As a type of property, Intellectual Property (IP) has that unique characteristic of being ethereal; of the mind, intangible, with no corporeal existence; hence, "Intellectual Property". With a tangible object, property rights extinguish when the object is destroyed. With IP, since there is nothing physical, property only lasts for as long as the law says it lasts.
In order to strike a balance between the protection of rights for owners of creative works and increased public access to intellectual property, Singapore has ensured that its intellectual property and copyright laws are harmonized with the underlying principles in global laws on intellectual property rights (IPRs).
What Laws Protect Intellectual Property In Singapore
In Singapore, laws that protect such intellectual creations are known as Intellectual Property (IP) laws.
What Intellectual Creations Can One Register
One can register the following types of Intellectual Property Rights with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS):
- Patent grants For Inventions
- Trade Marks for Business Signs
- Designs for Designs Applied To Articles
- Grants for the Protection Of Plant Varieties.
Forms of IP you need not register, but may be protected nonetheless, include:
- Copyrighted Works
- Geographical Indications
- Layout-Designs of Integrated Circuits
- Confidential Information and Trade Secrets
How To Know If The Intellectual Creations Can Be Protected
- Every intellectual property right has its own requirements.
- For e.g. inventions that are patented must be new or involve an improvement and have some form of industrial application. Trademarks must be distinctive and distinguish ones goods or services.
What Intellectual Creations Cannot Be Protected
Pure concepts and notions cannot be protected. For instance, if one has an idea to create digital locks, if it is purely an idea without any plans or without any prototype, then such an idea would not be eligible for protection.
Ownership Of Intellectual Property Rights
The Creator Owner Rule
According to Singapore law, creators own the IP unless there are legislative provisions or contractual agreements stating otherwise. There are some exceptions to the rule, for instance, employee inventions and commissioned works.
Usually employees own the intellectual property created by their employees in the course of their work unless there is an agreement stating otherwise.
In determining "course of work", the Courts may look at the following:
- Was the IP created while the employee was carrying out his duties?
- Did the employee use the employer's resources to create the IP?
- Was the IP created during normal working hours?
Protecting Intellectual Creations Abroad
If the business entity has overseas contacts or operations e.g. if the business entity exports goods, franchise or license the business overseas, then the business entity needs to protect the intellectual property (IP) in foreign markets.
Are IP Rights In Singapore Recognized Overseas?
- Protecting the business entities IP in Singapore does not mean one can protection elsewhere.
- The IP rights in Singapore are not automatically recognized in foreign markets, as a result the business entity would need to get IP protection in those countries as well.
Where Does One Have To Protect The IP
- The business establishment has to protect the IP in markets that are commercially important to the business.
- Worldwide IP protection may be unnecessary and expensive. One must make a business decision as to the markets one wants protection in.
How To Protect IP Abroad
There are several ways of protecting IP abroad.
- Use international filing/registration systems
- Use regional filing/registration systems e.g. European Patent Office
- File/register directly in the respective countries
What Are The International Filing/Registration Systems?
For any enquires regarding the International/Regional filing systems, please contact the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS).
Type of IP Right
Name of System
Details at IPOS
Patent Co-Operation Treaty