Singapore updates its patent examination practice
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Singapore updates its patent examination practice

Jonas Lindsay of Marks & Clerk analyses the implications of changes to the examination system in Singapore and the imminent closure of the foreign route

An important change to Singapore patent examination practice will take effect on January 1 2020. Patent applications filed after this date will no longer be able to use a non-technical modified examination procedure. Instead, these applications will have to undergo substantive examination conducted by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS). Since substantive examination will entail examination of technical issues, having a Singapore patent attorney with a relevant technical background in the subject matter of the case will now be important in all cases.

For applications currently pending, applications filed before January 1 2020 and PCT national phase applications based on a PCT application filed before January 1 2020, there are three possible examination routes. These routes are the local route in which IPOS carries out search and examination; the mixed route in which IPOS carries out examination based on a search carried out on a corresponding application; and the so-called foreign route in which allowance is based on the allowance of a corresponding foreign application. However, for applications filed on or after January 1 2020 the foreign route will no longer be an option.

Local examination routes – the local route and the mixed route

Under the local route, IPOS carries out search and examination. This route is the simplest in terms of formal requirements and it is also the most costly in terms of official fees.

For applications following the mixed route, examination is carried out by IPOS on the basis of search results of a corresponding foreign application. A corresponding application may be a US application, a UK application, a Korean application, an Australian application, a New Zealand application, a Canadian application, or a PCT application related to the Singapore application through either a priority link or via a PCT application. For European applications and Canadian applications, the application must be in English to be usable. An examination fee is payable for the mixed route, and this official fee is lower than that for the local route.

For both the local route and the mixed route, the deadline for requesting examination is 36 months from the earliest priority date of the application. It is also possible to request that a separate search is carried out by IPOS and then later to request examination based on the results of the search. This option is very rarely used since the cost is higher than requesting combined search and examination.

The foreign route – modified examination

The foreign route allows applications to be granted in Singapore based on modified examination (also known as supplementary examination) on the basis of a positive examination outcome of a corresponding application. This positive examination outcome may be a notice of allowance issued for an application or an international preliminary examination report (IPRP) indicating allowable claims issued for a PCT application.

Under modified examination, a limited examination is carried out by IPOS in which formality checks are carried out. However, there is no examination of novelty or inventive step. There is no official fee for requesting modified examination. The deadline for requesting modified examination is 54 months from the priority date of the application. If this deadline is reached and no suitable corresponding application has been allowed, it is possible to reset the examination deadlines by filing a divisional application. However, any divisional applications filed on or after January 1 2020 will not be eligible for modified examination. For such divisional applications, local examination would have to be requested. Thus, after January 1 2020, the option of extending the deadline for requesting modified examination by filing a divisional application will no longer be available. In some cases, it may be advisable to file a divisional application before January 1 2020 in order to maintain the option of the foreign route for the divisional application.

Currently, the majority of applications prosecuted in Singapore follow the foreign route. The main reasons for this are cost and simplicity of procedure.

The procedure for prosecution of a patent application using the foreign route involves ensuring that all formal requirements are addressed. Since modified examination does not involve a substantive examination of the subject matter of the claims, there is generally not a requirement for a patent attorney to have a relevant technical background.

Local examination procedure

As described above, applications filed on or after January 1 2020 will have to undergo local examination by IPOS. This local examination can either be based on a search carried out by IPOS or based on the search results of a corresponding application. Under the local examination procedure, an application is examined by an IPOS examiner. If the examiner has any objections, a written opinion is issued with a five month deadline for response. In response to the written opinion, the applicant may file arguments and amendments. The examination procedure finishes with the issuing of an examination report for the application. If there are no outstanding objections, a positive examination report is issued with a notice of eligibility for grant. If there are remaining objections, a negative examination report is issued with a notice of intention to refuse the application. In the event that a negative examination report is issued, the applicant may file a request for re-examination which provides a further opportunity to respond. Alternatively, a divisional application may be filed and a new examination procedure commenced.

It has recently been the practice of IPOS to issue only two written opinions in the examination of an application and if objections remain following the response to the second written opinion, IPOS will issue a negative examination report with a notice of intention to refuse the application. Thus, the number of opportunities to respond to objections is limited and it is therefore important to address all potential objections at an early stage. One strategy is to conduct a review of the application prior to requesting local examination and consider whether amendments are necessary in view of Singapore practice. Such a review may take into account the Singapore approach to patentable subject matter and in the case of a PCT national phase application any objections raised against the application in the international phase. Following the review, any amendments can be filed before requesting examination. This maximises the opportunities to amend the application since there are still two opportunities to amend the application during the examination procedure.

Even after the foreign route option becomes unavailable, if there is a permitted foreign application it may be possible to expedite the Singapore local examination procedure using the patent prosecution highway (PPH). For example, there is a PPH agreement between the Japan Patent Office and IPOS, and the allowance of a Japanese patent application can be used to accelerate the examination of the corresponding Singapore patent application. Under PPH, the examination fee would still be payable to IPOS. It is generally possible to rely on the search carried out by the JPO so such an application can be prosecuted under the mixed route. Currently the number of applications using the PPH between Japan and Singapore is very low because if a corresponding Japanese patent application is granted, an applicant can use the foreign route for the Singapore application.

The ASPEC programme – an advantage of local examination

One advantage of the local examination route is that it allows the use of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Patent Examination Co-operation (ASPEC) programme. The ASPEC programme is a work-sharing programme between the patent offices of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Under the ASPEC programme, the allowance of a patent application by one of the participating patent offices can be used to accelerate processing of patent applications in the other participating patent offices. To make use of the ASPEC programme, a search and examination by one of the participating patent offices is required. Therefore it is not possible to base an ASPEC request on allowance of a Singapore patent application by the foreign route. Several of the patent offices participating in the ASPEC programme have large backlogs and applicants often experience long delays. The ASPEC programme is an effective way to accelerate applications in such patent offices and it typically takes around six months for an office action to be issued following an ASPEC request. The ASPEC programme is similar to the PPH programme. One notable difference between the ASPEC programme and the PPH programme is that while many ASEAN countries participate in PPH programmes with countries such as Japan, for some countries such as Vietnam there is a limit to the number of cases which can be accelerated in one year and this limit is often reached quickly. There are no such limits on the number of cases which can be accelerated through the ASPEC programme.

Issues raised by the closure of the foreign route

As discussed above, the changes to the Singapore examination procedure raise a number of issues for applicants. For applications filed after the changes take effect, the foreign examination route will no longer be an available option. One result of this is that cost of prosecuting applications in Singapore is likely to increase, both due to the additional official fees payable for the local examination routes and the additional cost of responding to written opinions issued by IPOS.

In many cases, the most cost-effective route is likely to be the mixed route since this has the lowest official fees of the local examination routes. In cases where a corresponding application has been allowed, the PPH programme may be useful to expedite the Singapore examination process. This will not reduce the official fees but does provide ways to potentially have a Singapore patent allowed with claims aligned with the corresponding foreign application.

In other scenarios, it may be advisable to request search and examination at IPOS. For example if the applicant wishes to make use of the ASPEC programme to accelerate prosecution of patent applications in other ASEAN countries. Further, in certain circumstances, it may be possible to secure broader protection in Singapore than in other jurisdictions. One such example is for patent applications related to computer-implemented inventions. Compared with jurisdictions such as Europe, IPOS takes a relatively lenient approach to patentable subject matter. Therefore, going through local examination in Singapore may lead to broader protection than is possible based on a corresponding application.

The role of Singapore patent attorneys prosecuting patent applications before IPOS will also change. Since substantive examination will be carried out under local examination, having a Singapore patent attorney with a relevant technical background in the subject matter of the case will now be important in all cases.







ローカル・ルートとミックス・ルートのどちらについても、審査請求の期限は出願の最優先日から36ヶ月。IPOSによる別の調査の実施を要求し、その後その調査の結果に基づいて調査を要求することも可能です。 このオプションは、調査と審査を組み合わせて要求するよりもコストが高いため、めったに使用されない。



修正審査では、正式審査が行われるIPOSによる限定審査が行われる。しかし、新規性や進歩性についての審査はない。 修正審査を要求するための公認料金はない。 修正審査を請求する期限は、出願の優先日から54ヶ月。


現在、シンガポールで起訴されている出願の大多数は外国のルートをたどっている。 これの主な理由は費用と手順の単純さ。




最近、IPOSは、出願審査において2つの意見書のみを発行することを慣習としている。二回目の意見書に対する回答の後も異議が残っている場合、IPOSは出願を出願を拒否する意思のある通知して否定的な検査報告書を発行する。したがって、異議に答える機会の数は限られている。 したがって、すべての潜在的な異議に早期に対処することが重要。

一つの戦略は、ローカル審査請求する前に出願の見直しを行い、シンガポールの実務を考慮して修正が必要かどうかを検討すること。 そのような見直しは、特許性のある主題へのシンガポールのアプローチ、およびPCT国内段階出願の場合、国際段階でのその出願に対して提起された異議を考慮に入れることができる。 見直し後、審査を請求する前に修正を加えることができる。 審査手続の間に出願を修正する機会はまだ二つあるので、これは出願を修正する機会を最大化する。


ASPECプログラム – ローカル審査の利点

ローカル審査ルートの一つの利点は、それがASEAN特許審査協力(ASPEC)プログラムの使用を可能にすることです。ASPECプログラムは、ブルネイ、カンボジア、インドネシア、ラオス、マレーシア、フィリピン、シンガポール、タイ、ベトナムの特許庁間のワークシェアリングプログラム。ASPECプログラムの下では、参加している特許庁のうちの一つによる特許出願の許可は、他の参加している特許庁における特許出願の処理を加速するために使用することができる。ASPECプログラムを利用するには、参加している特許庁による調査と審査が必要。 したがって、外国ルートでシンガポール特許出願の許可にASPEC要求を基づかせることは不可能。ASPECプログラムに参加している特許庁のいくつかは大きな未処理分を持っており、出願人はしばしば長い遅れを経験する。 ASPECプログラムは、そのような特許庁での出願を迅速化するための効果的な方法であり、ASPEC要求に続いてオフィスアクションが発行されるまでに通常6か月かかる。 ASPECプログラムはPPHプログラムに似ている。 ASPECプログラムとPPHプログラムの大きな違いの一つは、多くのASEAN諸国が日本などの国々とのPPHプログラムに参加していますが、ベトナムなどの一部の国では、1年で加速できる症例数に制限があるということ。 この制限はしばしばすぐに達せられる。 ASPECプログラムを介して加速することができる出願の数にそのような制限はない。



多くの場合、最も費用対効果の高いルートはミックス・ルートである可能性がある。これは、ローカル審査ルートの公認料金が最も低いため。 対応する出願が許可されている場合、PPHプログラムはシンガポールの審査プロセスを迅速化するのに役立つ。 これは公式の手数料を減らすことはないが、対応する外国の出願と一致する請求でシンガポールの特許を許可する可能性を秘めた方法を提供する。

他のシナリオでは、IPOSで調査と審査を請求することを勧める。 例えば、出願人がASPECプログラムを利用して他のASEAN諸国における特許出願の手続きを促進したい場合。 さらに、特定の状況下では、シンガポールでは他の地域よりも幅広い保護を確保することが可能な場合がある。 そのような一例は、コンピュータ実施発明に関する特許出願のためのもの。 ヨーロッパのような管轄と比較して、IPOSは特許性のある主題に対して比較的緩やかなアプローチを取る。 したがって、シンガポールでローカル審査を受けることは、対応する出願に基づいて可能であったものよりも広い保護につながる可能性がある。

IPOSの前に特許出願を手続きするシンガポールの弁理士の役割も変わる。 実体審査はローカル審査の下で行われるので、事件の主題に関連する技術的背景を持つシンガポールの弁理士を採用することは、あらゆる場合において今や重要になる。

Jonas Lindsay



Jonas Lindsay is a registered Singapore patent attorney, a chartered UK patent attorney and is also European qualified. He worked in the London office of Marks & Clerk for seven years before transferring to the Singapore office in 2015. He specialises in software and electronics patent matters and has particular expertise in computer-implemented inventions in areas such as fintech and artificial intelligence. Jonas speaks Japanese and regularly visits Japan. He has given many presentations in Japanese on Singapore patent law and patent prosecution in the ASEAN region.

Jonas was named an IP Rising Star in 2018 by Managing Intellectual Property.

ジョナス・リンジーは、シンガポールの弁理士、英国の弁護士であり、ヨーロッパの資格持っています。2015年にマークス・アンド・クラークのロンドンの事務所で7年間働いた後、シンガポールの事務所に異動しました。ソフトウェアとエレクトロニクスの特許の主題を専門としています。フィンテックや人工知能などの分野で、コンピューターで実装された発明に特に専門知識を持っています。日本語が話せるようになり、定期的に日本を訪問します。 シンガポールの特許法やASEAN地域での特許手続きについて、日本語で多くの発表をしてきました。

2018年に「Managing Intellectual Property」により「IP Rising Star」に選ばれました。

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