The Republic of Singapore (hereinafter “Singapore”) is located right on the equator and almost the center of the Southeast Asia. Singapore is a tropical country of everlasting summer throughout the year. It has an area of about 716 square kilometers, which is about the same size as the Awaji-shima island in Japan, and has the population of about 5.4 million (as of September 2013). Singapore was once under the British colonial rule, and became an independent state formally in 1965.
The Major industries in Singapore include: manufacturing industry (electronics, chemical-related field, biomedical field, transport machines, precision machines); commerce; business service; transportation and communication; and financial service etc. As many Japanese-affiliated companies can be found there, Singapore is one of the states with a large number of Japanese residents.
In terms of protection of intellectual property rights, Singapore is a member of the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the Madrid Agreement, and the Berne Convention etc.
The Singapore Patents Act (hereinafter, “Patents Act”) is established in 1994. The “Patents (Amendment) Act 2012” under which the conventional “self-assessment” patent system is replaced with the “positive grant” patent system was enacted in the Diet in 2012, and it came into effect in January 14, 2014.
(1) Application routes
Singapore is a member of the Paris Convention and the PCT. Accordingly, a patent application can be filed via the Paris-conventional route or the PCT route.
(2) Patentable inventions
- (i) An invention which is new, involves an inventive step, and is capable of industrial application is a patentable invention excepting an invention expected to encourage offensive, immoral or anti-social behavior, and an invention of a method of treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy or of diagnosis practiced on the human or animal body (Patents Act sections 13(1), and 16(2)).
- (ii) Exception to lack of novelty of invention of 12 months from disclosure under prescribed conditions (grace period) is granted (Patents Act section 14(4)).
(3) Application documents
- (i) Every application for a patent shall contain (Patent Acts section 25(3)):
∙ a request for the grant of a patent;
∙ a specification containing a description of the invention, a claim or claims;
∙ any drawing referred to in the description or any claim; and
∙ an abstract
- (ii)If the above application documents include a document in a language other than English, an applicant is notified that an English translation of that thing is required, and the applicant needs to file an English translation of the document within 2 months from the date of the notification (Patent Rules 19(10)(11)).
(4)Publication of application
An application for a patent shall be published after 18 months from the date of filing the application or the priority date thereof (Patents Act section 27 and Patent Rules 29).
(5)Search and Examination
- (i) Under the old Patents Act, the “self-assessment” patent system was adopted. Under this system, an applicant could obtain a patent of an invention if the applicant desires to obtain the patent even in a case where the invention has a reason for refusal regarding patentability. For this reason, the applicant had the burden of proof for the patentability of a claimed invention before the grant of a patent.
Under the amended Patents Act, the ”self-assessment” patent system is replaced with the “positive grant” patent system. Under the “positive grant” patent system, a patent is granted for an application only in a case where substantive examination (to examine whether or not requirements such as novelty, inventive step, and industrial application capability are satisfied) is positive for patentability of claimed inventions in the application. Otherwise, the application is refused.
- (ii)An applicant can proceed an application through any of the following Options A to C (Patents Act section 29).
(a)Option A (search and/or examination)
Option A-1: First file a request for a search report (Patents Act section 29(1)(a)). After receiving the search report, the applicant files a request for an examination report within a prescribed period (Patents Act section 29 (3)), in response of which the examination report is prepared (Patents Act section 29(4)).
Option A-2: File a request for a search and examination report (Patents Act section 29(1)(b)), in response of which the search and examination report is prepared (Patents Act section 29(5)).
(b)Option B (examination based on a search report etc. of a corresponding application etc.)
File a request for examination report based on the final results of a search report etc. of a corresponding application, corresponding international application or related national phase application (Patents Act section 29(1)(c)), in response of which the examination report thereof is prepared (Patents Act section 29(4)).
(c)Option C (supplementary examination based on patent allowance/patent grant of a corresponding application or international preliminary report etc.)
File a request for supplementary examination report based on the final results of a search and substantive examination of one corresponding application etc., or a search and substantive examination of an application in the international phase (Patents Act section 29(1)(d)), in response of which the supplementary examination report is prepared (Patents Act section 29(6)).
- (iii)Eligibility for grant of patent
(a)In a case where the examination report, the search and examination report, or the supplementary examination report does not contain any unresolved objection, a notice of eligibility to proceed to the grant of a patent is issued to the applicant (Patents Act section 29A(1)).
(b)In a case where the examination report, the search and examination report, or the supplementary examination report contains one or more unresolved objections, a notice of intention to refuse the application for a patent is issued to the applicant (Patents Act section 29A(3)).
(c)The applicant can request for a review by filing a written submission and an amendment (Patents Act sections 29A(3), and 29B(1)(2)).
(d)When the review is completed, the Examiner prepares an examination review report (Patents Act section 29B(3).
(e)In a case where the unresolved objection is considered to be overcome in the examination review report, a notice of eligibility to proceed to the grant of a patent is issued to the applicant (Patens Act section 29B(5)(b)(i)).
(f)In a case where the unresolved objection is considered not to be overcome with the examination review report, a notice of refusal of the application for a patent is issued to the applicant (Patents Act section 29B(5)(b)(ii)).
(6)Grant of patent
An applicant is granted a patent if all of the following conditions have been satisfied (Patents Act section 30);
- (i) all the formal requirements have been complied with;
- (ii)the applicant has received a notice of eligibility to proceed to the grant of a patent under section 29A(1) or 29B(5)(b)(i); and
- (iii)the prescribed documents for the grant of the patent have been filed.
(7)Term of patent
- (i) A patent shall take effect on the date of issue of the certificate of grant, and shall continue in force until the end of the period of 20 years beginning with the date of filing the application for the patent (Patents Act section 36(1)).
- (ii)The term of patent can be extended on any of the following grounds (Patents Act section 36(A)):
(a)that there was an unreasonable delay by the Registrar in granting the patent in the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS);
(b)in a case where the patent was granted on the basis of results of patent allowance/patent grant of a corresponding application or a result of search and examination as to one related national phase application, that there was an unreasonable delay in the issue of the corresponding patent or related national phase patent, and the term of the corresponding patent or related national phase patent is extended on the basis of such delay; or
(c)in a case where the subject of a patent includes a substance which is an active ingredient of any pharmaceutical product, that an opportunity to exploit the patent is curtailed due to the process of obtaining marketing approval since the subject of the patent is the first pharmaceutical product to obtain marketing approval which uses the substance as an active ingredient, and the term of patent has not been extended on the grounds of the above reason.
There is no opposition system in Singapore.
(9)Power to revoke patents on application
A patent is revoked by order on an application on the limitedly listed grounds (Patents Act section 80(1))
There is no legal system to protect a utility model in Singapore.
Singapore is a member of the Paris Convention. Accordingly, a design application can be filed via the Paris-conventional route.
- (i) New design may be registered (Singapore Registered Designs Act, (hereinafter referred to as “Designs Act”) section 5).
- (ii）The following a) through c) are now to be protected as designs.
a) Non-physical products such as a virtual keyboard
b) Color having a characteristic of design
c) Handicrafts such as handmade jewelry
- (iii)A design contrary to public order or morality, or being computer program or layout-designs of integrated circuits shall not be registered (Designs Act sections 6 and 7).
- A request (Designs Act section 11, and Registered Designs Rules 13)
- Multiple Design Application (up to 50 designs of the same class in 1 single application)
- Different views of a design that may be filed as representations of the design (Registered Designs Rules 14)
- A statement describing features of the design which an applicant considers to be new (Registered Designs Rules 15)
Only the formality requirements of a design is examined to register the design (Designs ACT sections 14 to 20)
(5)Duration of Registration
The initial period of registration of a design is 5 years from the date of registration of the design. Then, the period of registration of the design may be extended every 5 years twice. The overall period of registration can be extended up to a maximum of 15 years (Designs Act section 21(1)(2)).
Any interested person may apply to the Registrar or the Court for the revocation of the registration of a design on prescribed grounds (Designs Act section 27).
Singapore is a member of the Paris Convention and the Madrid Agreement. Accordingly, an application can be filed via the Paris-conventional route or an international trademark registration under the Madrid Agreement.
(2)Trademark registration standards
(i)A trademark to be registered:
- includes any letter, word, name, signature, numeral, device, brand, heading, label, ticket, shape, color, aspect of packaging or any combination thereof; is any sign capable of being represented graphically; and
- is capable of distinguishing goods or services of a proprietor of the trademark from goods or services of any other person (Singapore Trademarks Act, (hereinafter “Trademarks Act” section 2(1)).
(ii) The following trademarks shall not to be registered.
- An application of a trademark made in bad faith (Trademarks Act section 7(6)).
- A trademark contrary to public policy or to morality (Trademarks Act section 7(4)(a)).
- A trademark which has a nature to deceive the public as to the nature, quality or geographical origin of goods or services) (Trademark Act 7(4)(b)).
- A trademark whose use is prohibited in Singapore by any written law or rule of law (Trademark Act section 7(5)).
- Trademarks which are merely descriptive (Trademark Act section 1(c)).
- Trademarks which consist exclusively of signs or indications which have become customary practices of trade for goods or services (Trademark Act section 1(d)).
- A trademark which is identical with or similar to an earlier registered trademark or an earlier non-registered trademark, and goods or services of the trademark is identical with or similar to goods or services of the earlier registered trademark or the earlier non-registered trademark, and therefore there exists a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public (Trademark Act section 8(1)(2)).
- A trademark which is identical with or similar to an earlier trademark which is well known in Singapore (Trademark Act section 8(4)(5)).
The application should:
- file a request for the registration of a trademark;
- state the name and address of the applicant;
- file a clear representation of the trademark;
- list goods or services in relation to which the applicant seeks to register the trademark; and
- state (i) that the trademark is being used in the course of trade, by the applicant or with his consent, in relation to those goods or services; or (ii) that the applicant has an intention in good faith that the trademark should be so used (Trademark Act section 5(2)).
(4)Examination of application
- (i) The Registrar shall examine whether an application for registration of a trademark satisfies the requirements for registration. In a case where the requirements are not satisfied, the Registrar shall inform the applicant and give the applicant an opportunity for representations and amendment (Trademark Act section 12(1)(2)).
- (ii)In a case where the applicant makes a response within a prescribed period but fails to satisfy the requirements, the Registrar can refuse the application (Trademark Act section 12(4)).
- (iii)In a case where the Registrar considers that the requirements for registration are satisfied, the Registrar shall grant the application (Trademark Act section 12(5)).
(5)Publication and opposition proceedings
- (i) When an application for registration has been granted, the Registrar shall publish the application (Trademark Act section 13(1)).
- (ii)Any person may, within 2 months from the date of the publication of the application, file a notice to the Registrar of opposition to the registration (Trademark Act section 13(2) Trademark Rules 29).
In a case where an application has been accepted, no notice of opposition is given within the prescribed period, or all opposition proceedings are withdrawn or decided in favor of the applicant, the Registrar shall register the trademark (Trademark Act section 15(1)).
(7) Duration of registration
- (i) A trademark shall be registered for a period of 10 years from the date of the registration (Trademark Act section 18(1)).
- (ii) Registration may be renewed under prescribed conditions for further periods of 10 years (Trademark Act section 18(2)).
(8) Invalidity of registration
A registration of a trademark may be declared invalid on the ground of a prescribed reason(s) (Trademark Act section 23).
(1)Singapore Patent Office: IP Legislation (Patents Act, Registered Designs Act, Trademarks Act)
(2)Japan Patent Office: Information on Foreign Industrial Property Systems (Japanese translation of Singaporean Acts (Patents Act, Designs Act, and Trademarks Act)
(3)The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan: Republic of Singapore Basic data
(4)Manual on Countermeasures Against Counterfeits of Singapore, published in March 2012 from the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO)