Platform helps cut tedious tasks, frees up examiners to do more value-added work
SINGAPORE — When Innosparks, an incubator set up by ST Engineering, produced its Air+ Smart Mask, which has its own micro ventilator, it filed three patents in Singapore around two years ago.
Last year, the company moved to take its product overseas by launching in China, where it is also preparing to file for a patent, said its head of engineering, Mr Jerome Lee.
“The piracy issue comes up a lot in China, and we have already taken action,” said Mr Lee.
Its Air+ Smart Mask, used in times of haze or air pollution has a micro ventilator to draw out heat, moisture and carbon dioxide, a valve, and a measuring gauge to enable users to estimate the size of the mask for a better fit.
For companies such as Innosparks, intellectual property (IP) rights are an important asset.
A faster process to grant patents could mean a world of difference in terms of getting ahead of competitors, or to take more timely action against pirates.
Such businesses can look forward to a new patent examination platform created by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos) and the Government Technology Agency.
The new system will not only cut man-hours, but free up patent examiners — those who decide whether to grant patents for products — to do more analytical and value-added work.
Rolled out in June, the new platform has cut down between 30 and 50 per cent of the lengthy and sometimes complex process of assessing the patent application — which can take months. Previously, when a company filed a patent, examiners had to manually search through hundreds of documents just to see if there were already similar patented products.
Now, with this new system, the search is automated, cutting down a lot of tedious, manual work.
In an interview with TODAY, Ipos chief executive Daren Tang said: “It is about working more efficiently, reducing the amount of mechanical work.
“Then the examiners can spend time on making the assessment on whether the product is novel enough to be granted a patent.
“If we give something that does not deserve to be patented a 20-year monopoly it creates inefficiency in the economy because it is undeserving.
“Doing a better job of assessment also means that the patent is less likely to be challenged by other companies,” he pointed out.
The entire patent process can take up to a couple of years.
“A faster patent process would allow us to commercialise our IP faster, and it is also a selling strength as consumers would find our products more credible,” said Mr Lee of Innosparks.
“Having a faster grant also gives us the option of taking action against companies which try to pirate our products, especially for (some of) those in China which do not care about IP,” he said.
Singapore-headquartered companies, as a rule, have to file patents here first before doing it overseas.
In Singapore, the number of applications for patents has risen rapidly in the past 10 years.
In 2006, the number of patents filed by local companies was just 626 and this has jumped to 1,601 last year.
In total, the number of patents registered by local and foreign companies was 10,980 last year.
Mr Tang said that the growth in the IP industry also reflected how the economy has changed.
“We are seeing a lot of patents driven by tech trends such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles.
“We are beginning to see a very strong start-up community, and hope to see more patents from the community. The focus is to encourage more IP commercialisation, which is important for the future economy,” he said.
In April, Ipos teamed up with local private equity firm Makara Capital Partners to create the Makara Innovation Fund to invest S$1 billion to help innovative companies develop their businesses and expand overseas.
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