Intellectual property rights (IPR) have come to be a crucial asset in improving businesses in…
A patent is a privilege given to the creator of an invention to prohibit the invention from being made, used, imported or sold by others without permission. A patent may be secured for a product or method that offers a new technological solution to a problem or a new way of doing things, for a new product to be composed, or for technological improvement in the way such objects operate.
Unlike most of the countries in South-East Asia, in Singapore there is only one official type of patent, bearing a resemblance to the European Union. However, registered designs, plant varieties can be registered separately and are given different protection under the Singaporean law. The patent protection begins from the date of the earlier application, also known as ‘priority date’. In order to obtain a patent, an invention must satisfy the criteria of showing ‘novelty’, ‘innovation’ and ‘industrial application’. The registry will record the date of filing as the date of the application for the granting of the patent if it is filed in Singapore, however, if an earlier application for the same process was filed by the same applicant in another country that is a member of the Paris Convention or WTO, the applicant may claim priority. In cases, where the earlier application has been filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the application will have 30 months to enter the National Phase stage in Singapore.
Singapore has the first-to-file system, that means the first person to file an application will own the rights to the invention once it is granted. This makes patent registration all the more essential in Singapore before commencing business dealings. One of the recent amendments came in 2017 to the Singapore’s Patents Act and Rules which included major revisions like removal of supplementary examination route. This examination process enabled Singapore patents to be granted on the basis of positive examination results from a corresponding international application. With the closure of this method, all the patents will undergo full examination by the examiners of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS). This amendment was done to bring in the consistency of assessment of the patentable subject matter.
Singaporean patents are valid for 20 years from the date of filing, subject to payment of annual renewal fees starting from the end of the fourth year. A request for the granting of a patent must be submitted using the official form and submitted to the IPOS. The application must be accompanied by a) A description of the invention; b) The documents assessing your ‘priority date’ if necessary; c) The application fee. The overall process for registration takes anywhere between two to four years depending on the complexity of the innovation. The inventors of the invention themselves, or people owning the rights to a patent by virtue of an agreement, may make an application for a patent in Singapore. Whilst, there are no restrictions as to nationality or residency, a Singapore address must be provided for service, to which all correspondence will be sent.
Singapore has taken various initiatives, called ‘Accelerated Programmes’ in which invention owners can seek a grant of patents in. a very short period of time, as little as 6 to 12 months. Some programmes are a) 12 months File-to-Grant, where one can seek the granting of Singapore patent within a period of 12 months from the filing of application if there are no objections and one follows the specified time limits for certain actions; b) The FinTech Fast Track (FTFT), is a programme to speed up the grant process for financial technology patents. If the requirements are met, IP holders can expect patents in as little as 6 months; c) Patent Prosecutive Highway (PPH), is an agreement that one IP office may accelerate the process of a patent application by referring to the examination results of another IP office so that the applicant can obtain grants quickly.
The basic fees charged by the IPOS for patent registration in Singapore are comprised of (i) Application Fees of Singapore Dollars (SGD) 160, (ii) Search and Examination Fees, which varies from SGD 1350 to 3000 and (iii) Granting Fees of SGD 200. Since 2018, the IPOS has adopted 100% e-payment in line with Singapore’s Smart Nation policy.
Filing for a patent provides a quicker way of securing your Intellectual Property. Singapore has a robust IP framework and is considered to be one of the strongest in Asia. Its legislative and administrative regime is fully compliant with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS). Singapore is also a member of the major international conventions regulating IP matters such as the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), Madrid Agreement concerning International Registration of Marks and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The inventor should conduct IP due diligence exercise to assess the strength of his technology and patent portfolio, to secure and protect his IP and maintain an edge over competitors in the same space.