Last year, we saw changes to the Singapore Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Act (2004) taking effect. In Singapore, previously only 16 genera of plants were protectable through PVP legislation. The amended legislation expands the list of protectable plants to cover all genera of plants, in line with Singapore’s International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) obligations.
In Singapore, a Plant Variety Protection (PVP) application may be filed either with or without a foreign priority claim. The deadline for filing a PVP application claiming priority is 12 months from the date of filing in a foreign UPOV member.
The process of examination of PVP applications has also been updated to provide more options for applicants. For instance, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) can engage the services of foreign Examiners to examine plant variety applications on its behalf, and applicants are permitted to nominate a foreign jurisdiction that has experience in the variety.
A plant variety may be considered to be ‘new’ (novel) if harvested or propagating material has not been sold or otherwise disposed of to another person in Singapore for more than one year; or more than six years in any other country (if the variety is a tree or a vine); or more than four years (for other plants) before the PVP application is made.
Applications for new PVPs must contain a description of the plant variety, including pictorial representations, a proposed denomination (trade name) for the plant variety which qualifies for approval, and other particulars. Missing particulars need be rectified within two months of the original application.
Priority claims for PVPs in Singapore must be claimed within 12 months of a foreign (UPOV) application filing date. Within three months of the priority claim, applicants must submit a copy of the priority application which has been certified by the authority in the relevant foreign UPOV member. If the foreign priority application is not in English, a certified copy of an English translation is required.
A preliminary examination of formalities and proposed denomination will then be carried out by IPOS and the applicant will have two months to rectify any deficiencies. The application is then published to allow a two month period within which third party objections may be lodged. If there are no objections, the application will proceed to examination.
The options for examination of a PVP application in Singapore are:
Applicants must submit propagating material, descriptions, drawings or photographs of the plant variety, or any other material or document that is necessary for examination within one month after any written request from a local Examiner; or within three months for an Examiner located outside Singapore. Further material, descriptions, drawings and/or photographs may be requested by the Examiner and these must be provided in the period specified. For a straightforward application, a certificate of grant will issue and the application will be published. If not, up to two written opinions may issue, to each of which the applicant has two months to respond. The application will then be granted or rejected and published accordingly.
A cheaper and less onerous alternative is to rely on a foreign examination report for a corresponding foreign application. In this case, the applicant has three years from the date of the foreign application to provide the Registrar with a copy of the examination report, which will be reviewed by the Examiner or Registrar. If the foreign application is refused or withdrawn, the applicant has two years from that date within which to provide an examination report (issued and certified by the Examiner in a UPOV country other than Singapore) from another foreign application to the Registrar or switch to normal examination. If a certificate of grant is made, the application will then be published. If a certificate of grant is not made (i.e. the application is rejected), the applicant has three months to request a normal examination .
With payment of annual renewal fees, PVP lasts 25 years in Singapore and is therefore an attractive form of protection. Now that the full suite of plants is protectable in Singapore, it will be interesting to monitor the number of PVP applications filed.