keep its lead.

Audrey Yap is among the speakers who are sharing their expertise at the Singapore Design Business Summit 2014.

Singapore Design Business Summit 2014
Joyden Hall, Bugis+, National Design Centre and Lasalle, Singapore
12 - 14 March 2014

Click here to register.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Audrey Yap

Audrey Yap

Audrey is managing partner of Yusarn Audrey. She is a patent attorney and IP lawyer qualified to practice in Singapore, Malaysia and Solicitor of England & Wales. Audrey is the only lawyer in Singapore who has consistently been named one of the World’s Leading IP Strategists in a London-based survey conducted by IAM magazine since 2009 till 2013 for 5 years running. She was named as one of Singapore’s leading lawyers in the 2008 Who’s Who Legal.

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