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Wednesday, 26 August 2015

“Simple Past, Present Continuous…Future Perfect?” GFIP Conference Report I

The Global Forum on Intellectual Property 2015 (GFIP), under the auspices of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (popularly known as IPOS) together with the Singapore IP Academy just completed its two-day event (25 to 26 August) at the well-known Marina Bay Sands Hotel (right). The GFIP is the flagship event of the week-long IP Week@SG, now in its fourth year. This year’s GFIP took on particular meaning in light of the 50th anniversary festivities celebrated in Singapore earlier this month.

It's not how you punch,
but who you punch ...
This year’s theme is “Simple Past, Present Continuous…Future Perfect?” The reach of the programme has expanded from the early days, to a regional event attracting delegates from all over Asia and now, increasingly, from Europe and North America as well. This Kat can confirm this—at a communal meal that he took part in prior to the event, he quite by chance met an attendee who had arrived from Houston, Texas (15 hour flight to Tokyo followed by a 7 hour flight to Singapore). It would seem that the mix of IP legal practitioners, policy makers, members of the judiciary, academics and business professionals is finding an increasingly international profile, allowing Singapore to rightly feel that it is “punching above its weight in world IP matters.”

... and how strictly you can
maintain IP discipline
Day 1 of GFIP began with brief words of welcome from Ms Chiam Lu-Lin, Executive Director of the IP Academy, Deputy Chief Executive of IPOS, and the Chair of the IP Week Organising Committee. She emphasized three aspects to the programme theme: Trends, Tension and Ties. She was followed by the Opening Address given by Guest-of-Honour, Mr K. Shanmugam, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law for Singapore. The Honourable Minister stressed the importance of IP for the Singapore economy, backing this up with a variety of economic data, In that light, he stated that it is of paramount importance that Singapore maintain “a strict IP regime,” such that one can be assured that its IP “is safe in Singapore.” Singapore is on course in its goal of being the IP hub for Asia.

The first plenary session addressed directly the theme of the conference, focusing on the evolving architecture of the global IP system and the influence of national IP systems and the tension between the territoriality of IP rights and the global scope of IP exploitation. First to speak was Dr Francis Gurry, Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization. Dr Gurry articulated the promise and challenge of an international system based on multilateral relationships. He also restated his vision for “a seamless global digital marketplace” based in the development of business models resting on legal principles. He also emphasized that, in his view, at least in the near term, IP harmonization was more likely to be limited to procedural subjects.

Dr Gurry's address was followed by comments from senior officials from the Japanese Patent Office and the State Intellectual Property Office of China. Speaking on the Japanese situation, Commissioner Hitoshi Ito reviewed the ongoing efforts of the Patent Office to continue to improve its patent services, including regarding the speed of the services, quality and extent of international cooperation. Mr He Zhimin, Deputy Commissioner of the Chinese Office recounted the four stages that China has undergone in developing its patent law system. He elaborated on the current aspirations to formulate a full-fledged IP strategy and forcefully articulated that, while China had succeeded in aligning itself with the international IP system, it would also seek to find its unique path when appropriate. With refreshing candour, he described in some detail in this regard China’s efforts to strengthen the enforcement environment. The final speaker of the session was Dr Stanley Lai, chairman of the board of IPOS and a leading IP practitioner in Singapore, serving as the head of the IP practice at Allen & Gledhill. Dr Lai traced the development of Singapore over its 50 years and the role played by IP. He speculated on how Singapore can seek to flourish by focusing on certain niche markets, for which IP protection will be central.

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