Technology companies seeking to expand their commercial interests in the ASEAN region, particularly to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos), will soon get a boost as the Intellectual Property (IP) agencies of Singapore and Laos have signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC). This MOC was signed alongside a similar MOC between Laos and the Philippines, clearly demonstrating the appetite of Laos to attract investment by enhancing the IP framework in their country.
What does the Singaporean-Laos MOC cover?
On 27 November 2019, a Memorandum of Cooperation was signed between the Department of Intellectual Property (DIP) of Laos and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS). The MOC covers two areas of collaboration:
- DIP will rely on IPOS’ patent search and examination expertise (which meets the standard to be certified as a World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) International Search/Examination Authority) and services to grant patents in Laos; and
- DIP will allow Singapore granted patents to be re-registered in Laos, enabling ease of access for technology companies into both markets.
What does this mean for applicants?
Given that the MOC has just been signed without an indication of timelines regarding a start date when IPOS and DIP begin their collaboration, we can only speculate what will eventuate from this collaboration. Currently, IPOS already has a similar arrangement with Cambodia’s Ministry of Industry and Handicraft (MIH), and thus, we expect this MOC to substantially mirror the working arrangement between IPOS and MIH.
Based on our understanding of the working arrangement between IPOS and MIH, it would appear that a patent granted in Singapore will also be able to lead to a granted Laos patent as long as formality requirements imposed by DIP are fulfilled. This is a substantial benefit for owners of Singapore patents, as they will soon be able to apportion patent prosecution costs in Singapore over three countries – Singapore, Cambodia (who already permit re-registration of Singaporean patents) and soon Laos. These three countries cover a sizeable population size of about 28 million people and burgeoning markets in the region. Enhancing the IP framework in Laos to enable the development and protection of ideas, IP and intangible assets will go hand in hand with the development of these commercial markets.
IPOS appears to be continually taking steps to establish Singapore as a regional hub for IP, and this latest initiative clearly enhances Singapore’s standing in that regard. Typically, one of the main concerns for applicants seeking a patent in Singapore relates to the small domestic population of Singapore (less than 5.5 million). When the MOC between IPOS and the DIP comes into force, the concerns in relation to the small domestic population of Singapore can be alleviated in some ways, and the appeal of patent rights in Southeast Asia will also be enhanced given that the quality of granted patents will not be lacking.