Published on 07 Mar 2022

The 4th IPIRA Conference: Addressing Contemporary Issues in Intellectual Property and Innovation Law in Asia

Inaugurated in 2019, the Conference is an annual initiative of the IPIRA Network to provide a forum for intellectual exchange between researchers interested in intellectual property (IP) and innovation law in Asia and beyond

The fourth Intellectual Property and Innovation Researchers of Asia (IPIRA) Conference took place virtually from 9 to 12 February 2022. This year’s Conference was co-organised by Nanyang Business School (NBS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Academy, World Trade Organisation (WTO), the International Islamic University of Malaysia, the University of Indonesia, Texas A&M University School of Law, and the University of Geneva.

Over 300 IP professors, researchers, experts, and academics from more than 60 countries participated in the virtual event. The Conference covered all areas of IP in relation to innovation, and the research papers presented included topics on women entrepreneurs; knowledge spill-overs; patent data; child creators and innovators; access to essential technologies; and music sampling.

Close to 200 participants attended the Conference

The Conference opened with remarks from Mr Hasan Kleib, Deputy Director-General of the Regional and National Development Sector at WIPO, and Ms Anabel González, Deputy Director-General of the WTO, and they addressed how the intellectual property system should respond and adapt to a post-COVID-19 world. The Conference also featured two plenary sessions that focused on new technologies and the future of intellectual property management, and the role of intellectual property in sustainable development.

Mr Antony Taubman from Intellectual Property, Government Procurement and Competition Division of the WTO, and Mr Edward Kwakwa from WIPO’s Global Challenges and Partnerships Sector, presented their views along with other distinguished speakers from key universities in the UK, Australia, South Africa, India, Malaysia, and China.

Since 2019, the IPIRA Conference has become Asia’s premier and largest intellectual property and innovation event. This year’s Conference comprised 28 parallel sessions with over 160 presentations on a wide range of topics in the key areas of intellectual property law, such as its implications on patents, trademarks, copyright, industrial designs, geographical indications, and more. Over the sessions, a significant number of presentations discussed the interaction between the intellectual property system and other important fields, such as information technology; AI and blockchain; 3D printing; public health; medicine and biotechnology; traditional cultural expressions and traditional knowledge; finance and investment; and competition and anti-trust law. 

Asst Prof Althaf Marsoof sharing his topic on “Machine Confusion” during the presentation  

Representing NBS, Asst Prof Althaf Marsoof presented on the topic of “Machine Confusion.” In his presentation, he imagined a world where humans and machines coexist, allowing humans to appoint machines running on AI algorithms to make purchasing decisions on their behalf. In such a world, he considered the place and role of key doctrines in trademark law, such as the confusion test, that are integral to the legal protection of brands. While he acknowledged that traditional trademark doctrines may have to be adjusted to reflect the absence of human intervention in the process of decision-making, he argued that with parallel developments in blockchain technology, it may be quite possible that machines will displace the need for trademark law and traditional adjudication altogether.  

Former NBS visiting professor, founder of the IPIRA Network, and one of the scientific organisers Prof Irene Calboli, shared that despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, the Conference was a resounding success. “While we all hope to move back to in-person events in the future, we were still able to grow the IPIRA network, thanks to all the organisers and support teams who worked tirelessly to make it happen, including the wonderful colleagues at NTU!” she said.