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Patent-Related Strategies for Start-ups and Small Businesses in Singapore


In the current fast-paced and competitive landscape of Singapore’s business environment, intellectual property (IP) protection could contribute to the success and growth of start-ups and small businesses. In particular, patents offer significant advantages by safeguarding novel inventions, processes, and technologies. This article explores patent-related strategies for start-ups and small businesses towards protecting their innovations and enhancing their competitive edge.

1. Identifying and Prioritizing Key Innovations
A patent-related strategy involves identifying and prioritizing key innovations within the start-up or small business. Entrepreneurs could evaluate their inventions to determine their novelty, usefulness, and potential commercial value. Prioritizing key innovations allows businesses to focus resources on protecting the most valuable aspects of their IP.

2. Early Stage Patent Protection and International Considerations
Having identified key innovation(s), entrepreneurs may initiate early stage patent protection. Early protection is vital to address imminent disclosure, which could lead to a novelty objection during the patent application process. Singapore operates on a “first-to-file” system, granting patent rights to the first applicant. To avoid disputes over ownership, start-ups and small businesses should file patent applications as soon as possible after conceptualizing the invention and before any public disclosure or commercialization. Additionally, for businesses with international aspirations, considering international patent protection is prudent. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) allows entrepreneurs to file a single international patent application recognized by and in over 150 member countries. This provides businesses with an extended timeframe (30 – 31 months) to assess the viability of their invention in different jurisdictions before committing to prosecution in specific countries of interest. Moreover, Singapore’s collaborative efforts, including most recently, the Collaborative Search and Examination Programme with Vietnam, facilitate patent examination process and accelerate patent grants in participating countries, offering businesses an opportunity to expand their market reach and global presence.

3. Leveraging IP Protection Programs and Funding Schemes
To bolster innovation and IP protection, Singapore offers various programs and funding schemes. For example, the SG IP FAST Track program enables businesses to obtain granted patents within 6 – 9 months. Additionally, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) and the Economic Development Board (EDB) provide grants and funding opportunities to help start-ups and small businesses protect and commercialize their intellectual property effectively. Entrepreneurs can tap on these initiatives to enhance their ability to safeguard their innovations.

4. Collaboration, Licensing Opportunities, and Patent Valuation
Collaboration and licensing are valuable strategies for leveraging patent rights. Collaborating with established companies or research institutions can lead to joint ventures, product development partnerships, or technology sharing arrangements, providing access to additional resources, expertise, and market opportunities. Licensing patented technologies to other parties enables start-ups and small businesses to generate revenue and gain exposure in various markets without significant upfront investments. Understanding the value of patents and how they contribute to the overall worth of the business is essential. Regular assessments of the patent portfolio’s value can inform decisions about licensing opportunities, partnerships, or attracting investors.

5. Patent Strategy Alignment with Business Goals
A practical patent strategy considers its alignment with the overall business goals and objectives of the start-up or small business. Intellectual property protection ideally complements the company’s broader innovation, marketing, and growth plans. A well-aligned patent strategy ensures that resources are directed toward protecting innovations that align with the business’s core competencies and market priorities. Integrating the patent strategy into the broader business planning process allows for a more cohesive and effective approach to intellectual property protection.

For start-ups and small businesses in Singapore, navigating the complexities of intellectual property, including patent protection, could contribute to their success and growth. By identifying and prioritizing key innovations, pursuing early stage patent protection, leveraging IP protection programs and funding schemes, considering international patent protection, exploring collaboration and licensing opportunities, valuation and commercialisation of patents, and aligning patent strategies with business goals, entrepreneurs can enhance their competitive edge and safeguard their intellectual property assets effectively. Singapore’s emphasis on innovation and its robust ecosystem supporting IP protection provide fertile ground for start-ups and small businesses to thrive and achieve global recognition for their ground-breaking ideas. However, implementing patent-related strategies may require careful planning, expert advice, and a long-term vision to ensure sustainable success in the dynamic and ever-evolving business landscape. By combining innovative ideas with strong IP protection, start-ups and small businesses can carve out a niche in the market, attract investment, and drive economic growth in Singapore and beyond.