6 February 2017

Singapore’s patent laws are being updated

The Singapore Ministry of Law (MinLaw) has submitted the Patents (Amendment) Bill for a first reading in the Singapore Parliament. The proposed changes will enhance Singapore’s patent regime by increasing the quality of patents and making it more user-friendly, the ministry said.

Two key amendments are being introduced. First, all patent applications are to be fully examined by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) to ensure that inventions meet all of Singapore’s patentability standards, increasing the quality of patents and raising confidence in the Singapore patent system. Secondly, inventors will also be given greater flexibility in disclosing their inventions before seeking patent protection.


Closure of foreign route

 Patent applications must be examined by the patent office to ensure that the invention satisfies patentability requirements before a patent is granted.

Currently, patent applicants can submit an examination report issued by a foreign patent office for the invention being considered to expedite their application.

IPOS would then conduct a simplified examination which does not cover key patentability requirements. This practice of using the "foreign route” can result in patents granted that may not fully satisfy Singapore’s patentability standards.

 With the closure of the foreign route, currently planned for 1 January 2020, all patent applications must be fully examined by IPOS. This ensures that all granted patents fully satisfy Singapore’s patentability criteria.

Broadening the grace period provision

 An inventor must generally keep his invention confidential before applying for a patent.

 Currently, public disclosures are only disregarded under very narrow circumstances – for example, when the disclosure was in breach of confidence. Public disclosures outside these narrow circumstances will lead to the invention being ineligible for patent protection.

 The proposed amendments will allow any public disclosure originating from the inventor to be disregarded, if it occurs within 12 months before the patent application. Hence, if inventors disclose their inventions during this period, whether inadvertently or out of necessity, they can still obtain a patent later. This is in line with modern business realities where such practices could be necessary.

 However, inventors are strongly encouraged to continue to avoid disclosing their inventions before applying for a patent. As not all jurisdictions have a similarly broad grace period provision, public disclosures prior to applying for a patent could jeopardise patent protection in other jurisdictions.

 A public consultation on the proposed amendments was conducted by IPOS from 27 October 2016 to 15 November 2016 and received feedback from the Law Society, patent agent associations and the Singapore Inventors’ Development Association (SIDA).