The registration and acquisition of intellectual property (IP) is increasingly becoming an important part of doing business in Singapore and participating in the global knowledge-based economy.
The basic goal of registering IP is to ensure that you, as its owner, hold the exclusive rights to use, license or sell your IP. It also legally protects you, prevents others from using your idea/ product without your permission or without any form of financial compensation, and helps you profit from them.
So, if you’re thinking of doing business here, it is therefore crucial that you acquaint yourself with the other good reasons to register IP in Singapore as well as understand its IP legislation.
Luckily for you, registering IP here has become easier, with the instalment of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) and the approval of the IP Hub Master Plan (which seeks to establish Singapore as the centre for IP in Asia) in March last year.
There are various types of intellectual property that are recognized and can be registered in Singapore. These include: patents, registered designs, trademarks, copyright and trade secrets. Read on to find the differences between them, and which are relevant to your business.
Patents are used in order to protect intellectual properties that are technical in nature. For instance, this can include new pharmaceuticals, gadgets, appliances, and even newly developed materials. However, it is important to remember that patents are more concerned with ‘how’ an end result is achieved, as opposed to the result being achieved. You cannot patent a ‘device to straighten hair’ for instance, but you could patent the use of ‘heated tongs’ to that end.
In Singapore, patentees are granted a limited monopoly if their application is successful that will last for 20 years. However, this requires the applicant to submit specifications/blueprints for their patent which will be published and accessible by the general public.
As opposed to design patents, Singapore uses ‘registered designs’ in order to protect the outward appearance of a product, without regard for function or mechanism. If a company were to release a new phone for example, they would require a patent to protect any new technologies, such as new types of sensors, and a registered design in order to protect the appearance of that phone to avoid copies with poorer specifications.
Registered designs provide protection following the first ‘industrial application’ of the design, meaning that more than 50 copies are intended to be produced for sale.
Copyrights are used to protect artistic works that can be literary, musical, visual or performative in nature. In Singapore, this form of protection can also extend to ‘useful’ products which cannot be protected through patent or registered design.
All forms of copyright protection will be applied for a fixed period. This varies depending on the type of copyright work. For literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, it may span 70 years from the year end of the author’s death and for broadcast and cable programs, it is 50 years from the year end of the making of the program.
Confidential information and technical know-how are considered ‘trade secrets’ and are protected in Singapore, primarily through reputation and goodwill as well as common law.
However, there are neither registration procedures nor statutory legislation with regard to this kind of intellectual property. The use of NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) is recommended, along with general good practices – for instance, limiting the number of people who come into contact with the sensitive information.
Trademarks protect brand names, logos or phrases used in marketing and storytelling. For instance, a trademark may apply to a brand name like ‘Microsoft’ to prevent other companies trading under that name, but it could also apply to a character name such as ‘Spider-Man’ or an image such as the Nike logo.
In Singapore, the rights to a trademark are perpetual, as long as the company or individual continues to use that mark in association with their business.
Unregistered trademarks can also be acquired in Singapore if a company has traded under that name and the association has become well established. There are limitations of course on what can be used as a trademark, and the Consumer Protection Act protects against the misuse of trademarks and trade descriptions.
As you can see, IP is a valuable asset to your company and can set you apart from others in your industry. This then gives you the confidence to collaborate with other organizations and opens up possibilities to new opportunities in Singapore and abroad.
If you’re interested in registering a trademark in Singapore, we can help. Email us at [email protected] or call +65 6320 1888 for an obligation-free consultation.