Frequent users of the Singapore patent system should be aware that 1 January 2020 marks the date at which a recently re-read bill before the Singaporean parliament will come into force, demarking some significant changes. Some of the proposed changes are likely to be favourable for patent applicants, some possibly not quite so.

The “bad news” for applicants first:

Applicants have long been able to take advantage of the foreign route of supplementary examination in Singapore, one of several currently available search and examination routes in this jurisdiction. The foreign route is a popular one that enables applicants to use their granted foreign patents to streamline the search and examination in Singapore, often saving time and expense. However, as part of the ongoing ‘quest to improve the quality of patents granted in Singapore’, this route will no longer be available as an option for the following scenarios:

  • National phase entries derived from PCT applications with an international filing date later than 1 January 2020;
  • Paris convention or local basic applications made after 1 January 2020; and
  • Divisional applications made after the deadline.

Some good news to finish:

The grace period currently operating in Singapore allows applicants to set aside disclosures originating from inventors that were made 12 months prior to filing, but is restricted to only those derived from a breach of confidence, at a recognised international exhibition, or to a learned society only. As part of the above bill, the grace period provisions are to be broadened to include any disclosures derived from an inventor within 12 months, bringing this aspect of Singaporean law into conformity with other countries such as the US, Australia and recently Japan. Furthermore, the changes allow applicants greater flexibility in moving between the remaining examination routes in an effort to improve the examination process for users of the system.

All in all, a mixed bag for applicants in this jurisdiction: as one door allowing the use of granted national rights to aid in examination in this country closes, a more generous approach to self-disclosures and procedural freedom opens.