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Registering Designs in Singapore

An Industrial design is one of the types of Intellectual Property where intellectual property is used to refer to the creations of the mind. It can be an invention, literary or artistic work, symbols, names or images as well. Since it is a property, just like in case of property ownership, ownership of the right of an intellectual property is referred to as Intellectual Property rights. These rights are granted to the owner/creator/ the applicant which in turn help the owner of the rights to regulate the use/selling of the protected item/process.

An industrial design protection helps protect the design of an item; designs can be further classified as the property that makes the item unique in terms of its look and feel. Designs are essential as they are one of the first factors that tend to influence the behaviour of a consumer. If an item has an aesthetically pleasing design or has a practical design which complements its other functionalities, probability of the consumer preferring it over other similar items is higher. Since these designs play such a crucial role in the performance of a product or item in the market, it is logical to assume that a registered design is an asset for the organization/individual holding the right to the said design. Organizations or individuals often use multiple IP rights to protect their invention or product. A product in others words can be protected with a combination of IP rights, like a patent to protect the technical working and innovation of the product, an industrial design to protect the appearance of the product and trademark to protect the name of the product etc.

The owner of a registered design has the right to stop others from using or selling his design without his/her permission. To obtain a registered design, the design must conform to the criteria of novelty or originality. Novelty refers to the design not having been published or disclosed to the public at the time of application for registering design protection. It is also noteworthy that there also are few eligibility criteria in terms of what cannot be registered as a design, for example any design that does not align with the public order or morality cannot be registered as a design.

In Singapore, the term to file for a design application is six months from the date of priority. Singapore also allows for registration of multiple design applications provided the design relate to the same class and subclass of articles. Once a design is registered, the applicant will be issued a Certificate of registration and the design will be protected for 5 years initially from the date of filing with renewal pending after every 5 years up to 15 years. For entities or organisations based abroad, it is required that industrial design registration is done through a local Singapore patent attorney. Additionally, it is of relevance to note that Singapore also has a first to file system when it comes to registered designs which basically implies that whoever files for a design application prior to the original creator of the design will have a priority over the other applicants including the original creator of the design. Singapore Intellectual Property office also does not conduct a very extensive examination of the application which might lead to designs that are being registered having a lack of novelty and an uncertainty if a registered design can withstand an attack on its validity. There is also a provision to withhold the publication of your design until the end of 18 months from the date of filing of the application; this primarily helps maintain the secrecy of a design till it has been registered.

For convenience of the applicant, Intellectual Property of Singapore official website also provides tools like Pre-filing checklist which help an applicant immensely in terms of having a clearer picture of the how the process generally flows while obtaining a registration for an industrial design and what relevant documents are required throughout the process of registration. In addition to the checklist, the official website also provides other basic details including relevant forms required or the charges that would be incurred. Assistance in other ways also includes getting registered for the official mailing list of the Intellectual Property office of Singapore which can help keep track of regular updates or latest news in the IP domain/laws in Singapore.

In conclusion, if a business is looking forward to aggressively expand or protect their products against counterfeiting or piracy, design registration coupled with other Intellectual Property rights can be used to maintain the protection of the item/process, this also allows for a business to license the aforementioned process/item to other businesses on conditional terms.

Author: Dhruv Verma, Associate at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys. In case of any queries please contact/write back to us at [email protected].

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