Keep Your Secrets, Protect Your Trade

In July this year, SBF and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (“IPOS”) co-organised an event titled “Keep your Secrets, Protect your Trade: How to Effectively Protect and Manage Trade Secrets for Business Growth”, which was attended by more than 130 participants from various sectors. More than 90% of the attendees shared that their company has valuable trade secrets, but less than 30% of the attendees indicated that their trade secrets are adequately protected and managed.

Photos on the event jointly co-organised by IPOS with SBF in July 2022

Globally, trade secrets are increasingly recognised as an important contributor to economic and enterprise growth. For example, an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”) study found that there is a positive correlation between trade secrets protection and better innovation outputs and international economic flows.

As economies progress towards greater dependence on information and knowledge for economic growth, enterprises around the world have begun to pay closer attention to their trade secrets as one of the “X” factors differentiating them from their competitors. This observation was highlighted in Baker McKenzie’s 2017 study where 8 in 10 respondents regarded trade secrets as an important, if not essential, part of their business.

Acknowledging the importance of trade secrets, Singapore undertook a trade secrets study in 2021. In the study, an overwhelming majority of our local businesses identified trade secrets as the most important type of intellectual property (“IP”) for their business growth. That said, less than half of them had taken steps to safeguard their trade secrets – mostly due to a lack of knowledge on how to go about doing it. To mitigate this knowledge gap, IPOS commissioned a Trade Secrets Enterprise Guide (“Guide”) as an introductory resource which enterprises may tap on.

IPOS partnered SBF and other organisations including Action Community for Entrepreneurship, Enterprise Singapore, Singapore Fintech Association and SGTech to increase awareness about this tool.

The Guide was launched at IP Week @ SG 2022, where SBF’s Executive Director, Mr Tan Chee Wee, shared the importance of trade secrets and how it could help local enterprises. Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law, Mr Edwin Tong, also shared about how the Guide supports the Singapore IP Strategy 2030, which is Singapore’s national roadmap for maintaining a world-class IP regime to support innovative businesses for growth, especially in this era of rapid technological advances.

To watch a replay of the launch event, please visit:

Photos on the Launch event during IP Week @ SG 2022. Photo on the left: Mr Tan Chee Wee, Executive Director of SBF, opening the Launch event. Photo on the right: Speakers at the Launch event. From right to left – Mr Tan Chee Wee, Executive Director of SBF, Mr Anan Sivananthan, Partner, Bird & Bird ATMD LLP, Mr Tim Londergan, CEO, Tangibly Inc, and Mr Richard Hayler, Chief Financial Officer, Nutrition Technologies.

IPOS and its partners hope to impart knowledge so that enterprises are equipped to use their IP and intangible assets (“IA”) for growth. Looking ahead, with Artificial Intelligence, Web3.0, blockchain and other digital technologies becoming mainstream, successful protection of confidential information and trade secrets will become more complex and challenging. However, armed with an understanding of how to identify your enterprise’s trade secrets, and how best to protect and manage them, businesses can be ready to face these challenges.

The Guide has been designed as a living document and will be updated given feedback and new developments. Individuals and small businesses looking for business or legal advice on IP can turn to IPOS’ IP Business Clinic and IP Legal Clinic.

Aside from an overview of Singapore’s trade secrets regime, the Guide includes examples on how enterprises can commercialise and exploit their trade secrets and some tools and services that they may tap on. Furthermore, a non-disclosure agreement template is provided for enterprises to adapt and use.  

Case studies, such as the one on Celligenics and Rigel can also be found in the Guide.