Intellectual Property Rights are effectively protected in Singapore. The common refrain from investor after investor is that they locate in Singapore due to the country’s respect for and protection of IP. Several general principles are important for effective management of intellectual property rights in Singapore. First, it is important to have an overall strategy to protect IPR. Second, IPR is protected differently in Singapore than in the United States. Third, rights must be registered and enforced in Singapore, under local laws. Companies may wish to seek advice from local attorneys or IP consultants. The U.S. Commercial Service can provide a list of local lawyers upon request.
It is vital that companies understand that intellectual property is primarily a private right and that the US government generally cannot enforce rights for private individuals in Singapore. It is the responsibility of the rights' holder to register, protect, and enforce their rights where relevant, retaining their own counsel and advisors. While the U.S. government is willing to assist, there is little it can do if the rights holders have not taken the fundamental steps necessary to securing and enforcing their IPR in a timely fashion. Moreover, in many countries, rights holders who delay enforcing their rights on a mistaken belief that the USG can provide a political resolution to a legal problem may find that their rights have been eroded or abrogated due to doctrines such as statutes of limitations, laches, estoppel, or unreasonable delay in prosecuting a law suit. In no instance should USG advice be seen as a substitute for the obligation of a rights holder to promptly pursue its case.
It is always advisable to conduct due diligence on partners. Negotiate from the position of your partner and give your partner clear incentives to honor the contract. A good partner is an important ally in protecting IP rights. Keep an eye on your cost structure and reduce the margins (and the incentive) of would-be bad actors. Projects and sales in Singapore require constant attention. Work with legal counsel familiar with Singapore laws to create a solid contract that includes non-compete clauses, and confidentiality/non-disclosure provisions.
It is also recommended that small and medium-size companies understand the importance of working together with trade associations and organizations to support efforts to protect IPR and stop counterfeiting. There are a number of these organizations, both Singapore and U.S.-based. These include:
- The U.S. Chamber and local American Chambers of Commerce
- National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
- International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA)
- International Trademark Association (INTA)
- The Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy
- International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC)
- Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)
- Biotechnology Industry Organizations (BIO)
- Business Software Alliance (BSA)
- Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)
- Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA)
- Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS)
- U.S. Patent and TradeMarks Office (USPTO)
- The Recording Industry Association (Singapore) (RIAS)