As part of the continued efforts to modernise the IP systems of Singapore, and in response to stakeholder feedback following a public consultation in mid-2020, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) has recently published and sought public feedback on a draft Intellectual Property (Amendment) Bill 2021 (Bill) proposing further changes to IP laws in Singapore. The amendments proposed under the Bill seek to simplify and streamline the administrative process and improve user experience for those seeking IP protection in Singapore. The key changes proposed by IPOS, which are relevant to foreign applicants seeking IP protection in Singapore, are summarised below.

Key changes to the patent regime:

  • Mandating the filing of a Sequence Listing where a patent application discloses sequences.
  • Examiner discretion to issue a notice inviting amendment of the application in lieu of a written opinion, with a two month period in which to respond.
  • Refining the process for review of an examination report (re-examination) such that, if an applicant amends the specification for the purpose of overcoming all unresolved objections in the earlier examination report, the Examiner will not be required to agree or disagree with the objections raised in the earlier examination report. The Examiner need only assess whether the amendments have overcome the objections in the earlier examination report.

Key changes to the trade mark regime:

  • Clarifying that, insofar as a registered trade mark is eligible to be renewed and/or restored (including where extensions apply), it is to be regarded as an earlier trade mark.
  • Introducing a partial refusal mechanism for national trade mark applications, with the effect that only the goods and/or services which do not meet the requirements for registration will be treated as withdrawn, while the remaining goods and/or services can proceed to publication.
  • Introducing a two month “continued processing” period in which a trade mark application can be re-instated where that application is treated as being withdrawn for failure to respond to the Registrar’s written notice by the deadline. Currently, re-instatement can be requested within six months of the missed deadline.

Key changes to the design regime:

  • Clarifying that references to “article” and “non-physical products will cover “sets of articles and non-physical products”.
  • Introducing express legal effect to disclaimers which restrict the rights conferred to a registered design.

A number of further changes are also proposed to the plant variety protection regime, as well as cross-IP amendments which impact multiple IP regimes.

The proposed amendments are currently undergoing further legislative drafting and vetting by IPOS and may be subject to change. Nevertheless, the key message from the Bill is that IPOS is intent on simplifying and streamlining the IP regimes it administers, particularly the patent system, which is likely to translate to more efficient prosecution and greater costs savings moving forward.