Singapore was ranked ninth among the top 10 best-performing countries in addressing counterfeiting and piracy in a survey conducted by the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). The next and only Asian country ahead of Singapore, ranking fifth, on the 29-country list was Japan. In a separate list of 53 countries, observing the most serious offenders against intellectual property protection, we see Asian countries, namely China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan atop accordingly.
Compared to its neighbours, it is not by chance Singapore achieves a position in ICC’s survey. Looking back two decades ago where fake goods were openly sold, Singapore has indeed come a long way since the late 1980s. Today, you would not find fake goods sold in permanent retail outlets. Counterfeits could still, however, be sighted in makeshift stalls.
Kudos should be given to the enforcement agencies here, such as the Intellectual Property Rights Branch, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authorities and the Police for their zero-tolerance against piracy. Also not forgetting efforts in anti-piracy public education conducted by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) in continuously raising the awareness of the perils of online piracy. To demonstrate a couple of examples, we have seen the police charging a 31-year-old man who tried selling fake Calvin Klein jeans through the Internet, and a 24-year-old woman being jailed for six months for trying to sell fake Gucci, Chanel and Luis Vuitton items online. The said woman is now serving her six-month jail term. Next in educating the public, we see IPOS’s initiative in promoting a “piracy-free” lifestyle, through its Honour Intellectual Property (HIP) Alliance, which saw more than 7,000 members signing up pledging a “piracy-free” lifestyle.
Based on the due recognition given by industry players in the survey, we can see that the strong anti-piracy enforcement stance here against street and online piracy has reaped results. It should be highlighted that survey respondents placed a premium on enforcement efforts as the area that would best yield results.
With the emergence of new technologies and the Internet, one key challenge for the authorities is to keep out Net piracy, which Singapore is now grappling. This is a growing concern for content industries like music and motion pictures. It is not difficult to see that IP environment would be a key assessment factor for companies considering where investment monies land. Needless to say, enforcement carries more weight than other factors such as legislation or public education in assessing whether a county is IP environment favourable. After all, what use would legislation be without any strong enforcement in action?
In conclusion, taking the words of Director-General Liew Woon Yin of IPOS: “Singapore IP regulator is committed to a strong and dynamic IP regime here.” Let’s hope that Singapore’s successful enforcement efforts would act as an Asian model for its neighbouring states.