Singapore patent law was amended with effect from 14 February 2014 (2014 patent legislation). The 2014 patent legislation revises Singapore’s patent law in several important aspects including:-

  1. changing  the  Singapore  patent  system  from  a  “self  assessment” system to a “positive grant” system;
  2. changing the examination options and timelines associated with such options; and
  3. removing post-grant search and examination provisions.

“Self assessment” system to a “positive grant” system

Under the previous system, an applicant was able to request a grant of patent as long as certain formal requirements were complied with, even if the examination report was not favourable. Patents granted with an unfavourable examination report could be revoked easily. However, such a system was popular with many businesses as it enabled them to obtain a grant of patent easily, giving the business a perceived competitive advantage.

With the 2014 “positive grant” system, applicants can only request a grant of a patent if the Registrar issues a notice of eligibility based on a favourable examination report. The “positive grant” system will therefore improve the quality of patents granted in Singapore.

Examination options for applicants

The 2014 patent  legislation changed the timelines for the various examination options.

In addition, the legislation introduced the requirement for a supplementary examination in Singapore where an applicant wishes to rely on the results of an examination report issued by the International Preliminary Examination Authority or a corresponding foreign patent office. If the examiner is satisfied that the requirements of patentability are met, he will issue a favourable examination report and a notice of eligibility to the applicant. The applicant may only request for a grant of patent after the notice of eligibility is issued.

Removal of post-grant search and examination provisions

Under the 2014 patent legislation, there is no longer an option of examining granted claims after the grant.

Conclusion

With the positive grant system, a Singapore patent or a Singapore search and examination report can be used to facilitate prosecution in other countries and save costs. This is made possible through:

  • the ASEAN  Patent Examination Co-operation (ASPEC) programme with the ASEAN IP Offices of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam; and
  • the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) pilot programmes with the patent offices of the United States of America, Japan, China and Korea.

The new patents regime complements Singapore’s master plan to develop Singapore as an IP hub, as it makes it advantageous for applicants to first file a patent application in Singapore.