14 July 2017
Intellectual Property Protection in Singapore
Intellectual Property (IP) rights are territorial in nature and registrations in Hong Kong are not automatically enforceable in other jurisdictions like Singapore. When operating in Singapore, Hong Kong companies are advised to register their IPs as soon as practical. Singapore has a comprehensive and robust IP legal framework that is considered among the best in Asia, also performing well in international comparisons of IP jurisdictions. In the 5th Global IP Index Report (2016) by Taylor Wessing, Singapore was ranked 9th out of 43 jurisdictions.
The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), a statutory body under the Ministry of Law (MOL), oversees the country’s IP framework, with power granted under the IPOS Act 2002. All legislation governing IP protection can be viewed on the IPOS’ IP legislation webpage. Key information on IP rights (Patents, Designs, Trademarks and Copyright) is provided in the table below. Singapore also has rules and regulations on plant variety rights and trade secrets, with information on protecting these rights also found on the IPOS website.
Overview of IP Rights in Singapore
A patentable invention can be a product or a process that gives a new technical solution to a problem, a new method of doing things, the composition of a new product, or a technical improvement on how certain objects work.
Singapore’s IP law operates under the first to file principle - that is, if two people apply for a patent on an identical invention, the first filed application will be awarded the patent.
Further information on patents can be found in the Patent Info Pack, available on the IPOS website.
20 years from the filing date subject to annual renewal fees, starting from the end of the fourth from the Date of Filing, and every year thereafter, until the patent expires.
Registration and Fees
Information on applying for a patent in Singapore, including the patent forms and schedule of fees, can be found within the Forms and Fees section of the IPOS website.
Singapore is a member of the following international conventions regulating patents: Paris Convention, Patent Cooperation Treaty, ASEAN Patent Examination Co-operation (ASPEC) and the Global Patent Prosecution Highway (GPPH), which means that time and resource could be saved by processing patent applications through these routes.
Trademarks and Geographical Indication (GIs)
A trademark protects signs, symbols, logos, words or sounds. A GI protects names or signs used on certain products which correspond to a specific location, where the quality or reputation of the goods is essentially attributable to its place of origin.
Both GIs and trademarks are valid for 10 years from the initial filing date. Protection can be indefinite provided that the necessary renewal fees are paid after each 10-year period, and the mark is being used correctly.
Registration and Fees
Information on applying for a trademark in Singapore and associated fees is available on the IPOS website within Forms and Fees section. Applications can be either:
1. Direct submission to IPOS through the online registration system. Registration can take around nine months from the date the application on the assumption of no opposition.
2. Using the Madrid Protocol, a single international application can be filed.
Copyright protects works such as novels, computer programmes, plays, sheet music and paintings. Generally, the author of a copyright work has the right to reproduce, publish, perform, communicate and adapt his work.
When an artistic work, such as a drawing or a sculpture, is applied to a product and industrially produced (i.e. more than 50 copies of the products are produced), the copyright protection will no longer cover that artistic work, but it may be protected as a registered design.
Further information on copyright can be found in the Copyright Info Pack, available on the IPOS website.
The duration varies between 25 years and 70 years depending on the type of copyright work.
Copyright is an automatic protection and there is no need to file for registration. In practice, authors have resorted to a number of ways to demonstrate ownership (e.g. deposited a copy of their work with lawyers and sent a copy of their work to themselves by post). However, these are not necessarily proof of ownership and will need to be decided in court.
A design refers to the features of a shape, configuration, pattern or ornament applied to an article by any industrial process. Registered Designs are used primarily to protect designs for industrial use.
To qualify for registration, a design must satisfy two key criteria:
1. It must be new and not registered in Singapore or elsewhere, or published anywhere in the world before the date of application of the first filing. The owner of a design should be careful not to disclose the design to anyone until a design application is filed.
2. It must be industrially applied onto an article.
The design registration system in Singapore operates on a first-to-file basis - the first person to file an application will, in general, have priority over others. In Singapore, there is a priority application procedure in place for applicants who have filed an earlier application for the same design in another Paris Convention country or a WTO member country, although the Singapore application must be filed within six months from the date of the first filing.
The design is valid for an initial five years from the date of filing the registration. The registration can then be renewed every five years up to a maximum of 15 years, subject to the payment of the renewal fees.
Registration and Fees
Information on applying for a registered design in Singapore and associated fees is available in the Forms and Fees section on the IPOS website. Applications can be either:
1. Direct to IPOS through the online registration system.
2. File one application for multiple jurisdictions through the Hague System, with which a single international application can be filed.
Enforcement of IP Rights
Under the relevant IP Acts, enforcement of IP rights can be exercised, where there are two main avenues of enforcement – civil litigation and criminal prosecution. For advice on which route to take, Hong Kong companies are recommended to contact:
HMD helps resolve disputes concerning the registration of trademarks, patents, registered designs and plant varieties protection. Disputes can be resolved either through IPOS or the courts.
The IP Competency Framework (IPCF) Certified listing is a free web-based directory tailored to assist companies and individuals in expediting their search for certified IP professionals and services.
This is a forum for resolving disputes between licensors who are in the business of collectively administering copyright licences for different copyright owners, and users of copyright materials.
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