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Applying for a patent

Patentability

What are the criteria for patentability in your jurisdiction?

A patentable invention is an invention that is new, involves an inventive step and is capable of industrial application.

What are the limits on patentability?

The following are excluded from patentability:

  • discoveries, scientific theories or mathematical methods;
  • aesthetic creations, including literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works that are covered by copyright;
  • schemes, rules or methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business;
  • the presentation of information;
  • methods of treatment or diagnosis for humans or animals;
  • human reproductive cloning; and
  • inventions which would encourage offensive, immoral or antisocial behaviour.

To what extent can inventions covering software be patented?

Claims to software that are characterised only by source code and not by any technical feature cannot be considered an invention on the basis that the actual contribution would be a mere presentation of information.

However, computer programs may be patentable if the invention involves a technical contribution outside the excluded subject matter.

To what extent can inventions covering business methods be patented?

Pure business methods are not considered inventions and are not patentable. However, similar to computer programs, business methods may be patentable if they involve technical contributions outside the excluded subject matter. For example, claims relating to a computer-implemented business method would be considered an invention if the technical features (eg, servers, databases and user devices) interact with the steps of the business method to a material extent and in such a manner as to overcome a specific problem.

To what extent can inventions relating to stem cells be patented?

The Patents Act contains no specific provisions barring stem cells from patentability. Inventions determined by the examiner to fall within the list of acts prohibited by the Human Cloning and Other Prohibited Practices Act will be objected to.

In general, methods of generating human embryonic stem cell lines from human blastocysts will not be objected to. Methods of producing human stem cell lines from adult tissues are usually also allowed.

Are there restrictions on any other kinds of invention?

Inventions that could be significant to the national security of Singapore are subject to special procedures and may be ordered to be kept secret.

Grace period

Does your jurisdiction have a grace period? If so, how does it work?

At present, Singapore provides for a 12-month grace period from the date of first public disclosure of an invention where the disclosure:

  • was due to breach of confidence; and
  • was made at a recognised international exhibition or to a learned society.

To use this grace period, a complete application must be filed with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore before the 12-month deadline.

Amendments to the Patents Act entered into force on October 30 2017, meaning that all disclosures by the inventor, or by a person who obtained the matter disclosed directly or indirectly from the inventor, will be disregarded if the disclosure was made within the 12-month period immediately before the date of filing the patent application in Singapore.

Oppositions

What types of patent opposition procedure are available in your jurisdiction?

Patent opposition is unavailable in Singapore.   

Apart from oppositions, are there any other ways to challenge a patent outside the courts?

A granted patent may be revoked by the registrar if:

  • the invention is not a patentable invention;
  • the patent was granted on the application of a person not entitled to be granted that patent;
  • the specification did not disclose the invention clearly and completely enough for it to be performed by a person skilled in the art;
  • subject matter not originally disclosed at the application stage has been added;
  • an amendment or correction was made to the specification which should not have been allowed;
  • the patent was obtained fraudulently on any misrepresentation or on any non-disclosure or inaccurate disclosure of any prescribed material information; or
  • there is double patenting.

How can patent office decisions be appealed in your jurisdiction?

Decisions rejecting the grant of a patent can be appealed to the High Court.

Timescale and costs

How long should an applicant expect to wait before being granted a patent and what level of cost should it budget for?

It typically takes between two and four years to process a patent application. It is possible to request the accelerated processing of a patent application. Applicants can also request expedited examination via applicable patent prosecution highway programmes.

The cost from filing to grant of a patent in Singapore, including official and attorney fees, can range from S$3,000 to S$10,000, depending on the examination route and the complexity of the technology.

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