Stephanie Leparmentier, Counsellor for Intellectual Property in ASEAN at French Embassy in Singapore
Hi Stephanie, what do you do and what brought you to Singapore?
I am the Regional Intellectual Property Counsellor for Southeast Asia and the Representative of INPI, the French Intellectual Property Office. I am part of the team of the Regional Economic Department at the Embassy of France in Singapore.
I am responsible for coordinating the INPI cooperation activities in the ASEAN region in regard to IP protection and enforcement, providing support to French companies seeking advice on IP local matters (information, institutional support, litigation) and providing information to foreign companies on IP in France/ Europe when they decide to invest in France, without supplanting the IP attorneys or lawyers.
For French SMEs and startups, I am here to specifically help them have a better understanding of IP and explain good practices. I will also create a connection with my colleagues in France. INPI develops several services to support them, including financial support.
INPI is not only an essential player for the registration of industrial property rights in France: patents, trademarks, designs, reception and processing of registration of geographical indications, but it is also a privileged interlocutor who supports the companies over the long term by proposing courses of action in order to facilitate the development of their Intellectual Property strategies according to the environments and needs, especially internationally. Thus INPI has an international network of 10 Regional IP Counsellors covering around 100 countries.
What do you answer to the SMEs that tell you: “Whether or not I have IP rights in the region, I will not be able to enforce them anyway”?
For sure, IP enforcement could be a challenge in some countries, but you are still stronger with IP rights than with nothing. And the situation is evolving and it is necessary to differentiate the situation in each country. Don’t forget that lots of countries in the region develop policies to support their innovation ecosystems as a lever of growth and so the IP becomes the key issue.
Singapore is the most advanced country in the region and for IP as well. Enforcement of intellectual property rights is seen by Singapore as a major factor in the attractiveness of the country. Since the early 2000s, Singapore has stepped up actions to fight against the IPR violations: strengthening the legislative framework, pronouncing heavy civil and criminal sanctions, raising awareness by informing companies and the public.
In April 2013, the Singapore Government announced a 10-year master plan to guide the country towards becoming a Global IP Hub in Asia, reviewed in April 2017. This strategic plan aims to make Singapore a centre of intellectual property in Asia and especially in Southeast Asia, at the same time centre of management and transaction of IP, centre of IP registration of quality and centre of the settlement of IP disputes.
The companies should not neglect the alternative disputes resolution either, to use Customs to block counterfeits at the borders when possible, the administrative actions to enforce their IP rights when possible.
How is Tech integrated today in the IP domain?
Tech innovations are present in the field of Intellectual Property at several levels. For example, the IP offices are working on new tools using Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain to improve their efficiency and to provide new services to the public.
Today, you can find free access and powerful databases using AI to do searches among trademarks with pictures. The recent mobile application launched by IPOS, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore in 2018 is using AI. You can also find chatbots using AI on different IP Offices websites to help the visitors with their questions. In France you can use the chatbot, “NOA”, a public service accessible online to guide start-ups in their administrative procedures and IP is one of them thanks to INPI which is involved in the initiative. It works both in French and in English.
IP Offices are developing solutions to improve their efficiency in their processes too. At INPI, we produced a tool to assist in the weekly dispatching of patent applications amongst examination teams, which saves around 5 hours of work weekly.
Innovative solutions in Tech are developed by companies to improve the fight against counterfeiting. And French companies can be found in this area! For example, some innovations can be dedicated to secure the products themselves, allow to quickly recognize the genuine and the fake ones, other solutions monitor the web, the visible part and deeper layers. We have even a Woman in Tech and an active member in the French Tech Singapore Cyber & Security Community representing one of them – Emilie Philippe with Web drone.
How does it feel being a woman in tech?
People’s first impression of me is usually that I’m a legal person, so when I explained that I have a Tech engineering background, it’s reassuring. The IP law can often be overwhelmed by its complexity. Being an engineer allows me to have less focus on legal speech and more focus on their innovative and technical projects. My goal is to always explain with the most practical, pragmatic approach, trying to place myself in their side and give explanations adapted to each case. Additionally, as a woman, I think that I have empathy and the needed patience which comes very handy.
What do you do to bring more diversity?
I have been working for over 15 years in the Intellectual Property field and had the opportunity to occupy different and complementary functions: patent engineer in an IP firm, patent examiner and expert on software patentability at INPI, IP manager in an international French group. Then I provided support to entrepreneurs, start-ups, SMEs on topics related to IP in particular before arriving in Singapore as part of the team of INPI’s Economic Action Department in Brittany.
Currently, I am working with French, European and local Authorities of 10 countries, especially the IP Offices in the ASEAN, as IPOS here in Singapore, French and foreign companies, Partners linked to French companies within Business France, Bpifrance, French Chambers of Commerce, CCE, French Tech Community without forgetting the other services of the Embassies of France in the region, the IP Agents/Attorneys/Lawyers and other IP institutions such as WIPO, EUIPO, USPTO, UKIPO, JPO or the Associations of IP right holders such as UNIFAB, INTA for example. The playground is in itself very diverse.
With all these connections, and with the work in cooperation that I am doing with the Authorities in the region, I am learning about many cultures, many ways of working and a variety of IP playgrounds in the region. So I integrate these different cultures, specificities in my approach supporting French companies or the companies that want to invest in France, while making sure that my recommendations are oriented and relevant to them adapted to the playground.
This article was first published on June 17, 2020.
Disclaimer: This article was written by a community contributor. All content is written by and reflects the personal perspective of the interviewee herself. If you’d like to contribute, you can apply here.
French Tech Singapore is a nonprofit organization gathering French entrepreneurs and locals working in Singapore in the tech industry. La French Tech encompasses all startups, i.e. all growth companies that share a global ambition, at every stage in their development, from embryonic firms to growing startups with several hundred employees and their sights set on the international market. As is the case all over the world, digital technology is a major catalyst for its development, and French Tech represents digital pure players as well as startups in medtech, biotech, cleantech, and other fields.