With increasing focus on knowledge-based enterprises, the
Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) was established in 2001 to
advise on and administer IP laws, promote IP awareness and provide the
infrastructure to facilitate the development of IP.[1]  Since the signing of the free-trade agreement
with the United States in May 2003, Singapore’s protection of IP has improved
significantly.  Significant changes to
local IP laws, implemented in January 2005, included extension of authors’
copyright protection by 20 years[2],
introduction of a mechanism to trademark scents and sounds[3],
and imposition of stiffer penalties for copyright infringement and piracy[4].  Currently, patents, trademarks, registered
designs, copyright are IP rights protected under the current IP laws in
Singapore.

 

The Patents (Amendment) Act, which came into effect in
January, 2002, also aims to provide a regulatory regime for patent attorneys
and agents, and improve their accessibility to patent laws and system in order
to improve their service to domestic and international inventors and patent
owners.   

 

The patent application system was modified in July 2004 to
create a dual-track system with two deadline alternatives for applicants
relating to search, examination and requests: within 42 months (“fast track”),
or within 60 months (“slow track”).[5]  If no preference is specified, the “fast
track” is the default.  If the applicant
opts for the slow track, only one fee must be paid to extend all deadlines.  Previously, applicants were given a deadline
of 54 months to request a patent.

 

In 2007, new amendments were made to the Patents Act.  Since 2007, overseas patent applications
automatically include patent protection in Singapore.  Other amendments extended the filing period;
an applicant will be provided with two more months after the 12-month period to
file a Singapore patent application and claim priority over an earlier relevant
application that was filed in a Paris Convention or WTO member state, provided
the applicant can show that he missed the initial 12-month period
unintentionally.[6]

 

In addition to promulgating new IP laws, Singapore has also
signed numerous international treaties to strengthen its IP system.  The first important international treaty came
in 1995, when Singapore approved the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) system
under the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), which provides a
convenient and useful alternative route for patent applicants filing an
international application for their respective inventions.  By filing in one PCT country, applicants can
simultaneously seek patent protection for their inventions in more than 130 PCT
countries including Singapore.  Besides
the PCT system, Singapore is also a signatory to several other important
international IP treaties, including the Bern Convention, Madrid Protocol, Budapest
Treaty and the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property
Rights (TRIPs).[7]

 

In the last several years, Singapore has also made several
amendments and extensions to IP rights, which include a revised Trademark Law
Treaty (TLT) in 2006, updates to the copyright law in 2007 and the recent 2008
proposal to amend the Copyright Tribunal to meet the needs of users and owners
of copyright works in the digital age.

 

Although Singapore is known for its strong enforcement,
protection of IP rights in Singapore does not rely solely on legal measures.  In recent years, the IPOS has also tried to
educate the general public about IP rights, as well as actions that constitute
infringement and consequences through the use of public talks and seminars, educational
outreach advertising campaigns and IP seminars for retailers.  To enhance Singapore’s IP system, IPOS regularly
seek public comments and suggestions on what additional changes can be
implemented to strengthen IP protection.

 

Singapore is an invaluable partner for WIPO and has an
important role to play in ensuring that the IP system continues to be of
relevance in the 21st century, as a mechanism to support all
countries.  The WIPO, as the UN agency
empowered to administer and develop the international IP system, has a key role
to play in facilitating discussions to ensure that IP fosters innovations that
are socially and economically beneficial. 
This commitment was reiterated when WIPO director-general Francis Gurry visited
Singapore in July 2009.  During the
visit, Guerry highlighted Singapore’s growing recognition of knowledge as the
basis for wealth creation and the role of IP in harnessing its value.[8]

 

In today’s highly competitive global economic environment, a
commitment to research and development, educational excellence and innovation,
is essential in securing an advantage in the marketplace.  Singapore’s commitment through continuous
revision to its IP laws shows how the IP system can offer a means of promoting
economic growth and wealth creation.

 

Singapore’s continuous commitment to research and
development, innovation and IP also means that it can withstand the current
global economic downturn.  Armed with a
robust IP system, Singapore will continue to attract high levels of foreign
investment and foster the development of cutting- edge industries in fields as
diverse as biomedicine, chemicals, electronics and green technology.

 



[1] http://www.ipos.gov.sg/topNav/abo/

[2] http://www.ipos.gov.sg/leftNav/cop/Ownership+and+Rights.htm

[3] See Peter Kang and Clark Stone, IP,
Trade, and U.S./Singapore Relations — Significant Intellectual Property
Provisions of the 2003 U.S. – Singapore Free Trade Agreement, 6:5 J. of World
Int. Prop. 721 (2003).

[6] Id.    

[7] See supra note 2.

[8] See Straits Times, Capturing the Value of Innovation, July 27, 2009.