Introduction to Singapore Intellectual Property

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property, also referred to as industrial property, refers to intangible assets such as inventions, designs, trade marks, copyright, confidential information, goodwill, reputation, trade secrets and so on. Such assets can be extremely valuable if correctly protected.

In general, intellectual property rights allow you to stop someone from doing something, for example, copying a work or design, working an invention or using a confusing sign to market goods or services. Many intellectual property rights may be transferred, bought and sold, licensed, mortgaged, etc, just like real property.

The intellectual property system is designed with an aim to encourage innovation, creativity and economic growth. Intellectual property rights are therefore generally created out of intellectual endeavour.

Some types of IP rights arise automatically when created, such as copyright, without the need for registration. Other rights may require a formal registration process, such as patent rights and copyright.

Types of Intellectual Property in Singapore

In Singapore, the law recognises several types of intellectual property, which may be protected in different ways.

Patents

Patents are granted to protect new ideas of a technical nature. These may be new products, new processes, new materials, improvements in existing products and processes, etc. The grant of a patent entitles the patentee to a limited monopoly (twenty years in Singapore) in return for which the patentee must disclose the invention in a patent specification which is published and thus becomes public knowledge.

For more information on patents in Singapore, please see the Singapore Patent Guide

For PCT applications entering the Singapore national phase, please see our Singapore National Phase Guide

For International (PCT) Patent Applications filed with the IPOS as a Receiving Office, please see our International Patent Application Guide

Trade Marks

Trade marks protect the association of a word or graphical symbol with the source of a product to which it is applied. A trade mark may be used to protect a brand name or logo used to associate a product with a particular company or individual.

Registered trade marks protect a brand name or logo used to associate a product with a particular company or individual. Registered rights in a trade mark can be perpetual if the mark continues to be used.

To be registered, a trade mark application needs to be filed and examined by the trade marks registry. In order to be registered, a trade mark needs to be distinctive, not descriptive and cannot be confusingly similar or identical to an earlier application.

Once registered, trade marks provide an absolute right, and there is no need to prove that an infringer has actually copied the mark.

Unlike patents and registered designs, registered rights in a trade mark can be perpetual if the mark continues to be used for the goods or services it has been registered for.

Unregistered trade mark rights may also be acquired by use of a trade mark in Singapore and the reputation which a company enjoys as a result of such use. This reputation may be used to prevent others passing off their own goods as those of the owner of the trade mark rights. The Consumer Protection Act protects against others using false trade descriptions which can include the misuse of trade marks.

For more information on trade marks in Singapore, please see our Singapore Trade Marks Guide.

Registered Designs

Registered designs protect the external appearance of a product only, and not its function. Thus, the shape of a product or the pattern on a product may be protected by a Singapore registered design.

For more information on registered designs in Singapore, please see our Singapore Registered Designs Guide.

Copyright protects literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works from copying by others. Copyright subsists automatically once a work is created and published.

In Singapore, copyright can also protect copying of “useful” products which are incapable of Registered Design protection for a fixed term from the date such products are first industrially applied.

Common Law Rights

Confidential information, know-how (where confidential), goodwill and reputation are protected under common law although there is no specific statutory legislation in Singapore.

Questions

If you have any questions on intellectual property, please get in touch with us.

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