Singapore grants Alibaba patent – which usually takes 2 to 4 years – in record speed of 3 months

An Ant Financial executive said Singapore the speed at which a patent can be granted is critical to businesses.

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) said on Wednesday (Aug 28) that it has granted an artificial intelligence (AI) patent to Chinese tech giant Alibaba Group in a record time of three months.

The patent was granted under IPOS’ Accelerated Initiative for Artificial Intelligence (AI2). The average time needed for such patents is usually two to four years, IPOS said.

The hope is that with the expedited application-to-grant process under AI2, innovators can bring their AI inventions faster to the global market through Singapore.

This could be a crucial development in Singapore’s bid to be the intellectual property (IP) hub for cutting-edge technologies.

“Companies looking to implement AI solutions globally have grown exponentially. Against this backdrop, the speed at which a patent can be granted is critical,” Benjamin Bai, vice president and chief IP counsel of Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial, said.

“Singapore plays a pivotal role as it facilitates our entry into markets of our interest rapidly,” he added.

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According to IPOS, advancement in AI technology has caused an exponential growth of AI patent filings globally. Between 2008 to 2017, over 180,000 AI inventions were published globally.

“With AI progressing at breakneck speed and disrupting almost every industry, IPOS’ AI2 will enable innovators to quickly commercialise their AI technologies and drive enterprise growth,” IPOS said in a statement.

Regional project to boost IP applications

The Republic is also entering a pilot project with eight other Asean IP offices to prioritise patent applications in key emerging technologies such as FinTech, cybersecurity and robotics.

A 2018 McKinsey & Company report said that Industry 4.0 is expected to bring US$216 billion (S$300 billion) to US$627 billion in gains for ASEAN.

Starting August 27, the new ASPEC Acceleration for Industry 4.0 Infrastructure and Manufacturing (ASPEC-AIM) initiative is promising a short turnaround time of six months for applicants to receive the first office action, which is a document written by a patent examiner in response to a patent application.

The nine participating IP offices will also broaden the scope of ASPEC to include Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) reports under a new initiative called the PCT-ASPEC. It will run for a pilot of three years, and allow patent applicants to use their PCT reports from an ASEAN International Searching Authority (ISA) and International Preliminary Examining Authority (IPEA) to accelerate their patent applications in another ASEAN country.

At the IP Week @ SG 2019 event held at Marina Bay Sands on August 28 and 29, IPOS also inked agreements with the UK Intellectual Property Office and Brazil’s National Institute of Industrial Property, Qatar Free Zones Authority, IP media group IPR Daily, among others.

On Tuesday, Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing also launched a new government company called IPOS International to advise businesses in IP and patent related-areas.

It merges the government agency’s enterprise engagement arm, patent examination unit and IP training arm, a report by The Straits Times said.

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