Today, we live in a knowledge society where entrepreneurship is as much about having a sound business plan as it is about protecting your intellectual property (IP). With Asia becoming not only the world’s manufacturing hub but also its biggest market, it is pertinent to find a suitable country in the continent with robust IP laws. Here, Singapore fits the bill perfectly.
This is because Singapore Government recognizes and underscores the fact that intellectual property is an invaluable asset in shaping a knowledge-based economy. So much so that in its recent Global Competitiveness Report, the World Economic Forum has ranked Singapore as having the best IP protection in Asia.
Singapore’s Ministry of Law, the nodal agency for IP protection in the city-state, “is committed to help create an environment that is conducive for the development of IP, which covers patents, trade marks, copyright, registered designs, plant varieties protection, geographical indications, trade secrets and layout-design of integrated circuits”.
While the ministry frames the laws and formulates the country’s IP policies, implementation is undertaken by one of its statutory bodies called the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS).
Benefits of Incorporating a Singapore Company for IP Protection
The advantages as detailed below are numerous.
Specialized IP Legal System
Since February 2002, Singapore has a specialized IP Court, and in 2012, four judges were designated by the country’s Supreme Court as IP judges to handle the complex IP cases.
Moreover, initiatives such as the IP Academy of Singapore (established in 2002) graduate-level programmes (Graduate Certificate in IP Law and MSc in IP Management) are in place to raise the level of expertise of IP professionals in Singapore.
Expertise in IP Dispute Resolution
In a testimony to the country’s strong arbitration capabilities, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has established an Arbitration and Mediation Centre in Singapore, it’s only centre outside Geneva to support IP dispute resolution in Asia.
IPOS’ In-house Search and Examination Capabilities
IPOS is fast developing its very own search and examination (S&E) capabilities in key technological areas for the benefits of companies filing patents in Singapore.
Singapore’s IP Hub Master Plan
The government has developed an IP Hub Master Plan with thrust on two focus areas – developing a vibrant marketplace to transact and commercialise IP, and to build world-class capabilities and infrastructure.
Productivity and Innovation Credit Scheme
The PIC Scheme aims to encourage Singapore businesses to upgrade their capabilities through various innovation and productivity investments. Under the scheme, companies can claim a tax deduction of 400% on the first S$600,000 of qualifying expenditure per Year of Assessment (YA), with effect from YA 2015. Alternatively, companies may also opt for a a 60% cash payout on up to $100,000 per YA.
Notably, the following are among the PIC qualifying activities:
- acquisition and in-licensing of IP rights
- registration of IP including trademarks, patents, designs and plant varieties
Intellectual Property Protection in Singapore
Thus, if you are a foreign entrepreneur and or a foreign company willing to expand your business in Asia while protecting your IP at the same time, you can incorporate a Singapore company first and then register for your IP rights protection.
A Singapore company can register intellectual property (IP) rights in Singapore for trade marks, patents, registered designs, copyrights and plant varieties, which can be electronically applied via the IPOS website. The portal also provides for searchable trade marks, patents and registered designs databases.
Launched in February 2014, IP2SG is a one-stop portal in Singapore to apply for trade marks, patents and registered designs. If a company with an international patent application wants to seek IP protection in the city-state, the portal can also help in pulling all the essential information from an international database reducing the time taken in filing the application in Singapore.
A trademark is a sign (may be a logo or signature etc.) that a company uses to distinguish its goods or services from those of other companies. Once the trademark is registered, which can last indefinitely if renewed every 10 years, you can prevent other companies from using it and protect your “brand”.
Singapore employs the first-to-use rule for granting trademark rights which comes with statutory protection. Some types of trademark infringements may also be considered criminal offences. In some cases, unregistered trade marks is protected under common law. The trademark registration may be nullified if its not been used over a period of five or more consecutive years.
“Singapore uses the International Classification of Goods and Services, under the Nice Agreement, to classify trade mark registrations. This classification sets out 34 different classes of goods and 11 classes of services that a trader can register in relation to a mark,” informs IPOS.
Singapore grants patent rights to the owner of an invention preventing others from making, using, importing or selling the invention without the owner’s permission. A patent is granted for 20 years subject to the payment of annual renewal fees. For an invention to be patentable in Singapore, it must be new, must be an inventive step and must have some industrial application. Do note that Singapore doesn’t grant patent for the following:
- an invention of a method for the treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy, or of a diagnosis practiced on the human or animal body
- an invention that could encourage offensive, immoral or anti-social behaviour, even if it satisfies the key criteria for patents
In Singapore, Copyrights protection is granted to creative works like literary works, novels, computer programmes, plays, sheet music and paintings. The author of the copyright work has the right to reproduce, publish, perform, communicate and adapt his work. The duration (term of protection) varies according to the type of copyright work concerned.
Generally governed by the Copyright Act (Cap 63), Singapore doesn’t grant copyright to ideas or concepts, discoveries, procedures, methods, or to works that have not been made in a tangible form.
Importantly, work for hire (created by an employee pursuant to the terms of employment) and commissioned work are not covered under the Copyrights protection.
Also, there is no need to file for registration to get copyright protection. An author automatically enjoys copyright protection as soon as he creates and expresses his original work in a tangible form, such as in a recording or writing.
The use of the symbol is a notice of a claim by the owner that copyright exists. It does not give the copyright owner any substantive right and is therefore not crucial for copyright protection. Ideally, one should always use the symbol, as it will prevent an infringing party to claim that it did not know that the material was protected under copyright law.
“When an artistic work, such as a drawing or a sculpture, is applied to a product and industrially produced (i.e. more than 50 copies of the products are produced), the copyright protection will no longer cover that artistic work. It may be protected as a registered design under the Registered Designs Act (Cap. 266), if the registration criteria are met,” informs IPOS.
Registered design protection is available in Singapore for a five-year period and can be renewed for a further 10 years. This mainly refers to the features of a shape, configuration, pattern or ornament applied to an article by any industrial process.
Plant Varieties Protection
Plant varieties can be protected in Singapore for a period of up to 25 years subject to payment of annual fees and if the plant variety is one’s personal property.
According to the IPOS definition, “A plant variety is defined as a plant group within a single botanical taxon of the lowest rank. If you are a person who breeds plants, and has discovered and developed a new plant variety, you are called a ‘breeder’ and you can seek protection for your new plant varieties by applying for a Grant of Protection for a Plant Variety.”
In July 2014, Singapore expanded the scope of its Plant Varieties Protection Act (Cap 232A) to include all genera and species. Now every plant variety (with suitable denomination given) approved for protection must fulfil the below:
Incorporate a Singapore Company Now
Want to take advantage of all the above benefits that Singapore gives in protecting your IP rights? Please click here to read our detailed guide on how to incorporate a Singapore company.
We can also help you in registering your IP in Singapore. Please click here to know more about our trademark registration services.