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Singapore puts intellectual property focus on innovation, intangible assets



Singapore has released a new decade-long roadmap paving out plans to boost its role as a global hub for intangible assets (IA) and intellectual property (IP). These are expected to include changes to its legislative framework involving the use of big data and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. 

Spanning through to 2030, its new IP blueprint would be led by a committee with representatives from more than 10 government agencies including Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), Ministry of Trade and Industry, Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), and Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*Star). 

The 10-year roadmap was formally announced Monday and laid out recommendations aimed at bolstering Singapore’s place as a global hub for IA and IP, attracting and growing innovative businesses using IA and IP, as well as  developing skillsets and jobs in the two areas. 

Intangible assets typically are defined as non-monetary assets that have no physical substance and largely comprise–though, not limited to–IP including patents, copyrights, and trademarks, as well as assets that yield economic benefits such as data and software algorithms. 

According to Edwin Tong, Singapore’s Second Minister for Law and Minister for Culture, Community, and Youth, the value of IA currently accounted for 54% of the world’s total value listings, outstripping the value of tangible assets. 

Previously seen more as a legal or technical function, the management of IA and IP increasingly was seen as an essential part of strategic management decisions that impacted shareholder value, Tong said. 

With the global IA value tipping at more than $65 trillion, Singapore believed its 10-year IP blueprint would ensure it remained a “conducive environment” for businesses to safeguard, manage, and transact their IA. 

Part of such efforts would include the introduction of an exception for computational data analysis in its Copyright Bill, to enable the use of copyrighted works for various purposes such as text and data mining, data analytics, and machine learning. 

“Technological and market changes in the digital economy significantly affect how data is created, distributed, and consumed,” the Singapore IP Strategy 2030 report stated. “The ‘big data revolution’ has seen huge growth in the generation and collection of digital data, and driven the creation of large datasets and databases that are the ‘stock feed’ on which new technologies such as machine learning rely on.”

It added that IPOS would continue to assess the importance of big data in Singapore and determine if further changes to its IA and IP laws were needed to enable innovators and enterprises to “capture economic opportunities” in the digital economy. The aim here was to find “a balance” between the interest of creators and providing access to third parties. 

IPOS also was in the midst of reviewing the country’s regime for trade secrets protection to ensure it remained conducive for innovative businesses. 

In addition, with AI increasingly used in create products, inventions and content, the IP office was assessing Singapore IP regime so it supported the development and use of AI technologies. 

With other global IP offices such as the UK and US also conducting public consultations on similar AI issues, IPOS would collaborate on a research initiative with the Singapore Management University Centre for AI and Data Governance as well as IMDA to collect views on AI. This would explore concepts in IP that had been under increasing scrutiny with the advent of AI technologies. 

Singapore last October released an AI Ethics & Governance Body of Knowledge (BoK) to provide businesses a reference guide on the ethical aspects related to the development and deployment of AI technologies. It encompassed use cases to outline the positive and negative outcomes of AI adoption, and looked at the technology’s potential to support a “safe” ecosystem when utilised properly. The reference guide was developed based on Singapore’s Model AI Governance Framework.

Amongst its list of recommendations, the Singapore IP Strategy 2030 report noted that the country should continue to boost IP ties with other Asean markets, including through international treaties and IP work-sharing agreements. 

It further stated that Singapore should work with Institutes of higher learning to support local sectors, such as biomedical science, electronics, and precision engineering, and better address their IA and IP needs. Such efforts should include the development of training programmes to help senior management executives better appreciate the value of IA and IP in driving business growth. 

In addition, Singapore should develop nationally recognised standards and certification programmes that could be adopted by the industry, providing local businesses assurance that they were hiring workers or engaging service providers with the right skills.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said: “Intangible assets and intellectual property management has far-reaching effects on product development, go-to-market decisions, and strategic partnerships. 

“A clear set of nationally recognised standards and certification programmes will also help companies to build IA and IP management into their business development and strategic management decisions, which will give them an edge in protecting and commercialising their innovations quickly,” Chan said.


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Motorola thinks it can take business from Apple (with this?)




Exuding security?

Screenshot by ZDNet

Recently, I’ve developed an unhealthy fascination with Motorola.

Ever since the company declared itself and its wares to be “agents of change,” I’ve been desperate to witness the change I can believe in.

The company’s first attempt to think different sadly resembled something you’ve seen (far too) many times before.

Still, my eyes became oddly widened when I saw this headline: “Forget the new iPhone 13 — Motorola thinks it just made your next work phone.”

This gave me a shuddery feeling for more than one reason. This is an aggressive alternative to the iPhone 13? This is from Motorola?

And wait, what is a work phone anyway?

Given that the pincer movement between tech and corporate America has forced us to be always on (edge), thanks to mobile technology, how can a work phone really be separate from your usual phone?

It’s cumbersome to carry two phones around — though I know some do — just to listen out for one tune or another to alert you about “work.” Rather than say, “match,” “lover”, or “burgers.”

So I hastily devoured details of what this new Motorola work phone is. It’s called the Motorola Edge 20 Lite Business Edition.

There’s a potentially uncomfortable juxtaposition between “lite” and “business,” so could it be that this phone will alleviate work encumbrances?

I rushed to Motorola’s site, desperate to be moved.

I found these words from our sponsor: “The motorola edge 20 and edge 20 lite Business Edition devices are designed specifically to meet the needs of today’s enterprises. Stay safer and up to date with two Android OS updates and three years of monthly security patches.”

Yes, it really did have Motorola with a small m, which was remarkably modest. And I’m sure monthly security patches are welcome. But it’s just a shame they have to occur every month.

The next sentence was intriguing but may not please all grammarians: “motorola edge 20 and edge 20 lite Business Edition devices are secured by ThinkShield for mobile, a comprehensive set of hardware and software security features, and is Android Enterprise Recommended.”

In essence, then, what makes a business phone a business phone is, according to Motorola, security.

I always worry when any tech company promises security. It seems painfully clear that this is a promise best left as a mobile goal, rather than a nirvana attained.

These Business Edition phones are designed to be sold to businesses in bulk. It’s wise, then, to emphasize the security at their heart.

It does, though, incite another question or two. Why aren’t all phones equally secure? Would it really necessitate a price premium just to give you what you might actually expect as a norm? And talking of price, is the price the other main selling point of the Business Edition against the iPhone 13?

The Edge 20 lite Business Edition may, indeed, be a fine phone. Motorola is, indeed, gaining market share. And many will want it to become more of a competitor in what often seems a very limited race to dominance.

But if you’re going to be a change agent, change something radically. Offer a business phone that won’t work after 7 p.m., for example.

What do you mean no corporation would ever buy that? Aren’t they all about empathy these days?

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AT&T says it has big problems. A T-Mobile salesman showed me how big




A big brand problem? They could start with that logo.


I’ve missed going to phone stores.

This may not be a sentence you’ve heard from too many people lately, but I’ve often found talking to those actually selling the phones to be an enlightening experience.

So last week, mask in hand and anticipation in head and heart, I went to an AT&T store. My main goal was to see Samsung’s Galaxy Flip 3 and Galaxy Fold 3.

I’ve been an AT&T customer for almost 20 years. Those phones seem especially riveting to me, though I’ve never held one.

Perhaps an AT&T salesperson could inspire me to finally toss my iPhone to the winds.

This Number Is Not Available.

I walked into a reasonably sized AT&T store. There were two customers inside. Very quickly, I was greeted by a saleswoman clutching an iPad.

“What name should I put down?” she asked.

“Chris,” I said.

“Right now, the wait time is thirty minutes,” she replied, very matter-of-factly.

That seemed like an infernally long time, given the sparsely populated store on this weekday afternoon. She didn’t even ask why I was there and simply walked away.

Still, she agreed I could look around. I found the Fold and the Flip, opened them and closed them, and discovered the that the crease on the Fold 3 was markedly visible, while the Flip 3 looked exactly as I’d imagined — utterly charming.

But was I going to spend another 28 minutes in the store? Was I really minded to go back?

I left, with the latest words of AT&T CEO John Stankey swishing around my brain: “Frankly, I’m not satisfied with where the AT&T brand stands right now.”

He worries the company isn’t well positioned for the next 10 years. I worry it’s not well positioned to offer basic customer service right now.

You Want Service? What Sort Of Service?

I wandered away and wondered whether I could get any service at the nearest T-Mobile store. Phone stores can be a little like car dealers, zoned into particular areas.

So I replanted the mask on my face, walked in, stood for perhaps 30 seconds and was approached by a salesperson. This despite the fact that there were four customers in a store that’s smaller than AT&T’s.

“Hi. If I asked you an honest question, would you give me an honest answer?,” I began.

“Sure,” he said.

“Is the T-Mobile coverage better in my area than it used to be?”

“Let’s find out,” he replied.

He then walked me over to the counter and showed me his iPad. He let me type in my address and showed me precisely where the nearest tower is and the strength of the signal.

My house is right on the border between good and not-so-good in signal terms. He was honest enough to not only show it, but not to offer some twisted reasoning for why it was actually guaranteed to be good.

He said that, over the next few years, the signal would improve a lot. And when I made a joke about 5G — there really are so many — he revealed he was a toggler.

“I manually switch from 4G to 5G to see where I can get a better signal,” he said. Which doesn’t sound like the sort of thing most people would be bothered doing.

Still, this was already a very pleasant chat. So I dared to ask about Samsung’s folding phones, the reason I’d gone to the AT&T store.

He took me through a comprehensive explanation of his views on the phones. The Fold 3, he said, still had issues because app designers hadn’t got around to adjusting to the Fold 3’s dimensions. He felt that YouTube just didn’t look great on the phone.

The Flip 3, though, was far more ready for everyday use, he said. The more I stared at it and fiddled with it, the more I liked it. 

I could even sink to admitting I wanted it.

Customer Service After My Own Heart.

“The problem is I’m iPhone,” I said. “I just don’t know if I can live with Android.”

“Same,” he replied. “Most of my friends and family have iPhones. If you have just one Android person on a group text, it throws everything.”

The feeling I got as a customer was that, regardless of how many people were in the store, he’d have continued the conversation.

I’d experienced this sort of service attitude at a T-Mobile store before, but I’d imagined it was perhaps a one-off, a single enthusiast. But to maintain this standard of service during and emerging from a pandemic was remarkable.

We chatted a little more. I was (pleasantly) startled to finally find another human being who refuses to put a case on his phone. He proudly showed his shiny silver iPhone 12, perfectly well cared for, while I displayed my slightly more careworn blue iPhone 12.

It’s a rare feat of customer experience when you find yourself unable to buy the product, but desperately wanting to buy something from this person.

Yet, given that working from home has long been my lot in life, I need a decent phone signal at all times and T-Mobile can’t yet guarantee that.

So, Mr. Sankey of AT&T, I know that your phone stores are likely a sad pimple on the chin of your brand perception. I know that you want to take AT&T to “a new place.” One, I imagine, that’s blissfully virtual.

But you might want to learn a thing or two about customer service from T-Mobile. Just as T-Mobile might want to learn a thing or two about security from, well, just about anyone who knows a thing or two about security.

It may well be that all phone brands will soon shut their stores and force customers to shop entirely online.

It may well be that they’ll leave the likes of Best Buy to provide actual physical experience and advice. But customer service remains something that matters to, you know, real humans.

This particular salesman got nothing out of our conversation. I asked him to please hurry the signal improvement near my house. (He said he’d get right on it.)

But, as I walked out of the store, I felt so good about the interaction that it genuinely lifted my day.

Then I looked at my phone and thought: “Hey, it’s still five minutes before anyone at the AT&T store will talk to me.”

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Ninja Van snags $578M in Series E, pulling in Alibaba as new investor



Ninja Van has snagged $578 million in Series E funding, pulling in existing and new investors that include Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group. The latest round comes over a year after it secured $279 million in Series D and amidst talks it is targeting a US public listing. 

Singapore-based logistics services operator Ninja Van said Sunday its latest funding round pulled in existing investors Geopost/DPDgroup, B Capital Group, Monk’s Hill Ventures, and Zamrud. Alibaba also participated in this round as a new investor, said Ninja Van. 

The funds injection would go towards beefing up its infrastructure and technology systems to support “a sustainable long-term cost structure”, Ninja Van said. It added that the investment also would support the “quality and consistency” of its operations, as well as its micro-supply chain service offerings aimed at helping businesses in Southeast Asia tap e-commerce opportunities.

Launched in 2014, Ninja Van currently has operations across six Southeast Asian markets including Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The last-mile logistics operator delivers some 2 million parcels daily and works with more than 1.5 million active shippers across the region, including Alibaba’s subsidiary Lazada, Tokopedia, Zalora, and Shopee. 

This figure includes unique active shippers that have placed an order with Ninja Van in the past 12 months, Ninja Van said, adding that it delivers to almost 100 million recipients. The company employs more than 61,000 staff and delivery personnel in the region.

Ninja Van Group’s co-founder and CEO Lai Chang Wen said in the statement: “The quality of investors joining us in this round of investment is a clear signal that the market recognises the emerging opportunities for e-commerce logistics in Southeast Asia and how as an entrenched player in the region, Ninja Van is positioned to take a central role in meeting the shifting demands of both businesses and consumers. We remain committed to the success of all our business partners as we move towards the next stages of sustainable growth and continued innovation.”

Lai in July told Financial Times it was “a year away” from a public listing, likely in the US, with discussions with advisors rumoured to have started. 

Ninja Van in May 2020 pulled $279 million in its Series D funding round, which it then said would be tapped to drive its presence in the business-to-business (B2B) segment as well as expand its services for small businesses and business-to-consumer (B2C) brands. The round attracted several new and existing investors including, Grab, Golden Gate Ventures Growth Fund, Monk’s Hill Ventures, and B Capital, which is helmed by Facebook’s co-founder Eduardo Saverin.

That same month, Ninja Van said it expected to see another triple-digital volume growth this year in Thailand, where it recorded a 300% climb in shipments in 2020. The company would increase its parcel processing capacity in the country when its new automated sorting facility was scheduled to open later this year. The new site would be able to handle 800,000 parcels a day, supporting next-day delivery across the country including Bangkok and the eastern regions, Ninja Van said, adding that it was hiring another 1,000 employees in Thailand to support another 100 new regional and local distribution centres.

Southeast Asia is projected to be home to 350 million online shoppers by end-2021, up from 310 million last year, according to the latest annual study conducted by Bain & Company and commissioned by Facebook. Online spending also is expected to grow 60% per person this year, pushing total e-commerce sales to expand two-fold to $254 billion in gross merchandise value by 2026. The average consumer in the region was estimated to spend $381 online this year, compared to $238 last year, before hitting a projected $671 in 2026. 


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United Airlines wants customers to pay for something they may find outrageous




United in its greenness?

Screenshot by ZDNet

If any airline has done reasonably well out of the pandemic, it’s United.

Somehow, it’s avoided being the object of too much derision — other than its fanciful claim that it’s so very hard to get Covid on a plane (so, you know, we’ll try and stuff as many passengers in as we can).

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These days, the airline has led the assault on vaccine recalcitrants by insisting employees get vaccinated or lose their jobs, which seems quite boisterously sane.

Yet with confidence comes a certain potential overreach.

No, I’m not specifically talking about the way all airlines, the minute there’s some global event, beg the government for money. Many, many billions.

This little tale involves a perfectly innocent (-sounding) comment made by United CEO Scott Kirby.

Appearing on CBS‘s Face The Nation, Kirby offered many musings about, well, the nation.

He offered copious positive mutterings about the Biden administration. Sample: “I think the administration is doing a really admirable job of trying to find all the levers to push to get the whole country vaccinated, and they have really gotten better data and science.”

Alright, you might be thinking, what does he want?

The administration hasn’t, after all, decreed that all airline passengers must be vaccinated. Neither has United Airlines, oddly enough. Even though, like every restaurant near my house, it could demand proof of jabbing.

So then, why all the governmental praise? Might there be a reason?

Well, later in the interview Kirby mused about the new infrastructure passage. He’s all for it. It’d be good for America to have better airports and air traffic control — the latter of which, some way, operates on staggeringly retrograde systems.

Still, Kirby surely wants something else. And, offered the teasing question about climate change and what airlines need to do to combat it, he couldn’t help but expose himself.

“Well, particularly for the climate change initiatives, we do need government support, really, to fund the investment,” he said. “If you look at solar and wind, 20 years ago, they couldn’t compete with coal or natural gas, and today it’s cheaper. That’s because the government provided credits to give certainty to invest in the industry.”

You know it’s coming, don’t you?

“And that’s what we need for things like sustainable aviation fuel,” he added.

Airlines are an interesting lot. They send the collection plate around at every conceivable opportunity, just as they’re squeezing more and more people onto their planes and offering them the world’s tiniest lavatories.

All while cozily buying back airline shares at every conceivable opportunity.

But ask them to invest in the technological development of something important — some would say vital — and, oh no, the taxpayers, aka our customers, should pay for that.

This isn’t to minimize what’s needed to create sustainable aviation fuel. And United is most generously pledging to buy it.

I can imagine, though, that customers may chafe a touch — those Economy seats are mighty tight — at the idea that it’s they, not the airlines, who should cough up to the max, so that the world doesn’t cough itself to death.

Of course, Kirby stands beside the flag: “This really is an opportunity in America to drive investment, drive the next generation of great jobs that can be green, but also great jobs, great technology that we can export around the world.”

And of course he must surely admire how subsidies have greatly contributed to making Elon Musk mightily wealthy, if not always mightily persuasive.

But if you’re going to appear in ads touting your commitment to be green (see below), how much should you truly invest in that commitment? A little more than you do currently?

And how much should the taxpayers fund the work for you? Especially as many will fear that airlines will simply slip a few more green fees into ticket prices.

These aren’t easy questions. They’re somewhat queasy questions.

United, along with other airlines, is a member of the so-called Clean Skies For Tomorrow coalition of interested parties. But examine the rhetoric and it’s feels more about accelerating the “supply and use of SAF technologies,” not the scientific perfecting thereof.

But ensuring some kind of tomorrow ought to involve a little corporate sacrifice too, shouldn’t it? Even from an industry not always known for it.

Then again, unlike Musk, at least Kirby wants us to stay down here on Earth. That’s something.

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