Running a business is not easy. Besides raising capital, you have to hire staff, set up office or production facilities, and manage finances and operations amongst other things.
However, an often-overlooked area is Intellectual Property (IP).
IP refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. It is an intangible asset (IA), meaning it does not have physical properties.
So why is IP important for business? We hear from a few leading Singapore enterprises to understand why they place such a strong focus on IP protection in their respective business strategies.
IP protects your business
Homegrown company SK Jewellery knows the value of protecting its IP. They were the top filer for registered designs in 2021, with a total of 1,453 applications.
We place great importance on innovation, where we continuously challenge ourselves to develop new products and designs to stand out from the competition. A lot of time is spent in research and development and prototyping. Registering our designs and trade mark protects our brand against infringements, builds our brand and trust with customers and partners, and gives us a competitive edge.
– Daniel Lim, CEO of SK Jewellery
Lim also had a word of advice for enterprises starting their IP journey: “Embarking on an IP journey requires resources and commitment; hence, it is important to understand the IP laws that are unique to each trade, and how to protect an enterprise’s IP.”
Cost is a potential concern when it comes to IP protection, but Lim shared that the investment is worth it.
“While money spent on IP protection may seem like an additional cost, it is a small price to pay when it comes to protecting your creations as the alternative to [not protecting your IP] may be even costlier. If a company has a novel idea or product, it is important to reach out to an IP professional or get in touch with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) before launching the product.”
IP opens up new markets and opportunities
IP can also help enterprises open up new markets and collaboration opportunities.
Vivo Surgical, a Singapore medtech start-up, uses its IP to gain an edge in the highly competitive and regulated healthcare industry.
According to Dr Kevin Koh, founder and CEO of Vivo Surgical, IP and IA are both strategically important components of its business.
“As a young company, our strong IP and IA portfolio helped us quickly establish credibility with customers and distributors, and build strong links with leading health systems and partners across the world for upstream co-innovation and co-development work,” he said.
In fact, Vivo Surgical is a finalist in this year’s WIPO-IPOS IP for Innovation Awards.
Since the launch of its first commercial device in the first quarter of 2021, Vivo Surgical’s products are now distributed in multiple international territories.
Vivo Surgical has also established relationships with renowned health systems from the USA, Latin America, Europe and Southeast Asia to develop its innovative devices. This has enabled Vivo Surgical to further finetune its products to have more global relevance.
Dr Koh also shared some tips for enterprises on managing their IP and IA.
Don’t get carried away filing IP registrations all at once. One of the first considerations we had was about balancing filing costs versus market entry strategies and the key markets we see potential in. [After all], one could easily be carried away with wanting to file IP protection in too many territories.
Enterprises should also use patent landscape searches to help them assess the market potential of their product based on a technology’s development life cycle.
– Dr Kevin Koh, founder and CEO of Vivo Surgical
On starting the IP journey, Dr Koh advised enterprises to start with a general IP strategy that will serve as a blueprint for the products they wish to commercialise.
“You should consider potential beachhead markets, commercial roll-out plans, competitive technology threats and patents/trademarks you want to file, amongst other things. These will guide your decisions as you calibrate your strategy along the way,” he explained.
IP creates new revenue streams
In addition to protecting products and opening up new markets and opportunities, IP is also a great source for enterprises to create new revenue streams.
Homegrown gaming company Razer Inc. (Razer) is no stranger to the world of innovation and IP. It has filed the most patents and designs in Singapore, registering over 3,000 patents, trade marks and registered designs since 2005.
This helped Razer to expand its product offerings and generate new revenue streams. In addition to its gaming hardware, it has gone on to develop a global gaming software platform with 80 million users, customised online services, online entertainment services, and even fintech solutions with their virtual gaming currency Razer Gold.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Razer was even able to pivot to manufacturing surgical masks within just one month. How was it able to make this pivot so quickly?
It relied on its intangible assets such as its in-house and medical partner’s (Sunningdale Tech) engineering know-how to repurpose its gaming hardware manufacturing lines to mask manufacturing lines. Razer then distributed its masks for free through vending machines equipped with its proprietary Razer Pay e-wallet system, exposing new users to its fintech product.
Elaine Tan, a Senior Director at Razer’s legal team, told Vulcan Post that the company files patents for two main reasons: protecting against third-party infringement, and recognising the innovation that Razer has put into its products.
Any tech company will have IP – including copyrights, trade secrets, patents, designs and trade marks, and registration for these rights if registrable. Considerations for each type of IP right will be different. We have to consider whether what we have is protectable, and if there is a long-term value for the IA generated.
Razer invests heavily in IP protection and IA generation. In addition to working with external IP experts for the registration and protection of its IP rights, Razer regards its talented pool of engineers, creators, innovators and developers as worthy investments towards IP/IA generation.
– Elaine Tan, Senior Director, Razer’s legal team
Beyond protecting its IP, Razer also invests heavily in research and development (R&D) and in their employees to encourage them to create new products.
As a company with a market presence around the world, Razer also protects its IP in key markets beyond Singapore, including the USA, China and Europe.
“Essentially, anywhere that we do business in, we seek to protect our IP,” added Elaine.
To date, the company has won several awards and global recognition for its imaginative use of IP in its business activities.
If you run a business and have yet to start on your IP journey, don’t wait and talk to an IP expert today to develop an IP strategy to manage your valuable intangible assets.
You can also attend Singapore’s leading IP event — IP Week@SG 2022, held from 6 to 7 September 2022 at Marina Bay Sands — to hear from business leaders and IP experts. Vulcan Post readers enjoy a 50 per cent discount on the registration fee with promo code “IPWmVP”.
Register here before 30 August 2022.
Featured Image Credit: Gene Wang via Flickr / Vivo Surgical / SK Jewellery