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    Singapore Builds Patent Capacity Ahead Of New System

    Published on 17 May 2012 @ 1:28 pm

    By for Intellectual Property Watch

    The tiny island state of Singapore has begun to ramp up its capacity for patent search and examination ahead of a bold move to adopt a new patent system, one of the proposed major amendments to its Patents Act. The Southeast Asian economic high-flyer is pressing for changes to its laws to position itself as an Asian hub for intellectual property.

    Moving to what it calls as a “positive grant” patent system from the present “self assessment” type of system tops the list of amendments to Singapore’s patent law. In the current system, even patents that do not meet the full patentability criteria commonly observed in more developed patent offices abroad can be registered.

    The amendments bill text is available here [pdf].

    The positive grant system, on the other hand, which is the term Singapore uses to refer to the system used in Japan, in the United Kingdom and by the European Patent Office (EPO) is stricter and calls for the fulfilment of more patentability requirements.

    Singapore was forced to adopt the lenient self-assessment type of patent system due to the lack of sufficient domestic patent search and examination capabilities when it first put up its own patent system back in 1995.

    Migrating to the new system is supposed to raise the quality of registered patents in the country and make its patent office comparable to established patent offices abroad.

    “This will strengthen business and investor confidence in our IP regime, and enhance Singapore’s reputation as a leading IP hub in Asia,” the Singapore Ministry of Law said in a press release [pdf] that was sent out ahead of the first reading in the Parliament on the Patents Amendment Bill on 14 May.

    The shift to the new system also signals Singapore’s new mandate to move away from outsourcing search and examination works to patent offices in other countries.

    The ministry said that it will build “world-class” search and examination capabilities in what it describes as specific technology classes that are aligned with the country’s main research and development (R&D) thrusts.

    “Preparations for this new initiative are well on track. Response to IPOS’ (Intellectual Property Office of Singapore) initial recruitment exercise for patent examiners has been excellent, with over 180 quality applicants for 20 positions. The team is expected to be operational by mid-2013,” the ministry said.

    To date, there are only about 100 Singapore-registered patent agents in practice and only Singapore-registered patent agents can undertake patent agent work in the country.

    Prof. Josef Straus of the Munich-based Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property and Competition Law said the current initiative of Singapore seems to “follow a sound logic,” but it is too early to tell whether the changes can bolster its regional bid to become an IP hub.

    “The move to perform searches and examinations in some areas of technology in IPOS itself seems to follow a sound logic, providing they can really master the task,” Straus said in an interview. “Only the future will answer this. This will to a large extent depend on the numbers.”

    Even the system of established patent offices is not foolproof.

    “As a general rule I would say that every country should have enough human resources to be competent enough to perform a substantive examination. Whether this should be done from scratch or in a kind of opposition proceedings, rechecking the examination results of a reliable partner office, however, seems debatable,” Straus said.

    “The present international situation is irrational: to examine the same invention five, six and more times based on basically harmonised patentability requirements is not easy to defend, bearing in mind the globalised markets and the fact that the large majority of patents is actually not exploited and the number of patents enforced and/or challenged in courts is in terms of percentage negligible,” he added.

    Opening Up Market to Foreign Patent Agents

    The proposed amendments also include allowing foreign patent agents to do offshore patent agency work in Singapore without requiring them to qualify as Singapore-registered patent agents.

    “This move will broaden the range of patent services in Singapore, particularly in international patent expertise, and is intended to meet the growth in regional demand for international patent services and attract such work to Singapore,” the ministry said.

    In particular, foreign-registered patent agents will be allowed to do at least the following:

    1. Apply for patents at any place other than in Singapore;
    2. Prepare the specifications or other documents to comply with the patent law of any country other than in Singapore and for international application for a patent, including applications for Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT);and
    3. Give advice about the validity or infringement of patents under the patent law of any country other than Singapore.

    Managed by the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) and with 145 contracting states to date, the PCT is a tool for filing an international application, in which a patent applicant is given up to 18 months to seek protection in selected foreign countries.

    A stricter patent system and opening up its patent system to foreign patent agents are strategic moves that could potentially boost the volume of patent activities of Singapore-based companies abroad and vice versa and holds promise for Singapore leading the development of IP capacity of the Southeast Asian region.

    Eiji Katayama, a patent lawyer at Abe, Ikubo & Katayama law office in Tokyo, said Singapore’s initiative to reform its patent law comes at a time when intellectual property is gaining ground in Asia. “As Singapore undertook quite unique policies in other areas, I am interested to see how Singapore will play a role in Asia’s IP in the coming years,” Katayama told Intellectual Property Watch.

    At present, the patent numbers are still small on this side of the world.

    At the EPO, for instance, the number of European patent applications filed by Singapore-based applicants for 2011 was at 305, still small compared to Germany at 26,234 and the United States at 34,993. But compared with other Southeast Asian countries, Singapore’s number is already high: Philippines at 3, Thailand at 7, Malaysia at 79 or Vietnam with 0. EPO data may be accessed here.

    Albeit promising, foreign observers see the bid of Singapore to become an IP hub as requiring it to forge closer cooperation with other Asian economies.

    Already, the ministry admitted that some local patent agents have expressed concern about the effects of competition from foreign patent agents on the local profession.

    “Our view is that if Singapore can develop stronger international patent agent capabilities, we can attract more work from the region and grow the overall market for Singapore firms,” the Ministry of Law said in the press release. “Such a move, moreover, would help improve the overall infrastructure in Singapore necessary to support national R&D efforts and the innovation economy in general.”

    Singapore is now reviewing the registration requirements for their local patent agents to ensure that the changes to the law would not put them at a disadvantage.

    Other amendments to Singapore’s patent law include the setting up of an integrated registry for all IP transactions and the transfer of regulation of pharmaceutical products for human use from the Medicines Act to the Health Products Act.

    Maricel Estavillo may be reached at maricelestavillo@gmail.com.

     

    Comments

    1. Most-Read IP-Watch Stories Of 2012: India Pharma, Europe, ACTA, WIPO Technical Assistance, Gene Patents | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      [...] Singapore Builds Patent Capacity Ahead Of New System http://www.ip-watch.org/2012/05/17/singapore-builds-patent-capacity-ahead-of-new-system/ [...]

    2. Singapore Builds Patent Capacity Ahead Of New System | Anything IP says:

      [...] Moving to what it calls as a “positive grant” patent system from the present “self assessment” type of system tops the list of amendments to Singapore’s patent law. In the current system, even patents that do not meet the full patentability criteria commonly observed in more developed patent offices abroad can be registered. To read the rest of the story, click here. [...]


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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