Legislative Changes Introduced to Update Singapore’s Patent Regime
1. The Ministry of Law (“MinLaw”) has submitted the Patents (Amendment) Bill for First Reading in Parliament today. The proposed changes will enhance Singapore’s patent regime by increasing the quality of patents and making it more user-friendly.
2. With the amendments, before a patent is granted, all patent applications will be fully examined by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (“IPOS”) to ensure that inventions meet all of Singapore’s patentability standards. This will increase the quality of patents and will cause patent holders and the general public to have greater confidence in our patent system.
3. Inventors will also be given greater flexibility in disclosing their inventions before seeking patent protection. This better caters to today’s business needs and practices.
Key features of the Patents (Amendment) Bill
4. The key features of the Bill are as follows:
(i) 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 the examination report issued by a foreign patent office for the same invention. IPOS would then conduct a simplified examination which does not cover key patentability requirements. Thus, under this “foreign route”, granted patents 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.
(ii) 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
5. A public consultation on the proposed amendments was conducted by IPOS. The public consultation took place 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).