Life as an IP Lawyer: Singapore

The AmeriKat's professional life, be it on the Kat or sat at her desk litigating her hours away, involves a huge amount of coordination, support and opposition with lawyers from all over the world. One of the IPKat's key objectives is to bring this global IP community closer together by sharing IP decisions, legislation and practice from across the world with our readers, with the aim that by understanding our unique perspectives on the culture of IP practice we can work together to make IP a success story for innovators, creators, users and the public. With those grand aims, the AmeriKat thought it would be worthwhile to ask the next generation of global IP lawyers to illuminate IP practice in their jurisdiction, as well as to give readers some fun reading over their lunch-al-desko...


Aaron Thng
For the fifth in the series, we travel over 6,700 miles south east to Singapore where Aaron Thng at Amica Law grapples with with cross-border enforcement, a paperless law firm and the dream of taking Chief Judge Kozinski out for lunch.

What can you see from your office window right now?

Ventilation shafts, someone else’s roof garden, and if I crane my neck, a bit of the Singapore river.

When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in IP?

It’s always been something I was interested in, because of its connection with art and design. Also, the concept of being able to own, and extract value from, something intangible is something I find fascinating.

Walk us through a typical day... 

I get up at 8, and try to get in a bit of reading before work. Once at the office, its coffee, news from NextDraft (Dave Pell’s review of the day past) and then, work proper.

What are the key differences in your system that client/other lawyers from outside the jurisdiction find surprising or strange?

Because Singapore is tiny, our courts are not divided into federal or state courts. There is the Supreme Court, which consists of a High Court and a Court of Appeal, and then the State Court, which handles most first instance cases of lower value.

That, and our long judgments. A short judgment here usually weighs in at around 50 pages.

As the IPKat's readers are likely eating their lunch while reading this, what is a typical lunch for you?  

Frog leg porridge. It’s a rice porridge with braised frogs, usually cooked in a clay pot.

What are the challenges that are facing the next generation of IP lawyers in your jurisdiction? How are those challenges different from the previous generation?

With so many businesses, especially internet start-ups, being able to operate so easily across borders, the concept of "jurisdictions" has become a lot more dynamic. A holistic enforcement of IP rights now usually requires coordination between multiple parties and multiple sets of lawyers, across jurisdictions.

What are the misnomers that people have about IP practice in your jurisdiction?

Most people don’t immediately see the value of IP until they run into problems with it. This is an oversight I try to disabuse my clients of.

If you could change one thing about IP practice in your jurisdiction, what would it be? 

I’d want to streamline the discovery process. In a lot of IP cases, parties refuse to disclose documents because they claim them to be confidential. As a result, many cases become bogged down at the discovery stage.

What advice do you give clients when they are looking to protect or enforce IP rights in your jurisdiction?

That based on how open markets have become, it is seldom sufficient to simply apply for protection in one jurisdiction, but not the next. This applies especially if your business is internet-based.

What gives you the biggest thrill in your job? 

Defending people and businesses against over-zealous enforcement of IP rights, and leaving work with nothing left in my in-tray.

View from Aaron's office
What are the top trends or cases that we should be looking out for in your jurisdiction in 2016?

Hollywood studios are starting to take action against illegal downloaders in Singapore. It started with the rights holders behind the Dallas Buyers Club movie, and now a few more studios have entered the fray. It remains to be seen how successful they will be, though.

To be successful in your jurisdiction, what are the key skills a young IP lawyer needs? 

An interest in everything. IP law percolates through every industry.

What other jurisdictions do you work with the most in your practice?

Malaysia (naturally), Japan, and the US.

Looking into your crystal ball, where do you see the profession in 10 years’ time?

Paperless law firms, with many processes automated, and with skeletal staffing. I’m curious to see how AI robots, like ROSS, will improve the profession.

If you could practice IP law anywhere else in the world for a year, where would that be and why? 

Silicon Valley, because that place, more so than anywhere else, drives innovation and disruptive technologies.

If you could have lunch with someone famous in the IP world (judge, lawyer, inventor, politician, alive or dead), who would that be?

I would want to chill with Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the US 9th Circuit. He can choose whatever he wants for breakfast, but I’d want to pick his brain on the theory of intellectual property, and of law in general. I’d also want to pick up some writing tips.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

That litigation is actually a lot like tennis - they’re really all about angles. Also, in both, the players hold themselves to a strict codes of ethics, there is no room for brazen aggression or cheap shots, and sometimes, a delicate touch is all you need.

If our readers were to come to your city, what are the top three things you recommend they see, do and eat (in that order)?

1. Coney Island, in the north-east of Singapore, because it is the one place here that approximates ethereal beauty. Also, there are many nice birds.

2. The Singapore Zoo (one of the best rainforest zoos in the world) is always good. I visit it regularly.

3. Kway Chap, which is a dish of flat, broad rice sheets in a soup made with dark soy sauce, and served with pig offal, braised duck meat, bean-curd, salted vegetables, and hard-boiled eggs. I doubt it’s for everybody, but at just $3, there’s nothing better.
Life as an IP Lawyer: Singapore Life as an IP Lawyer:  Singapore Reviewed by Annsley Merelle Ward on Thursday, May 25, 2017 Rating: 5

1 comment:

  1. Aaron has contributed several excellent guest posts to IPKat. Well done, Aaron!


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