Parliament: Design protection laws to be amended to account for design and tech changes

SINGAPORE - To better support Singapore's design industry, a series of changes governing the registration of designs were tabled by the Ministry of Law on Monday (April 3).

These include broadening the scope of registrable designs, shifting ownership from commissioning party to designer, changes to design grace period provision and procedural changes to make filing designs easier.

This is the first significant change to the Registered Designs Act proposed since it was introduced in 2000. The changes aim to update Singapore's design protection regime to account for trends in technology and design and to support the growth of Singapore's design industry by making it easier for designers to protect their works.

Registrable designs will now include virtual designs of non-physical products that can be projected onto a surface and have useful functions, such as a virtual keyboard.

Designers will also be able to register colours as a design feature, allowing colours to be protected as a design feature in their products.

The amendment will also clarify that the designs of artisanal or handcrafted items, such as handmade jewellery, can be registered.

Another key change is the shift of ownership from commissioning party to designer. Prior to this amendment, design ownership went to the party which commissioned the design.

The amendment will now, by default, give ownership of the design to the creator. This is to minimise instances of designers inadvertently losing rights of their own designs.

Designers will also now have a longer grace period to apply for design protection.

Previously, a designer whose design was made public only had six months to register their design, and could only do so under limited circumstances. The changes will extend the period to 12 months and will cover any disclosure originating from the designer.

The last change will allow multiple designs under the same broad category to be filed in a single application.

For example, a designer who wants to submit designs for a bed and a table would have to file two separate applications as each design falls under a different sub-category. Under the proposed changes, the designer would only have to file a single application for both designs as they belong to the same broad category of furniture design.