Bill sets out stricter procedure for patents filed here from 2020

From Jan 1, 2020, people wishing to file patents in Singapore will have their applications put through a more stringent examination procedure, if an amended Bill is passed by Parliament.

The amendment would cover inventions that have been assessed by patent offices overseas prior to the application here.

The Patents (Amendment) Bill tabled in Parliament yesterday also proposes to allow inventors to disclose their inventions publicly within a grace period of 12 months prior to their patent applications.

This would allow inventors to attract investors or publish scientific papers without having to wait for a patent.

A patent typically takes two to three years to be granted.

The updated Bill reflects the maturation of Singapore's patent system, since major foreign patent offices do not grant patents without full examination, said the Ministry of Law.

Existing patents continue to be valid in Singapore unless they are successfully challenged and revoked, added the ministry.

Singapore, which passed its Patents Act in 1994, was ranked fourth in the world and top in Asia for intellectual property protection in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017.

The key process of patent application is the so-called search and examination process. The search is conducted to obtain information relevant to the invention, while examination ensures that the inventor's idea is new, involves an inventive step and has industrial applicability.

There are presently three routes to getting an application in Singapore searched and examined.

One is to have both stages done in Singapore. Another involves having the search stage done by a patent office overseas.

The other option is the so-called foreign route, where both search and examination are done overseas and reviewed by Singapore in a "supplementary examination".

The foreign route, which has been taken up by about 60 per cent of the roughly 10,000 patent applications in Singapore every year, will be discontinued from Jan 1, 2020, as proposed in the Bill.

Until it is discontinued, applicants using the foreign route have to pay the $160 patent application fee and $200 grant certification fee, to be granted a patent.

They do not have to pay the search and examination fee of $2,600, and the supplementary examination is free.

With the amendment, applicants will be limited to the other two options. Applicants will have to pay the search and examination fee, which will be reduced to a maximum of $1,950 starting in April this year, or $1,350 in examination fees if the search stage is done overseas.

To support the increasing independence of the Singapore patent system, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore has been building up its pool of registered patent agents in the last few years. There are now 124 of them.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2017, with the headline 'Bill sets out stricter procedure for patents filed here from 2020'. Print Edition | Subscribe