Introduction Singapore provides one of world’s most robust regimes for theprotection a company’s intellectual property. In 2016, the World EconomicForum’s Global Competitiveness Index ranked Singapore fourth in the world forintellectual property protection.
The high ranking results from a concertedeffort by Singapore government to encourage the development and registration ofintellectual property in the country and to provide robust legal frameworks forvigorous protection of registered rights. I. GeneralOverview 1. WHATIS INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY Intellectual property (IP) refers to anyman-made creation for which exclusive rights are recognized by the government.In Singapore, there are three mechanisms by which IP rights can be registered:a patent, a copyright or a trademark. Intellectual property may be an inventiveprocess or design, which is protected in Singapore under its patent laws.Examples of patented inventions include a drug’s formula, Ford’s assembly lineor Apple’s iPod.
IP may also be the product of an artist or writer in the formof a musical composition, literature, performance or piece of art. Thesecreations are given copyright protection in Singapore. The third type of IPprotection, a trademark, grants businesses the exclusive rights to the name orsymbol they use to mark their company and goods. IP is property that the ownercan use; alternatively, the owner can sell it or license it for a profit. 2. SINGAPOREENCOURAGES THE DEVELOPMENT AND REGISTRATION OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY In 2013, the Singapore government rolled outits Intellectual Property (IP) Hub Master Plan, a ten-year road map for makingthe small island nation the preeminent locale for developing, registering anddefending intellectual property. As part of that plan, the Singapore governmentproposed the introduction of an IP-Box tax regime similar to the ones in theNetherlands and the Ireland.
In addition to its IP-Box tax initiative, theMaster Plan proposes improvements in training its workforce to create IP and inits institutions to protect that IP. Many of those improvements are aimed atthe Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS). With its Master Plan,Singapore intends to become the preeminent locale for IP development,registration and protection. The Singapore government encourages thedevelopment and registration of IP through generous financial incentives and afavorable tax regime.
For example, it provides grants for IP development tosmall and medium sized companies (with at least 30% local shareholding) or tocompanies that want to expand overseas. It also offers a Productivity andInnovation Credit (PIC) for companies that spend money for developing IP. ThePIC can be in the form of: i. A 400% tax deduction on up to S$400,000 ofspending, or ii. A cash payout of up to S$100,00 The PIC incentives are in addition to the lowoverall corporate tax rate of 17 percent.
Singapore also provides extensive taxtreaties with other countries for income created through IP; it offers taxcredits for income from countries, such as the United States, that don’t have atax treaty with Singapore. The IPOS is a statutory board under theMinistry of Law that was formed in 2001 to implement the country’s IP policy.IPOS helps inventors, entrepreneurs and businesses create and protect andleverage their innovations. You register your IP, in person or online withIPOS.
To help you protect your IP, it directs you to IP service providers, suchas attorneys or consultants, and provides free seminars. If you have a disputeabout registration, IPOS provides hearing and mediation services to resolve it.It also helps you secure financing for your business venture by using the valueinherent in your business’ IP. IPOS is in the process of developing in-housesearch and examination capabilities in key technological areas to increase theefficiency of reducing the cost of filing in Singapore. 3. HOWSINGAPORE DEFENDS INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY In addition to encouraging the developmentand registration of IP in Singapore, the government also vigorously defends IP.IP rights are territorial, which means that, if IP is registered in Singapore,those rights generally will be defended there.
The Singapore government understands that theability to resolve disputes fairly and efficiently will attract more IPdevelopment and registration, which will further fuel the economy. Therefore,the legal system of courts; alternative dispute resolution; and laws developedby Parliament and judges are designed with IP rights protection in mind. Singapore’s legal system has an internationalreputation for neutrality, efficiency and transparency.
In 2002, Singaporecreated a specialized IP Court to handle increasingly complex IP cases. In2010, it established a WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, the only officeoutside of Geneva. Collaboration between IPOS and WIPO allows parties to settleIP disputes without resorting to litigation, which reduces the time, expenseand frustration involved. Finally, the IP Academy of Singapore offers aGraduate Certificate in IP Law, ensuring the country has attorneys and juriststrained to handle IP matters. II. IP Law in Singapore Singapore provides a comprehensive legal framework andsupporting infrastructure for protecting patents, copyrights, trademarks, andother types of intellectual property.
An overview of the framework for each isprovided below. 1. PATENTLAW Singapore protects inventive designs andprocesses through the Patents Act, which is based on the United Kingdom’sPatents Act of 1977. Singapore patents are protected internationally under thePatent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). According to IPOS, “a patent is a rightgranted to the owner of an invention that prevents others from making, using,importing or selling the invention without his permission.” A patent inSingapore is valid for 20 years, so long as the owner pays the annual renewalfees. Once registered, the owner can use, sell or license the patent.
Licensinga patent, or a patent, or any type of IP, can be lucrative. The details of IPlicensing are beyond the scope of this article, but you can learn more here.Generally, the owner would be the inventor, but that may not be the case if theinventor develops it during his or her employment at a business. The criteria Singapore uses in granting a patent is that theprocess or design must be: i. New: Should not be publicly know anywhere in theworld.
ii. Inventive: Even if it is new, it must be animprovement that would not be obvious to someone with technical skill orknowledge in that field. iii. Industrial application: Should have practicalapplication. The insistence on the patent application satisfying all threecriteria brings Singapore in line with other countries such as the UnitedStates and the United Kingdom. In addition, Singapore will not grant patents toinventions that: 1) encourage offensive, immoral or anti-social behavior, or 2)relate to the diagnosis or treatment of the human or animal body. A patent can be registered in one of two ways: i. Domestic application: Applicants wishing toapply for a patent in Singapore only can file with the Registry of Patents,which is part of IPOS, in person or online.
ii. International application: Applicants wishing toapply for a patent in multiple countries can do so under the PCT usingSingapore’s Registry of Patents as the receiving office. Once registered, the patent can be infringed.
To determine infringement,the courts compare both products and processes. It will not be considered aninfringement if the act: i. Was done privately for non-commercial purposes ii. Was done for experimental purposes iii. Relates to the extemporaneous preparation ofmedicine If the product or process is found to infringe a patent, thecourt can order damages and an injunction on the use of the infringing productor process. 2.
COPYRIGHTLAW Singapore’s Copyright Act protects originalworks as varied as novels, computer programs, films, paintings, sheet music andperformances. It does not include ideas, procedures, methods, discoveriesbecause it is the expression, not the underlying idea or discovery, which iscovered. The author, or owner, of copyrighted material has the exclusive rightto publish, perform, broadcast or adapt the work.
He or she can assign all orpart of the rights to others, so long as the agreement is in writing. He or shecan also license the work to others; the license need not be in writing and canbe exclusive or non-exclusive. The protections Singapore affords throughcopyright and the length of those protections varies by the type of work it is.To see the specific provisions, see here.
In general, copyright ownershipbelongs to the person who created the work. However, works created during thecourse of employment may be owned by the employer if the terms of employmentprovide that. Commissioned works belong to the individual or group thatcommissioned them. In contrast to patents, there is no registration process forcopyrighting in Singapore.
The copyright begins when the work is created;simply having the idea is insufficient. In a dispute over ownership of a work,a person must show that he or she created it first. To document this, authorssometimes mail a copy of the work to themselves or an attorney and keep itsealed in the envelope with a postmark.
Using the familiar © symbol on a worksignifies that a copyright exists, but failing to use the symbol does notabrogate the owner’s rights. A copyright is infringed if anyone — apart from the owner —reproduces, publishes, performs, adapts, broadcasts, copies or shows the work.In addition to this “primary infringement,” there is also a “secondaryinfringement” if a person: i. Imports, sells or exhibits something theinfringer know or should have known was made without the copyright owner’sconsent ii. Falsely attributes the authorship of a work orthe identity of a perform iii. Falsely removes or alters rights managementinformation electronically attached to a work It is not infringement if the person: i. Uses or reproduces a portion of the work forresearch or to review or criticize it, such that it falls under the legaldefinition of “fair dealing” ii.
Includes an incidental portion in a film or program iii. Reads a reasonable-length extract in public iv. Reproduces the work for judicial proceedings,professional advice or simulcast Civil remedies for infringement include damages, an injunctionand destruction of the infringing work. In lieu of damages, the copyright ownercan take “statutory damages” of not more than S$10,000 per work and S$200,000in the aggregate. In determining how much statutory damages to award, the courtconsiders factors, such as: i. Was the infringement for commercial purposes ii. How flagrant was the infringement iii. Did the infringer act in bad faith iv.
Did the owner suffer a loss or the infringeraccrue a benefit from the infringement Along with civil remedies, a person who infringes a copyrightin Singapore can be subject to criminal penalties. A person can be convicted of”primary infringement” if he or she willfully and significantly infringes acopyright for commercial purposes. The punishment can be fine up to S$20,000and/or a jail term of up to six months. If a person is found guilty of”secondary infringement,” the fine can be up to S$10,000 per work and S$100,000in the aggregate and/or the jail term cannot exceed 5 years. 3.
TRADEMARKLAW A trademark is a symbol, such as a brand nameor logo, that a business uses to distinguish its goods and services. InSingapore, you can register a trademark so that it is protected under the TradeMarks Act. Alternatively, you can seek protection without registering it underthe common law right of “passing off.” Businesses should register their trademark inSingapore. By doing so, you protect your company’s brand by preventing otherswho provide the same or similar goods or services from using your trademark. Atrademark lasts indefinitely so long as you register it every 10 years, and itcan be licensed or sold to others. It will only be revoked if the owner doesnot use it within 5 years of registering it.
In order to register a trademark, it must satisfy thefollowing criteria: i. It must be distinctive. To be distinctive, itcannot be descriptive. “Soap” is not a permissible trademark for a soapproducer because it describes the good. Even more ambiguous word, such as”Royal” or “Breathable”, are deemed too descriptive to be trademarks. ii.
It cannot be identical or similar to a trademarkalready in use in Singapore, such that it would confuse the public. Anidentical mark will be presumed to confuse the public if it is being used by acompany selling the same goods or services. Furthermore, certain marks are sowell-known that they are protected against all copying, even where the otherbusiness does not sell the same goods or services. iii. It cannot be contrary to public policy ormorality. iv.
It must be registered in good faith. Forexample, an employee cannot register his employers mark in his or her own name.And, a local distributor of goods cannot register the trademark of a foreignmanufacturer. As with a patent, you register your trademarkthrough IPOS online or in person. Before registering you will need to know thatyour trademark is not already in use by a similar business. To do that, performa Similar Mark Search to determine the Nice Classification for your business’goods and/or services. When registering, you can register for several classesof goods and/or services at the same time. You can also choose to register onlyin Singapore or internationally by designating Singapore through the MadridProtocol, WIPO’s international registration system of trademarks.
Registrationbecomes effective on the date you file your application, even though yourapplication won’t be processed for approximately 4 months. Once registered, the owner has the exclusiveuse of that mark for the goods and services for which it is registered. If itis a well-known mark in Singapore, the owner has the exclusive us of it even ifit is used in an entirely different industry where there is no concern that thepublic will be confused. If a registered trademark is infringed, thecourt can award civil damages and issue an injunction. Where a counterfeittrademark is used, the court can award statutory damages of up to S$1 millionwithout the owner proving any actual loss. In addition, the owner can pursue criminalcharges against a trademark infringer if that infringer intended to use acounterfeit trademark to confuse customers.
Criminal penalties include a fineof up to S$100,000 and a jail term of up to 5 years. Even if a business does not register a particulartrademark, it may be protected in two ways. First, Singapore honors the commonlaw right of “passing off,” which protects a trademark from others pretendingthat their goods or services are that of the trademark owner. Passing offcovers a wide range of trademarks from product packaging to the unauthorizeduse of celebrity names and likenesses.
The criteria for protection under thepassing off doctrine is: i. Protectable Goodwill: the product, person orbusiness must have an established public reputation. ii. Misrepresentation: the offending mark issufficiently similar that others will be deceived.
iii. Damage or to Goodwill: actual damage or the reallikelihood of damage in the form of diluting the trademark owner’s goodwill inthe marketplace. If the trademark is found to have beeninfringed, the owner can get damages or an injunction. Furthermore, Singapore has created astatutory protection under the Trade Mark Act for foreign businesses that arewell known in Singapore (such as Coca Cola or Apple). Without registering theirtrademark, they can still avail themselves of the rights and remedies underthat Act. 4. OTHERTYPES OF IP Singapore recognizes other types of IP, suchas trade secrets and industrial designs.
This article will not cover thesetopics, but if you would like to learn more about the protections provided bySingapore for these types of IP, please see here. III. Conclusion Singaporeprovides one the most robust legal regimes for the protection of intellectualproperty rights. World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017ranked Singapore fourth in the world and first in Asia for its IP protectionframework. Some of the leading IP-focused companies of the world have selectedthe country as their preferred location for R due to these protections.