Singapore: The TPP and intellectual property
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Singapore: The TPP and intellectual property

The seven-year veil of secrecy was lifted from the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) shortly before it was signed earlier this year. The TPP is a trade agreement among Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Its stated goal is "to promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty in our countries; and promote transparency, good governance, and enhance labor and environmental protections".

Among the 30 chapters of the TPP, the chapter on intellectual property cuts across a wide range of intellectual property rights (IPRs) and incorporates important objectives and principles from the World Trade Organisation's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPs), addressing harmonisation of patents, trade marks, industrial designs, geographical indications and trade secrets. Although the IP chapter is only a part of the huge TPP Agreement, it is a considerable undertaking in itself and reflects the changing attitudes towards IPRs in Asia and around the Pacific. The IP chapter will make it easier for businesses to obtain and enforce their IP rights in the new markets and the chief executive of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), Tang Heng Shim Daren, calls it "the TRIPs of our time". Some TPP IPR objectives and principles are listed below:

  • TPP requires its signatories to provide copyright protection of certain material for life plus 70 years.

  • TPP requires its signatories to provide a stronger protection to technological protection measures (TPMs), with the primary new requirement being provision of civil and criminal remedies against people violating TPMs, and obligates its signatories to enforce preventive measures for selling devices and services that enable violation of TPMs.

  • TPP requires its signatories to provide that the patent term of a patent be extended to compensate for any unreasonable delays in the patent examination process and any unreasonable curtailment of the effective patent term as a result of a marketing approval process of a pharmaceutical product.

  • TPP requires the government of its signatories to put in place a system that enables a pharmaceutical patent holder to be notified when a generic version of their product has been submitted for marketing approval (patent linkage system).

  • TPP includes signatory commitments relating to the protection of undisclosed test and other data submitted to obtain marketing approval of a new pharmaceutical or agricultural chemical product.

  • TPP provisions on geographical indications (GIs) ensure that its signatories follow due process when protecting GIs under domestic laws and regulations including considering whether a term is a generic term in the relevant market and providing procedures to oppose and cancel GIs.

  • TPP paves the way for trade mark registration of sound marks.

  • TPP signatories have agreed to provide strong enforcement systems including border measures and criminal procedures and penalties for commercial-scale piracy of rights.

The TPP will come into force after ratification by all the parties, if this occurs by February 4 2018. Otherwise, it will enter into force after ratification by at least six states which together have a GDP of more than 85% of the GDP of all parties.


Melanie Yun Tong

Daniel Collopy

Spruson & Ferguson (Asia) Pte Ltd152 Beach Road#37-05/06 Gateway EastSingapore 189721Tel: +65 6333 7200Fax: +65 6333

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