Registered Designs Regime to Provide Greater Protection and Clarity to Designers
1. The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) announced today the completion of the review of Singapore’s registered designs regime. Taking into account technological advances and modern business practices, the proposed changes will support the growth of the design industry by making it easier for designers to protect their creative works, while allowing sufficient freedom for others to innovate and build on existing creations.
2. The review of Singapore’s registered designs regime will complement the Design 2025 Masterplan which recommended that design firms and businesses be supported to innovate and create new products, services and experiences, capitalising on the value of intellectual property.
3. Some of the key changes include:
(i) Broader scope of registrable designs
(ii) Making the designer the owner of the design by default, rather than the commissioner
(iii) Extended and broader grace period for design applications
Broader scope of registrable designs
4. Recognising the evolving design landscape, the scope of registrable designs will be broadened to include the following:
(i) Virtual or projected designs such as the design of a light-projected keyboard, which can be projected onto any surface and perform the same functions as a physical keyboard.
(ii) The design of artisanal or handcrafted items.
(iii) Colours as a design feature.
Creator owns design by default
5. In the situation where a designer is commissioned to create a design, the current position is that the commissioner is the owner of the design. Underscoring the importance of design creation, this will be changed so that the designer will be the owner of the design by default. Both parties would still be free to contract otherwise.
Extended and broader grace period for design applications
6. Currently, except in very limited circumstances, a designer cannot publicly disclose his design before filing for protection. Within those limited circumstances, an application for design protection must be filed within 6 months of the disclosure. Recognising the time pressures that designers sometimes work under, the situations covered will be broadened to cover any disclosure by the designer, and the grace period extended to 12 months. This will reduce the situations where a designer loses the opportunity to obtain design protection because of public disclosure before an application is filed.
7. Commenting on the recommendations, IPOS Chief Executive Officer, Daren Tang said, “The proposed changes to the registered designs regime are part of Singapore’s commitment to regularly review our IP regimes to ensure that they are progressive and world-class. Working with our partners in the design community, they take into account current design trends and business practices and are meant to support creativity and innovation in Singapore’s designs ecosystem. We encourage designers to make full use of the enhanced regime to help them deliver differentiated products in a competitive globalised market.”
8. The full set of recommendations can be found in Annex A.
9. Singapore provides for design protection primarily under the Registered Designs Act, which was enacted in 2000.
10. The designs review commenced in 2014 and included two rounds of public consultation – one from May to June 2014, and another from October to December 2015. In addition, numerous focus group discussions and one-to-one consultations, including with industry and design associations, businesses, intellectual property practitioners, and academics, were also held.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OFFICE OF SINGAPORE & MINISTRY OF LAW
16 MARCH 2016
 Announced by the DesignSingapore Council on 10 March 2016, the Masterplan identifies design as a key driver of value creation, as Singapore transitions into an innovation-driven economy.