Effective 1 September 2015, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) has commenced operations as an International Patent Search and Examination Authority (ISA / IPEA) under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

Notably, Singapore is the first nation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the fifth Asian nation (after China, India, Japan and Korea), to join a group of nineteen IP offices worldwide that have been appointed as an ISA / IPEA. This is a significant milestone in Singapore’s efforts in developing as an IP Hub of Asia.

For now, only Singaporean PCT applicants can select IPOS as the ISA / IPEA for their PCT applications. However, in the coming months, patent applicants from Brunei, Japan, Mexico, Laos and Vietnam will be able to select IPOS as the ISA / IPEA for their PCT applications.

IPOS offers several advantages over other ISAs / IPEAs, particularly a quicker issuance of a first office action and searches that are conducted in English as well as Chinese.

IPOS has indicated that for most cases, a first office action will be issued within 60 days. This is faster than other ISAs / IPEAs. For applicants, receiving an earlier office action means that they obtain a quicker preliminary assessment of the patentability of their PCT application, providing more time to formulate their patent filing strategy.

PCT applicants who choose IPOS as their ISA / IPEA can expect examiners to conduct searches in both English and Chinese. For the latter, examiners will conduct the search using Chinese terms. As the amount of Chinese literature has increased sharply in recent years, a thorough patentability assessment of a PCT application should preferably include a prior art search of Chinese literature.

It is noted that IPOS’ official PCT fees are comparable with other established ISAs / IPEAs, such as the Australian Patent Office and the European Patent Office. Moreover, a rebate on the official search fees may be given depending on the extent to which IPOS benefits from earlier searches. In particular, a full payment on the official search fees is required upfront and the rebate will only be issued after the examiner determines the extent to which IPOS can benefit from earlier searches.