South-East Asia IPR SME Helpdesk

Singapore

  

THE FACTS: Business in country for EU Companies

SIZE of Market

  • EU exports in goods to Singapore in 2015: EUR 29,703 million
  • EU imports in goods from Singapore in 2015: EUR 18,957 million
  • Total trade in goods in 2015: EUR 48,660 million
  • EU exports in services to Singapore in 2014: EUR 20,397 million
  • EU imports in services from Singapore in 2014: EUR 15,730 million
  • Total trade in services in 2014: EUR 36,127 million
  • Singapore GDP in 2015: EUR 263.8 billion 
  • Singapore GDP growth in 2015: 2.0%

In 2015, total EU-Singapore trade in goods grew by 7.7% to reach EUR 48,660 million. Total trade in goods in 2015: The EU is Singapore's number three trading partner after China and Malaysia while Singapore is the EU’s 16th largest trading partner. 

The EU and Singapore completed the negotiations for a comprehensive free trade agreement on 17 October 2014. The initialled agreement needs now to be formally approved by the relevant and deputed European institutions.

The Singaporean economy is open to international trade in most sectors and over 10,400 EU companies are established in Singapore, many using the CityState as a hub to serve the Asia-Pacific region.

Key INDUSTRY SECTORS - 2015

  • EU exports to Singapore are concentrated in the (i) Machinery and appliances (36.4%), followed by (ii) Products of chemical or allied industries (12.7%), (iii) Transport equipment (10.3%) and Mineral products (9.6%).
  • EU imports from Singapore are concentrated in two key sectors: (i) Products of the chemical or allied industries (43.7%) and (ii) Machinery and appliances (30.8%).

 

IPR in country for SMEs: BACKGROUND

Intellectual Property Rights for SMEs: Why is this RELEVANT to you?

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), as intangible assets, are a key factor in the competitiveness of businesses in the global economy. IP is a primary method for securing a return on investment in innovation, and is particularly relevant to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (see EC definition at http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/ policies/sme/facts-figures-analysis/sme-definition/index_en.htm) when they internationalise their business to areas such as SouthEast Asia. Not only a way to help SMEs protect their innovations from competitors, IP assets can also be an important source of cash-flow for SMEs through licensing deals or selling IP, as well as a significant pull-factor when attracting investors.

Although SMEs often have limited time and resources, it is important to be aware of how IP can be valuable to businesses. IPR infringement is one of the most common concerns for businesses when dealing with ASEAN countries, and could lead to loss of business, revenue, reputation and competitive advantage, both in South-East Asia and in core domestic markets, unless proactive steps are taken to protect IP and deter potential infringers.

Singapore has benefited from a strong IP regime and continues to build a reputable ecosystem, one that is recognised not just regionally but globally. For example, in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2015/2016, Singapore was ranked fourth in the world for having the best IP protection regime.

How does Singapore’s IP legal framework compare to INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS?

The Singaporean IP legal framework is very comprehensive and generally considered to be one of the most developed and strong in Asia and might be comparable with EU standards as the legal system of Singapore is based on the English common law system. Singapore’s IP rights legislative and administrative regime is fully compliant with Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Singapore has a very comprehensive and robust IP legal framework. IP is protected by patents, trademarks, registered designs, copyright, and layout-designs of integrated circuits, geographical indications, trade secrets and confidential information, as well as plant variety. Singapore is a member of the following international conventions regulating IP matters: the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Madrid Agreement concerning the International Registration of Marks, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the NICE Agreement concerning the International Classification of Goods and Services, and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (see the WIPO website http://www.wipo. int/treaties/en/ for more details on each of the above international agreements/conventions).

Singapore’s IP legislation has developed rapidly. It was not until 1987 with the passing of the Copyright Bill, that Singapore developed indigenous IP laws. Prior to that, except for trade marks Singapore relied on the laws of the United Kingdom (UK) to provide IP protection in Singapore. Singapore joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) 1 on January 1995 ready to implement the minimum standards of the TRIPS Agreement as developing country and met its TRIPS obligations timely. The framework is considered to be one of the best in Asia.

IP TIPS and WATCH-OUTS in Singapore

Singapore operates under a ‘first-to-file’ system, meaning that the first person to file an IP right in the Singaporean jurisdiction will own that right once the application is granted. It is therefore important that you would register your IP at first convenient opportunity.

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) provides comprehensive IP databases: you can use the eSearch services which encompass patents, trade marks and designs search functions for applications filed and registered with IPOS. For more information you can check out the IPOS web portal - https://www.ipos.gov.sg/home

 

The Singaporean IP legal framework is very comprehensive and generally considered to be one of the most sound in the South-East Asia region.

 

IP Rights in country: THE BASICS

A. Copyrights

WHAT are Copyrights?

Copyright is a legal term used to describe exclusive rights granted to authors, artists and other creators for their creations. These rights, generally, include: copying; publishing; translating; adapting and altering; distributing; etc. and are granted automatically following the creation of the work. Please see the table below to compare different types of work that can be copyrighted and the duration of protection.

Copyrights in Singapore : What you need to know

The kinds of works that can be protected by copyright laws in Singapore must be original works expressed in a tangible form, for example, recorded on tape or hard disk or expressed in writing. Originality requires skill, labour or judgment in the creation of the work, but does not require inventiveness. Copyright does not subsist in ideas, facts and principles, but only in the expression of such ideas, facts and principles, which cannot be copied.

How LONG does legal protection last?

The duration of copyright protection depends on the nature of the copyright material as indicated in the table below.

Nature of work

Duration of Copyright

Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works

70 years from the end of the year in which the author died.

If the work is published, performed or offered for sale to the public after the death of the author, 70 years from the end of the year in which the work was first published.

Photograph

70 years from the end of the year in which the photograph is first published.

Published editions of literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works e.g. magazines

25 years from the end of the year in which the edition was first published.

Sound recordings, films and performances

70 years from the end of the year of the performance or release of the sound recording or film.

Broadcasts and cable programmes

50 years from the end of the year of making the broadcast or cable programme.

 

HOW do I register? Unlike in most ASEAN countries, in Singapore there is no system of registration of copyright. Works that qualify for copyright protection under the Copyright Act do not need to be registered, because copyright protection is conferred automatically to the author as soon as it is expressed or fixed in a material form (e.g. paper, tape and film) from which it is capable of being reproduced. In general, copyright subsists in a work or subject-matter in Singapore if:

  • the work or subject-matter was first published or made in Singapore or in a member country of the Berne Convention or the WTO (see more details and a full list of all 167 members of the Berne Convention www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ip/berne and the WTO www.wto.org); or
  • the author of the work or the maker of the subject was a citizen or resident of Singapore or of a member country of the Berne Convention or the WTO at the time when the work was first published or made.

Copyrights TIPS and WATCH-OUTS in Singapore

Where a business needs to use copyrighted material, it may consider entering into a license agreement with the copyright owner to avoid copyright infringement. Further, these defences are available for copyright infringement: (a) fair dealing; (b) for the purpose of research and study; (c) for the purpose of criticism or review; and (d) for the purpose of reporting current events.

Copyright infringement may lead to criminal offence under the Singapore Copyright Act. The penalties of a fine and/ or imprisonment may be significant, where there is a large number of infringing items and where the infringement was done in an organised fashion.

 

Enhanced Protection for Phonogram Producers under the EUSingapore FTA (EUSFTA)

Singapore's Copyright Act currently does not provide for the right of performers and phonogram producers to remuneration for broadcasting and communication to the public. However, performance rights included in the EUSFTA will enable music producers to obtain broadcasting and performance royalties in Singapore. Within two years of the entry into force of the agreement, Singapore will introduce into its legal system a provision granting producers of phonograms a right to be remunerated, for example (a) when their sound recording is being broadcasted by radio including the playing of broadcast in a public place; (b) for playing of a sound recording in a public place such as a shopping mall; (c) when a sound recording in a radio broadcast is played over the internet.

B. Patents

WHAT are Patents?

A patent is a right granted to the owner of an invention to prevent others from making, using, importing or selling the invention without his permission. A patent may be obtained for a product or a process that gives a new technical solution to a problem or a new method of doing things, the composition of a new product, or a technical improvement on how certain objects work.

Unlike most countries in South-East Asia and as in the European Union, in Singapore there is only one official type of patent, however registered designs, integrated circuit layout designs, and plant varieties can be registered separately and are conferred specific protection under Singaporean law (more details are given below).

Patents in Singapore: What you need to know

In order to obtain a patent, an invention must satisfy the criteria of showing ‘novelty’, having an ‘inventive step’, and ‘industrial applicability’. The date indicated on the patent will be the date of filing the application for grant of patent in Singapore, however, if an earlier application for the same product or process was filed in another country that is a member of the Paris Convention (see more details and a full list of members www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ ip/paris/index.html) or World Trade Organization, SMEs may ‘claim priority’. This means that patent protection will begin from the date of the earlier application (or so called ‘priority date’), provided that the Singapore application is made within 12 months from the date of filing of the earlier application.

SMEs should consider applying for a patent as soon as possible, as Singapore has a ‘first-to-file system’, that is, the first person to file an application will own the rights to the invention once it is granted. Therefore it is essential to register a patent in Singapore before commencing business dealings there, and to be wary of disclosing too much information about the invention to third parties.

The patent laws of Singapore were amended on 10 July 2012. The Amended Patents Act came into force on 14 February 2014 and converted the Singaporean patent regime from a “selfassessment” patents system to a “positive grant” patent system. Under the previous “self-assessment” system, it was the personal responsibility of the applicant to ensure that claims issued were valid. In other words, patent applications could proceed to grant without material examination and irrespective of whether the applications satisfied the criteria of being novel, inventive and industrially applicable. Under the new “positive grant” system, patent applications are materially examined by the examiners of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore and only patent applications with fully positive examination results (satisfying all the patentability requirements of novelty, inventiveness and industrial applicability) can proceed to grant.

ASEAN Patent Examination Co-operation (ASPEC)* is a regional patent work sharing programme involving nine of the ten IP Offices in the ASEAN Member Countries (only Myanmar is not yet involved). The objectives of ASPEC are to reduce complexity, achieve time savings and improve the quality of search and examination. Reference made to an earlier examination already performed in one IP office will help an examiner in the other IP office to better understand the invention claim, reduce searches and develop a more comprehensive examination strategy. For example, a patent application from another ASEAN country would, in theory, be able to take advantage of expedited process at the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore allowing for the eventual speedier grant of patent protection. ASPEC is free-of-charge and operates in English in all ASEAN IP Offices (except Myanmar).

A Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH)* pilot programme has been recently launched between the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) and the IP Offices of the United States, Japan, Korea, China and Mexico. PPHs are initiatives between certain IP offices which provide a means of significantly accelerating the examination of a patent application in one IP office where examination work has already been conducted at another IP office. In other words, the PPH enables an application whose claims have been determined to be patentable in the office of first filing to undergo an accelerated examination in the office of second filing with a simple procedure upon a request from an applicant on the basis of bilateral office agreements. It also allows sharing information between involved IP offices. The aforementioned PPH pilot programme allows for search and examination results from IPOS to be used as reference work in any IPOS PPH-partner office and vice-versa. To qualify SMEs must have a corresponding patent application for the same invention filed in IPOS or PPH-partner offices.

How LONG does legal protection last?

Singaporean patents are valid for twenty (20) years from the date of filing, subject to the payment of annual renewal fees starting from the end of the 4th year.

Integrated circuit layout designs are protected for a duration of ten (10) years if they are first used commercially within five (5) years of creation. In any other case, they are protected for fifteen (15) years from the date of creation.

New plant varieties can be protected for a maximum of twentyfive (25) years, as long as the patent is renewed by the owner for this maximum term.

HOW do I register?

A request for a grant of patent must be in the official form which can be obtained online (http://www.ipos.gov.sg/Services/FilingandRegistration/GettingStartedwitheServices/eSearch.aspx) and submitted to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) either online via IP2SG (Patents) Search (https://www.ip2.sg/ RPS/WP/CM/SearchSimpleP.aspx?SearchCategory=PT) or by hand / post to the Registry of Patents, IPOS.

The application must be accompanied by:

a. The application fee

b. An English translation if any documents provided are in a language other than English

c. A copy of your application filed earlier in a Paris Convention country or a WTO member country (if you wish to claim this earlier date as your ‘priority date’)

The overall process for registration takes anywhere between one (1) to four (4) years, depending on the search and examination process, which may be an all-local approach, all-foreign approach or combination approach. The all-foreign approach relies on the search and examination done for the corresponding applications abroad.

Please refer to the IPOS Website (Intellectual Property Office of Singapore - www.ipos.gov.sg) for details and further information on the application and registration process.  Registrations in person can be made at this address:

Intellectual Property Office of Singapore
51 Bras Basah Road #04-01, Manulife Centre,
Singapore 189554 (65) 6339 8616

WHO can register?

The inventor(s) 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.

Which LANGUAGES can I use?

Applications for a patent must be in English.

How much does it COST?

The basic filing fee (charged by IPOS) for lodging a patent application is Singapore Dollars 160 to 200 (approximately EUR 106 to 133) depending on the application type. There are fees applicable for subsequent steps in the patent application process. Please refer to the IPOS Website (www.ipos.gov.sg) for details and further information on the applicable forms and fees.

Patents TIPS and WATCH-OUTS in Singapore

  • Where it is a first filing outside Singapore, people or companies that are resident in Singapore may not file or cause to be filed the application without written authorisation from the IPOS prior to the filing of the patent. Where it has been filed in Singapore and two months have elapsed from the filing date, no written authorisation is needed before filing outside Singapore. It can be assumed that the IPOS has reviewed the application and has no national security concerns.
  • It is recommended that inventors keep proper records of their research in thread bound record books, and date each record entry. This will be useful as evidence of the development of the invention should any dispute arise in the future.
  • Consider seeking local advice on the ASPEC application as option to file for your patent from Singapore and the other eight ASEAN members.

 

SMEs should consider applying for a patent as soon as possible, as Singapore has a ‘firstto-file system’, that is, the first person to file an application will own the rights to the invention once it is granted.

 

C. Registered designs

WHAT is a Registered Design?

A registered design is a right granted to the owner of a design to stop others from making, importing or selling, without their permission, an article to which that design or a design not substantially different from it has been applied.

A registered design may be obtained to protect the features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament applied to an article by an industrial process. This is subject to some exceptions.

The following designs cannot be registered:

  1. Designs that are contrary to the public order or morality.
  2. Computer programs or layout-designs of integrated circuits.
  3. Designs applied to certain articles: Works of sculpture (other than casts used or intended for use as models or patterns to be multiplied by any industrial process); wall plaques, medals and medallions; and printed matter primarily of a literary or artistic character (including book jackets, calendars, certificates, coupons, dress-making patterns, greeting cards, labels, leaflets, maps, plans, playing cards, postcards, stamps, trade advertisements, trade forms and cards, transfers and similar articles).
  4. Any method or principle of construction.
  5. Designs that are solely functional.
  6. 'Must-match' designs: designs that are dependent upon the appearance of another article, of which it is intended by the designer to form an integral part.
  7. 'Must-fit' designs: designs that enable the article to be connected to, placed in, around or against, another article so that either article may perform its function.

Registered Designs in Singapore: What you need to know

In order to obtain a registered design, the design must be ‘new’ (i.e. not yet published or disclosed to the public) at the time the application for registered design protection is filed. It is possible to claim the filing date of an earlier application filed in a country that is a member of the Paris Convention or World Trade Organisation (WTO) for protection of the same design, provided that the Singapore application is filed within six (6) months of the earlier application. Therefore, SMEs should ensure that their design is not disclosed to others until an application has been filed.

SMEs should consider applying for a registered design as soon as possible, as Singapore has a ‘‘first-to-file system’’. That is, the first person to file an application in respect of the design will have priority over others. This means that if a third party files his/her application on the design before the design owner, any registered design obtained afterwards will be in danger of being revoked for lack of ‘novelty’.

Singapore became a Member of the 1999 Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs on April 17, 2005. The Hague Agreement makes it easier for foreign businesses to obtain industrial designs in Singapore.

How LONG does legal protection last?

A registered design is generally valid for fifteen (15) years from the date of filing, subject to the payment of renewal fees every five (5) years.

HOW do I register?

The completed request form and the prescribed fee must be submitted to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore either online via eDesigns or by hand / post to the Registry of Designs, IPOS. The application must contain, inter alia, a Statement of Novelty describing the features of the design which the applicant considers to be new, the appropriate class and sub-class of the article under the Locarno Classification (i.e. the international classification system used to classify goods for the purposes of the registration of industrial designs; more information about Locarno Classification at https://www.wipo.int/portal/en/index.html), and representations of the design in the form of drawings or black and white photographs showing the various views of the design, and details of any priority claim, and be accompanied by the application fee. Two (2) or more designs may be the subject of the same application for registration if the designs relate to the same class and subclass of articles, or the same set of articles.

IPOS will assess the application to ensure that all requirements are met. Once registered, details of the design will be published in the Designs Journal and the register maintained by the Registry of Designs. Please refer to the IPOS website (https://www.ipos.gov.sg/) for details and further information on the application and registration process.

WHO can register?

The designer(s) of the design or persons entitled to the design (e.g. by virtue of employment or an assignment) may apply to register the design in Singapore. There are no restrictions as to nationality or residency of the applicant. However, a Singapore address must be provided for service, to which correspondence from the Registry of Designs will be sent.

Which LANGUAGES can I use?

Applications must be in English.

How much does it COST?

The basic filing fee (charged by IPOS) for lodging a design application is around Singapore Dollars 250, (approximately EUR 146) depending on whether the application is e-filed online, or physically filed.

A registered design may be obtained to protect the features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament applied to an article by an industrial process.

 

Registered Designs TIPS and WATCH-OUTS in Singapore

  • Colour is not protected by a registered design in Singapore. Instead, only features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament are protectable. Accordingly, colour will not be taken into account in assessing the scope of protection conferred by the registered design - i.e., in determining whether the infringing design is the same as or not substantially different from the registered design.
  • Where the design has been registered and copyright subsists in the corresponding design, there will only be protection under the Singaporean Registered Design Act. This is to prevent dual protection under both registered design and copyright regime.
  • Where the design is registrable, all steps should be taken to register it. Otherwise, copyright protection and registered design protection are neither available when the design is industrially applied and exploited commercially.
  • The Singapore Registered Design Act is expected to be amended in late 2016 to allow for greater design protection. The proposed changes include extending protection to virtual designs (designs that can be projected) and dynamic designs (designs applied onto fluid mediums) and removing the current requirement that designs must be applied to articles by an industrial process.

 

D. Trade Marks

WHAT are Trade Marks?

A trade mark is a sign such as word, device, brand, shape, colour, sound or a combination of these elements, which is capable of being graphically represented and being used by a person in the course of trade to distinguish his goods or services from another person’s. In Singapore three-dimensional signs (shapes) and sounds can also be registered as trade marks, however trade marks based on taste and smell are not recognised.

The law provides a number of circumstances under which a mark is not eligible for protection, such as when it is identical with or confusingly similar to national flags or emblems, or when it would cause misunderstanding or confusion as to the origin, properties, quality, or other characteristics of the goods or services. It also cannot be identical or confusingly similar to another person’s mark already registered or used for identical or similar goods or services.

Trade Marks in Singapore: What you need to know

Registered trade marks enjoy additional statutory protection under the Trade Marks Act and the registered proprietor has certain remedies available to him in the event that his trade mark is infringed.

In the absence of a registration under the Trade Marks Act, a mark which is used by a trader in the course of his trade may still be protected under the common law ‘tort of passing off’. The ‘law of passing off’ essentially prevents other traders from unfairly riding on the reputation and success that you have built for your trade mark. Three factors need to be proved before a claim of passing off can succeed: (i) that you have established ‘goodwill’ or a good reputation for your trade mark within Singapore; (ii) that the defendant has made a misrepresentation to the public that his goods or services are in some way associated or connected with you; (iii) as a result, you have suffered damage to your brand’s reputation. However, the legal remedies available to you would be more limited than if you had registered the trade mark.

A trade mark does not generally have to be in use before it can be applied for or registered, although all applications for registration should be on the basis that there is existing use or a clear intention to use the mark in the course of trade. The trade mark registry office may require proof of use whilst examining the trade mark application.

How LONG does legal protection last?

Statutory protection for registered trade marks can last indefinitely, so long as you file a renewal application for the trade mark registration every 10 years.

HOW do I register?

An application for trade mark registration must be submitted to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) in the official form online via eTrademarks (www.ipos.gov.sg/Services/ FilingandRegistration.aspx), or by post/in person to the Registrar of Trade Marks, Registry of Trade Marks, IPOS. Where your agent submits the application on your behalf, IPOS may require that your agent produce evidence of his authority to do so. IPOS will assess the application to ensure that all formalities are met before conducting the relevant searches and examination to ensure that the application mark is registrable. After that, the application will be published, and if no oppositions are filed against the application mark within 2 months of publication the trade mark will proceed to registration.

It usually takes six (6) to nine (9) months to register a trade mark in Singapore. Please refer to the IPOS Website (www.ipos. gov.sg) for details and further information on the application and registration process.

Registrations in person can be made at this address:

Intellectual Property Office of Singapore
51 Bras Basah Road #04-01, Manulife Centre,
Singapore 189554 (65) 6339 8616

WHO can register?

Any individual, firm or company claiming to be the owner of the trade mark may file for registration. 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.

Which LANGUAGES can I use?

Applications for registration must be in English.

How much does it COST?

The basic filing fee (charged by the IPOS) for lodging a trade mark application in one class is Singapore Dollar 341 (approximately EUR 210). There are fees applicable for subsequent steps in the trade mark application process. Please refer to the IPOS Website (www.ipos.gov.sg) for details and further information on the applicable forms and fees.

In the absence of a registration under the Trade Marks Act, a mark which is used by a trader in the course of his trade may still be protected under the common law ‘tort of passing off ’

Trade Marks TIPS and WATCH-OUTS in Singapore

If a trade mark registration is granted before actual use of the mark, you (or your licensee) must put that mark to genuine use in the course of trade within the period of five years from the date of completion of the registration procedure, or risk the registration being revoked for non-use.

ASEAN TMview is an online database with information on more than 2 million trademarks from 6 ASEAN countries. The free-of-charge online portal is aimed at making ASEAN trademark data widely available and easily accessible to all interested parties.

 

E. Geographical Indications

WHAT are Geographical Indications (GIs)?

A Geographical Indication (GI) is a distinctive sign used to identify a product as originating in the territory of a particular country, region or locality where its quality, reputation or other characteristic is linked to its geographical origin. GIs differ from trade marks in the sense that GIs may be used by all producers or traders whose products originate from that place and which share the particular quality, reputation or other characteristics, while trade marks may only be used by the trade mark owner, or with the owner’s consent. ‘Champagne’ from France, ‘ParmigianoReggiano from Italy, ‘Scotch Whisky’ from Scotland and ‘Feta cheese’ from Greece are all examples of European GIs.

Geographical Indications (GIs) in Singapore: What you need to know

Singapore has so far only protected a small number of European Geographical indications (GIs) as trademarks, but has not offered GI protection as such. Under the EU-Singapore FTA, Singapore has agreed to set up a new register for GI protection and to protect registered GI to a higher level. Initially, a list of 196 EU GIs will be registered in Singapore under this new register. The Singaporean Parliament recently passed the Geographical Indications Bill (Bill No. 13/2014) which paves the way for the GI register and Singapore has already carried out a public consultation on the first batch of GI terms which the EU has put forward for initial protection in Singapore. However, the future GI register in Singapore, once up and running, will be open for additional GI applications as well. For more information on the EUSFTA, visit the Singapore section of the DG Trade website: http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countriesand-regions/countries/singapore/. The upcoming GI register will be a three-stage process: (a) application stage; (b) examination stage; and (c) publication/pregrant opposition. Similar to the current trade mark registration process, a GI will proceed to registration where no opposition is received by the end of the publication/pre-grant opposition period, or where the opposition has been decided in favour of the applicant. Prior to registration, the applicant should conduct a search analysis to determine the likelihood of the GI being opposed. How LONG does legal protection last? As the GI register has not been implemented, an owner of GI may seek trade mark protection. Please see information under the Trade Marks section provided above.

Geographical Indications (GIs) TIPS and WATCHOUTS in Singapore

As the GI register has not been implemented, if you are an owner of GI, currently you may seek trade mark protection.

 

Trade secrets are protected under Singaporean law; however the trade secret must be ‘confidential'.

 

F. Trade Secrets

WHAT are Trade Secrets?

Trade secrets are defined by Singaporean law as confidential business information by which an enterprise can obtain an economic advantage over its competitors, for example, a secret process of manufacture, customer information, trade volume, a secret recipe, etc. Arguably the most famous example of a trade secret is the Coca Cola™ recipe, which has been closely guarded by the company for over one hundred years.

Trade Secrets in Singapore: What you need to know

Trade secrets are protected under Singaporean law; however the trade secret must be ‘confidential’, meaning that the information is not freely available in the public domain. SMEs must also be able to prove that an obligation of confidence was clearly stated during dealings with third parties, such as by signing nondisclosure agreements or having a confidentiality clause within their agreements with other parties. This is a common protection and unlike the EC, there is no specific legislation for the protection of trade secrets.

How LONG does legal protection last?

Trade secrets can be protected for an unlimited period of time so long as they do not become common knowledge or become generally available to the public.

Trade Secrets TIPS and WATCH-OUTS in Singapore

Exercise caution when sharing your trade secrets with potential trading partners or investors. Any trade secret should only be shared with a recipient after he has signed a non-disclosure agreement.

It is good practice to mark all documents which your business considers to contain trade secrets as ‘Confidential’ or ‘Trade Secret’ in order to prove that it was made clear to all parties that the piece of information you are seeking to protect was secret information.

 

Using CUSTOMS to Block Counterfeits

WHAT are Customs?

The Singapore Customs is a governmental agency of the Ministry of Finance. Their objective is the implementation of customs and trade enforcement measures including the checking and detainment of suspected infringing goods crossing the border.

Singapore's port is a major transit point for imports and exports travelling between Europe and East Asia. EU exporters in a number of sectors have set up distribution centres in Singapore's harbour from where they serve the wider region. To promote vigilance and bolster the safety and security of legitimate trade, the EUSingapore Free Trade Agreement contains provisions to strengthen cooperation in the field of Customs. In particular, the FTA will facilitate the granting of assistance based on reasonable suspicion of an operation being in breach of customs legislation and will promote greater exchange of information between authorities.

Customs in Singapore: What you need to know

There is no official recordal system in Singapore via which SMEs can request that Customs monitor and notify of suspected infringing goods which are being imported into Singapore. Therefore, SMEs should not rely on Customs to discover or monitor such shipments on their behalf, and instead will need to be proactive about monitoring this by themselves. However, should the SMEs already have details about a suspected illegal shipment in advance, it would be possible to activate border enforcement by giving written notice to Customs of a suspected import of IPRinfringing goods. Border enforcement can be only activated for IP that is registered in Singapore.

WHAT can be registered?

There is no official IP recordal system for Singaporean Customs. However, border enforcement can be activated by giving written notice to Customs of a suspected import of IPR infringing goods, which will apply only to registered trade marks and copyrights. Singaporean Customs do not have the power to search and detain goods thought to be infringing a patent. Occasionally Customs may also act ex officio in detaining goods which are imported into or exported from Singapore, and goods which are in transit in Singapore and consigned to a local person. In that case the above-mentioned written notice, letter of undertaking and security deposit shall be provided within 48 hours of the detention.

How LONG does legal protection last?

The IPR owner must file a written notice to Customs to inform them of each suspected shipment.

HOW do I register?

In case of details about a suspected illegal shipment in advance, you can activate border enforcement by giving written notice to Customs of a suspected import of IPR-infringing goods. A written notice in the official form (which can be found at http://app. agc.gov.sg/) must be filed with Customs to inform them of the suspected import of IPR-infringing goods. The notice may be sent via:

Email: customs_intelligence@customs.gov.sg
Delivered in person/via post to: Singapore Customs,
55 Newton Road #10-01, Revenue House, Singapore 307987

The notice must be accompanied by:

  • A statutory declaration that the particulars in the notice are true.
  • A fee of Singapore Dollars 200 (approximately EUR 125 ).
  • Where the notice is given by an agent, evidence of the authority of the person giving the notice.
  • In the case of suspected trade-mark infringing goods, a copy of the certificate of registration in relation to the Singapore registered trade mark.

WHO can register?

The IPR owner, its licensee, or their agents can give a written notice to Customs of a suspected import of IPR-infringing goods.

Which LANGUAGES can I use?

The written notice must be lodged in English.

How much does it COST?

The official fee for lodging each written notice is around Singapore Dollars 200 (approximately EUR 125).

Customs TIPS and WATCH-OUTS in Singapore

As there is no Customs recordal system in Singapore via which you can request that Customs proactively monitor and notify you of suspected counterfeit goods being imported, you must be vigilant in watching for unauthorised dealings with your registered trade marks and copyright yourself. You should collate all necessary details which will enable you to file the requisite written notice to inform Customs about an impending import of infringing goods.

You must institute legal proceedings for trade mark or copyright infringement within ten (10) working days from the date of detention.

 

ENFORCING your IP

Enforcing your IP

In the case of IP assets being infringed in Singapore, besides using customs to block counterfeits (Customs are described separately in Part 4 above), there are two other main avenues of enforcement: civil litigation and criminal prosecution. In many cases however private mediation via legal professionals is more effective and should be considered as a viable option, particularly for SMEs which often are faced with budgetary constraints. Unlike in most ASEAN countries, there are no administrative actions available in Singapore.

Civil Litigation

In general, civil litigation proceedings may be instituted for patent, copyright or trade mark infringements, and breach of contracts involving trade secrets and confidential information. The remedies which the Court may award in such proceedings include damages (or an account of profits), statutory damages, an injunction, and disposal of infringing goods.

Criminal Prosecution

This applies mainly to the Copyright Act and the Trade Marks Act which provide criminal penalties for infringers. As an IPR owner, you may initiate private criminal prosecution against an infringer for such offences. Alternatively, the Intellectual Property Rights Branch of the Criminal Investigation Department may prosecute the infringer on its own initiative. At the end of a successful criminal prosecution case, the infringer will be ordered by the Court to pay a fine and/or serve an imprisonment term.

In the case of your IP assets being infringed in Singapore, there are 3 main avenues of enforcement which you can consider : civil litigation, criminal prosecution, and customs seizures.

 

Enforcement TIPS and WATCH-OUTS in Singapore

As you will not receive any compensation from the infringer through the criminal process, you may simultaneously commence civil litigation proceedings to claim for monetary compensation from the infringer.

The Patents Act, Copyright Act and Trade Marks Act contain provisions against groundless threats of infringement. Therefore, any proposed demand letter should be carefully drafted to make clear the legal basis upon which your potential infringement claim is premised. A statement which merely notifies the other party of the existence of a patent, copyright or trade mark does not constitute a threat of proceedings.

 

RELATED LINKS and Additional Information

IPR Helpdesk Blog

Delegation of the EU to Singapore - https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/singapore_en

The European Chamber of Commerce (Singapore) - https://eurocham.org.sg/

World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) - https://www.wipo.int/portal/en/index.html

WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre Office in Singapore - https://www.wipo.int/amc/en/center/singapore/

Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) - https://www.ipos.gov.sg/

IPOS e-search filing and registration services - https://www.ipos.gov.sg/e-services/

Singapore Customs - https://www.customs.gov.sg/

The Singapore International Arbitration Centre - http://www.siac.org.sg/

ASEAN IP Portal – https://www.aseanip.org/

 

TEAR-OUT supplement

Tear-out Supplement

In the case of IP assets being infringed in Singapore, there are two other main avenues of enforcement, civil litigation and criminal prosecution. In many cases however, private mediation via legal professionals is more effective and should be considered as a viable option, particularly for SMEs which often are faced with budgetary constraints. Unlike in most South-East Asian countries, there are no administrative actions available in Singapore.

Civil Litigation

Civil suits under the Trade marks, Patents and Registered Designs Acts are required to be commenced at the High Court of Singapore. Copyright, passing off and breach of confidential information civil suits may be commenced at either the High Court or the Subordinate Courts dependent on the value of the claim. Decisions of a lower court may be appealed to a higher court with the Court of Appeal being the final appellate court. The relevant documents to initiate a civil lawsuit in Singapore would need to be drafted on an ‘ad hoc’ basis by lawyers licensed to represent clients in the country.

Criminal Prosecution

A proprietor may commence criminal proceedings against an infringer for offences under the Trade marks and Copyright Acts under a fiat from the Attorney-General’s chambers. An IPR owner may initiate private criminal prosecution against an infringer for such offences. Alternatively, the Intellectual Property Rights Branch of the Criminal Investigation Department may prosecute the infringer on its own initiative. No official standard forms are publicly available.