Simple guide to Intellectual Property & Trademarks in Singapore
4 minute read
Whether you are an entrepreneur or an inventor, it is important to understand how to protect your intellectual property with the correct industrial property title. Knowing how to protect your idea can save you a lot of time and money.
Intellectual property is vital to your business process in Singapore. The city-state offers companies a strong regime for intellectual property protection. Whether you are a small start-up or an SME, taking steps to protect your idea and intellectual property should be a priority within your business. At a high level, companies can consider two intellectual property options for their activities: trademarks and patents.
- What is a Patent?
- What is a trademark and why does a business need one in Singapore?
- How long does it take to apply for a patent and what are the steps?
- How long does it take to apply for a trademark and what are the steps?
- How much can submitting a trademark or patent application cost?
What is a Patent?
A patent is a title or an intellectual property right that makes it possible to protect an invention. An invention can take different forms: a product or part of a product, an improvement, a process, a device, etc..
Patents grant the owner of an invention, in the jurisdiction in which they are registered, the right to exclusively use and exploit his invention, thus preventing third parties from using the invention without the explicit consent of the inventor.
Criteria to register a patent
However, not all inventions can be patented and there are three criteria that an invention must meet according to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) in order to be granted a patent:
1. New – The invention must be new – i.e. “never seen before”, and not only in the country where registration is sought, but globally. This means that at the moment the invention is presented to the public or published anywhere, it loses its novelty and is therefore no longer patentable. Owners of inventions should be careful to keep the invention secret until a patent application has been successfully made. If the idea has already been talked about, commercially exploited, advertised or demonstrated, then the novelty of the invention may be compromised.
2. Inventive step – The invention must be an improvement over any existing product or process that is already available. The improvement must not be obvious to someone with technical skills or knowledge in the field of the invention.
3. Industrial application – The invention must be useful and have some form of practical application. It should be capable of being made or used in some form of industry.
What is a trademark and why does a business need one in Singapore?
Trademark registrations provide the exclusive right to use a particular mark on the product and services covered by the registration and to prevent or authorise others to use it.
A trademark must be registered with a national or international organization for the management of industrial property rights. This registration protects a business from counterfeiting or from using the trademark that is not in accordance with the will of its creator.
Reasons to register a trademark
A trademark offers many advantages for your business. It helps customers to easily recognize your products/services and protect your market share. Note that a business is not required to register a trademark in Singapore to start its operations. Here are three reasons why you should register a trademark for your business:
1. Exclusive exploitation of the brand
Trademark registration offers its owner rights, the main one being the monopoly of exploitation of its trademark, to sell, market or communicate on the products and services you have developed. Once you have registered your trademark, others will no longer be able to register a similar one.
The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) may refuse business to register its trademark if it’s too similar to yours. This means that your trademark can be protected in this way without the need for you to take any action.
2. Facilitates legal recourse
A trademark registered with IPOS is easier to enforce. You can prevent anyone else from using your trademark by filing a court order called an injunction. For example, if somebody has benefited from using the trademark without your permission, you can receive financial compensation for the use of the trademark.
This can be done easily. One simply has to prove that the trademark has been registered before or that a similar product is similar to yours and cite that it might lead to confusion for your customers.
The contrary is true if a trademark is not registered – it is difficult to prove that an infringement offence has been committed. To do so, one must prove that your sign has accumulated business goodwill, that there has been a dishonest misrepresentation by the person who copied your sign, and that you have suffered damage.
3. The business strategy
The use and registration of a trademark enhances its value: it is an investment. Therefore, the trademark becomes a business strategy and a valuable asset in a transaction or financing. A sign can be licensed to others for use in a franchise, or sold outright. This is regardless of whether your sign has been registered as a trademark or not. Registering your trademark gives the buyer greater confidence to receive it.
How long does it take to apply for a patent and what are the steps?
There are two ways to file a patent application in Singapore: through IPOS via the domestic route or through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) national phase entry route.
The domestic route takes approximately 12 months for a patent to be granted if there are no objections and you follow the specified time limits for actions. Note that if your invention is complex, it may take up to 4 years for your patent application to be granted.
Once your application is complete, the Patent Register will grant a filing date. Details of your patent application will be published in the Patents Journal as soon as possible after 18 months.
Next, patent examiners will search for similar earlier inventions in the same field as your patent application. If there are no objections, you will be issued a Notice of Eligibility to Proceed to Grant. You must file a request for the issuance of the Certificate of Grant within two months after the Notice of Eligibility to Proceed to Grant. Once the request is filed and the conditions for the grant are satisfied, the Registrar will issue the Certificate of Grant.
Singaporean patents are valid for 20 years from the date of filing, subject to annual renewal fees starting from the end of the 4th year.
National phase entry route
The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) makes it possible to seek patent protection for an invention simultaneously in a large number of countries by filing an “international” patent application.
In order to file an international application, you must be a resident or national of Singapore. You may electronically file an international application using ePCT. The application process is similar to the domestic route and can take up to 4 years.
How long does it take to apply for a trademark and what are the steps?
It takes up to 9 months to register a trademark. After submitting the application, your trademark application will be examined to check if the mark is registrable. If your trade mark application is acceptable for registration, it will be published in the Trademarks Journal for public inspection for two months.
You will receive a Certificate of registration if there are no objections. Trademark registration is for an initial period of 10 years, and it can last indefinitely if the registration is renewed every 10 years.
How much can submitting a trademark or patent application cost?
When you apply for a patent in Singapore, you must pay the official filing fees and your patent agent’s fees. Costs may vary according to the complexity of the invention. The total official fees for a patent application in Singapore starts from S$2,100. Once granted, renewal fees have to be paid annually to maintain the validity of your patent. The total cost can be up to S$10,000.
Regarding trademark registration, the application cost per mark and per class are S$240-341. The examination fee is S$40.
Singapore offers many initiatives to make Singapore a hub for intellectual property and innovation. It is necessary to understand the ways you can protect your innovative idea should you have one. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!