Howard Yap, ATMD Bird & Bird
1. Singapore patent filings are dominated by foreign entities. Over the past ten years, on average, more than 90% of patent applications in Singapore were by foreign entities.
2. The only subject matter excluded from patentability in Singapore is inventions pertaining to methods of treatment of the human or animal body. This means that business methods and software inventions can be patented if they meet the patentability requirements.
3. A Singapore resident, who wishes to first file a patent application for an invention outside of Singapore, must obtain security clearance from the Patent Office. If they don’t, the inventor will be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding S$5,000 ($4,100) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both.
4. Search and examination options in Singapore are often perceived as unnecessarily complicated. In fact, there are only two routes: request search and/or examination with the Singapore Patent Office, or rely on the search and/or examination results of an application from another office.
5. As it does not have any examiners of its own, the Singapore Patent Office outsources search and examination requests to the Danish, Hungarian and Austrian Patent Offices.
6. Singapore adopts a self-assessment system in granting patents: the onus is on the applicant to ensure that the claims are valid. A patent can be granted even if the examination report is adverse.
7. Annuities or renewal payments are only payable after the patent has been granted. The renewal fees extend from the fifth year up to the 20th year, so if a patent is granted in its seventh year, the patentee would have to pay the renewal fees for the fifth, sixth and seventh years.
8. All claims presented for grant must be valid. In any infringement proceedings, if it is found that a patent is only partially valid, the court will not grant relief by way of damages, costs or expenses, except where the plaintiff proves that the specification for the patent was framed in good faith and with reasonable skill and knowledge.
9. There is no pre-grant opposition procedure in Singapore and a patent can only be challenged after grant. A revocation action for a patent is heard before the Patent Office and the registrar has the power to revoke a Singapore patent. A revocation action for a patent is brought to the Singapore courts by way of a defence in infringement proceedings.
10. The Singapore patent system provides for the granting of a compulsory licence if the court determines that the grant of a patent licence is necessary to remedy an anti-competitive practice. A compulsory licence is not exclusive, and the remuneration to the patentee is determined by a method agreed between the applicant and the patentee or, in the absence of agreement, as is determined by the court at the request of the applicant or the patentee.