In Memoriam:
Elizabeth Ng Siew Kuan (1961-2018)



Associate Professor Elizabeth Ng Siew Kuan joined NUS Law in 1986, having completed her legal education in England with an LL.M. from Cambridge on a Cambridge Commonwealth Trust scholarship. Called to the Bar in England and Singapore, intellectual property (IP) became her field of expertise and she excelled in both theory and practice.

Siew Kuan pioneered many of the IP courses now on offer at NUS Law, including Foundations of IP Law, International Patent Law, Policy & Practice, Biotechnology Law, and Global Exploitation of IP Rights among others. She spoke and published around the world, her most recent book appearing late last year.

Never one to retreat into an ivory tower, Siew Kuan was also deeply engaged with the profession locally and internationally. She served as an IP adjudicator for the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore and as amicus curiae for the Supreme Court of Singapore. In her specialist area of patents, she was retained as a consultant by the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva to report on the impact of the patent regime on developing countries. This built on one of her abiding qualities as a scholar-practitioner, which was her commitment to working with fellow IP specialists from around the region.

Within NUS Law, she was a respected and admired colleague, and a popular and effective teacher. Her roles included Deputy Chairwoman and head of the IP programme at the EW Barker Centre for Law & Business, and Director of the Graduate Certificate in IP.

We celebrate her life and mourn the passing of an outstanding educator, scholar, and friend.

Professor Simon Chesterman
Dean, NUS Law


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“I first knew Siew Kuan in 1987, my final year in law school and her first year on the teaching staff of the Faculty. She was my tutor in Intellectual Property. She quickly made her mark as a good teacher and despite her youth was respected by my classmates. Over the years her reputation as a very fine teacher grew. She gave much of herself to her students, spending hours on preparation of materials and classes.

For the last three years or so, I have had the privilege and pleasure of working closely with Siew Kuan at the EW Barker Centre for Law & Business. Siew Kuan was a great partner in this endeavour. She provided strong academic leadership in our IP cluster, and played an instrumental role in developing the Centre’s reputation. I could always count on her wise counsel, and valued her views immensely especially when they ran counter to mine. Our slightly different personalities complemented each other to ensure that decisions taken were more thoughtful and holistic. Hers was a strong but courteous voice that I shall greatly miss.

In the last several years, Siew Kuan was also coming into her own on the research front. She had for a long time a good international reputation as demonstrated by her work with international organisations such as WIPO, and the many reports that she wrote. In more recent years, she had begun turning this wealth of knowledge and insight into academic articles and chapters. At the same time, she was leading some extremely interesting research projects. I was very happy to witness this phase of her development as a scholar. It grieves me deeply that her journey on this world has ended prematurely.”

Rest in peace my dear colleague and friend.”

Professor Tan Cheng Han SC ’87
Chairman, EW Barker Centre for Law & Business
Former Dean, NUS Law (2001-2011)


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“As an educator, she inspired many batches of students in the field of IP. Many are highly regarded in private practice or occupy high public offices as judges and senior executives in IP-related agencies. These students speak with one voice in describing her as a patient, knowledgeable and inspiring teacher of the law.

In research, her independence of thought is exemplary. Her works belie a drive to champion causes of less developed states by advocating a more balanced system of IP rights. In doing so, she won the respect of many giants in her field, some of whom had worked with her and are known to have espoused differing views.

In her personal life, she sacrificed her first love for medicine to conserve the limited family resources to enable her two younger siblings to enroll in medical school. The resulting loss to the medical community is a huge gain to the legal profession. With her success, she readily shared the fruits by helping friends and strangers. One outstanding example comes to mind – she went through some effort to make provision for the school fees of a woodcutter’s child in the PRC to attend school.

Siew Kuan’s labour will not be in vain. We shall do our best to complete the unfinished works she has left behind.”

Associate Professor Stephen Phua '88
Director, LLM (International Business Law), NUS Law
Director (Tax), EW Barker Centre for Law & Business

 

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“When I first joined NUS in December 2008, my office was located just a few doors down from Siew Kuan’s. She was most welcoming, and we have shared many wicked moments of corridor banter and delightful laughter, often with Stephen Phua chiming in. Over the years, Siew Kuan and I have collaborated on a number of projects, and she was always very accommodating of my requests. She would jest: ‘Anything David wants, no problem!’ Siew Kuan, you have been an angel to me, and I hope you have found eternal peace and everlasting joy in the company of angels.”

Associate Professor David Tan
Vice Dean (Academic Affairs), NUS Law

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"We will always remember Siew Kuan as the most energetic, charismatic and pragmatic professor in the world of Intellectual Property. With her infectious smile and petite frame, she towered over the pioneering development of the IP eco-system in ASEAN. Singapore and ASEAN will always remember her contribution to the development of our IP eco-system.

I first met Siew Kuan in the seminar jointly sponsored by EPO and IPOS in December 2011. In her earnest stare, she asked whether Singapore has the ambition to be a thought leader in IP. At least in the region, if not for the world.

I met her again when IPOS and MinLaw were working on the IP Hub Masterplan in June 2012. While we have good confidence that it would be a worthy effort, I asked whether we could begin to render some intellectual rigor to the notion of an “IP Hub”. In a way, IP construct has largely been territorially bounded whereas a Hub thrives on cross-border affinity. That same year, she sent me readings and early works produced by the Max Planck Institute and other European studies on the thinking behind the building of EPO and OHIM. It also led to the subsequent long-running seminar series of IP Conferences conducted by the Centre for Law & Business at NUS. For which, she has regularly asked that I attend. Perhaps, so that we could learn something from the seminar. And, that invitation continued even I have relinquished my appointment in IPOS.

When Singapore took the lead to chair the ASEAN IP Committee (AWGIPC) in 2013, we routinely consulted her on development on ASEAN IP systems. In particular, to bridge over the development gaps amongst ASEAN countries so that we could collectively put together the ASEAN IP Masterplan 2015-2025. Her intimate knowledge on TRIPS flexibility as applied in individual ASEAN countries, and her tireless effort to engage ASEAN IP Office Chiefs individually on the side have helped AWGIPC built trust and paved the way for the smooth adoption of the Masterplan. In an interesting way, and only with Siew Kuan’s most dogged and entrepreneurial spirit, the effort became the foundational thinking behind the book, International Intellectual Property and the ASEAN Way: Pathways to Interoperability.

Siew Kuan has left an indelible mark on the Singapore and ASEAN’s IP development. We are all indebted to her."

Tan Yih San
Managing Director, Candela Reach Capital
Chief Executive, Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (2011-2015)
Chair, ASEAN Working Group on Intellectual Property Cooperation (2013-2015)
 

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“It is with deep sadness that I have lost a dear friend, colleague and former ‘Federal’ neighbour, Siew Kuan. We used to chat when we met along the corridor, in the printing room or ‘ladies’. She was interested in my research as I was hers, and I had occasions to consult her on IP in the context of environmental law.

In fact, only last week when I was preparing a conference paper (jointly with an IP practitioner) on ‘ASEAN Legal Framework Relating to Cultural / Creative Industries: IP Applicability and Extending its Frontiers?’, I went into the website and found her numerous writings and edited publications on IP. I was not aware she was then in hospital.

She is one of the most prolific writers and she also taught many IP courses outside the faculty – she used to tell me about these teaching assignments. I also came to know her lovely daughter, Chantal, when she came to office with Siew Kuan. Sometimes, unannounced, Chantal would quietly open my office door and when I turned around, she would laugh and call out ‘Auntie Kheng Lian’ with great gusto. Siew Kuan would then gently ‘chide’ her: ‘Don’t disturb Auntie.’ I would then reply: ‘Not at all, welcome.’

In this hour of grief, I pray that God will comfort her loved ones with a peace that passes all understanding.”

Koh Kheng Lian ’61, LL.M. ’66, Ph.D. ’72
Emeritus Professor, NUS Law
Advisory Committee Member, Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law (APCEL)


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“I remember fondly the times Siew Kuan, another colleague and I sat down to coffee and she would play the ‘straight man’ to our silly Hokkien duo. This often left her with mystified looks or in hysterical peals of laughter.

I don’t remember how we got into the habit of greeting one another with ‘Kwanzaa!’ But we did, and often with great enthusiasm! Needless to say, the day was always a bit brighter after passing by her in the corridors.

Siew Kuan, I wish I had had the chance to know you better but am grateful for the opportunities that we had.

You will be missed.

Rest In Peace.”

Joel Lee
Associate Professor, NUS Law
Chairman, Singapore International Mediation Institute

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“Siew Kuan was a significant influence in my approach to IP law. I took her Biotechnology Law class at NUS and remember how she scrupulously examined many legal issues through a multijurisdictional lens. It was difficult enough to master the law of one country, but she had her finger firmly on the pulse of several. In her crisp British accent, she would eloquently explain how law, technology, and culture animated the outcome of each case.

Her ethos was that no jurisdiction, no matter how well-established, is beyond learning from the experiences of others. In an age where nations must increasingly confront common and complex challenges together, Siew Kuan’s wisdom rings truer still. An entire generation of practitioners, policy makers, and academics, both in Singapore and abroad, have Siew Kuan to thank for helping make the IP world a smaller and better place, and we will miss her.”

Daryl Lim ’04, LL.M ’06
Associate Professor and Director
Center for Intellectual Property, Information and Privacy Law
The John Marshall Law School, Chicago
Visiting Associate Professor (2017), NUS Law

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“Siew Kuan was my IP law tutor when I was a fourth year undergraduate at the Faculty of Law way back in AY 1988/89. She was an inspiration for many of us.

From her, I learned to be thorough in my legal research and to be in constant pursuit of academic excellence. I have read and re-read several of her works.

NUS has lost a dedicated law teacher, an accomplished IP legal scholar and a good colleague.

Associate Professor Elizabeth Ng Siew Kuan is a teacher, a colleague and a friend to me. I am deeply saddened... I will miss Siew Kuan, her encouraging words and her warm smile...”

Susanna H.S. Leong ’89
Professor and Vice Provost (Lifelong Education), NUS

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"We had the privilege and pleasure of working very closely with Siew Kuan on the Graduate Certificate in Intellectual Property, and we valued her dedication to excellence, academic rigour, integrity, responsiveness, and consistency of decision-making. Working with Siew Kuan made you want to set higher goals for the programme, and made you want to become better professionally and personally. Beyond all this, she was a lovely and caring person. We are most grateful for her support and solidarity, and most of all for the relationships she forged with us at IPA."

Teo Yi-Ling
Senior Faculty & Legal Counsel, IP Academy (Singapore)

Tay Soh Hui
Assistant Director (Programmes), IP Academy (Singapore)

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"Siew Kuan joined the Faculty a short while before I did. We were a smaller, tighter, community then. I soon discovered that she was from Taiping in Malaysia, very close to Ipoh, where I grew up.

The bond of proximity of origins grew into a very warm and easy relationship. I appreciated Siew Kuan for her clarity and crispness of intellect. It was obvious that she was at the top of her game, and I often received unprompted praise for her publications and presentations from diverse sources. I shall miss her professionalism and energy at work, and her cheery enthusiasm as a person. Hers was a life well lived."

Professor Michael Hor
Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong
 

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“Very sorry to hear of her demise. I last met her at her book launch, and have been looking forward to have her with us at the next School Advisory Committee (SAC) meeting. The management staff of the School of Applied Science at Temasek Polytechnic (TP) would miss her dearly.

As a SAC Member, Elizabeth has been an ardent supporter of our events and courses; she’d also conducted a tour of the EW Barker Centre for Law & Business, for our final year students from the BioEnterprise elective cluster to interest them in IP Law.

Elizabeth was also a member of TP’s institutional review board (IRB), assisting in ethics review of human-related trials. The meetings were usually held after office hours, but that did not deter Elizabeth from coming and contributing to the discussion.

We cannot thank Elizabeth enough for her contribution and passion in education. May she rest in peace…”

Lay-Beng Goh, Ph.D.
Deputy Director, Skills & Enterprise Development
Chair, Total Workplace Safety & Health Work Group
School of Applied Science, Temasek Polytechnic


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“Siew Kuan interviewed and hired me for this position, and I had a chance to work under her supervision for almost 3 years. She was meticulous and dedicated to her work, and she took time to explain legal terms, publication processes, etc, whenever I was in doubt.

She appreciated all the administrative help that we provided and she always prompted us not to forget our meals when we were busy preparing for events.

I remember that she liked the chocolate chip muffins and cranberry walnut cookies that I baked, and she would write to me expressing how much she enjoyed them while working late in the office.

I will miss her dearly and may she rest in peace …”

Finna Wong
Senior Manager, EW Barker Centre for Law & Business


 

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