Singapore maintains one of the most robust intellectual property rights regimes in Asia. However, some concerns remain in certain areas, such as software piracy, online piracy, and enforcement.
Effective January 1, 2020, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) must examine all patent applications. IPOS examination ensures that any foreign-granted patents fully satisfy Singapore’s patentability criteria.
The Registered Designs (Amendment) Act broadens the scope of registered designs to include virtual designs and color as a design feature. It stipulates that the default owner is the designer of a commissioned design rather than the commissioning party.
The U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (USSFTA) ensures that government agencies will not grant regulatory approvals to patent-infringing products, but Singapore does allow parallel imports.
Under the Patents Act, concerning pharmaceutical products, the patent owner has the right to bring an action to stop an importer of “grey market goods” from importing the patent owner’s patented product, provided that the product has not previously been sold or distributed in Singapore, the importation results in a breach of contract between the proprietor of the patent and any person licensed by the proprietor of the patent to distribute the product outside Singapore and the importer knows of such.
The USSFTA ensures the protection of test data and trade secrets submitted to the government for regulatory approval. Disclosure of such information is prohibited. Anyone wanting to reuse data for the same or similar products can do so only with the consent of the original party who submitted the data five years from the pharmaceutical product’s approval date and ten years from the approval date of an agricultural chemical.
Singapore has no specific legislation concerning the protection of trade secrets. Instead, it protects investors’ commercially valuable proprietary information under common law by the Law of Confidence and legislation such as the Penal Code (e.g., theft) and the Computer Misuse Act (e.g., unauthorized access to a computer system to download information). United States industry has expressed concern that this provision is inadequate.
As a WTO member, Singapore is a party to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). It is a signatory to other international intellectual property rights agreements, including the Paris Convention, the Berne Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Madrid Protocol, and the Budapest Treaty.
The WIPO Secretariat opened a regional office in Singapore in 2005. Amendments to the Trademark Act passed in January 2007 fulfilled Singapore’s obligations in WIPO’s revised Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks.
Singapore ranked 11th out of 55 in the world in the 2023 United States Chamber of Commerce’s International Intellectual Property (IP) Index. The index noted that Singapore’s key strengths include an advanced national IP framework and active efforts to accelerate patent prosecution. The index also lauded Singapore as a global leader in online copyright enforcement. Despite a decrease in estimated software piracy from 35 percent in 2009 to 27 percent in 2021, the index noted that piracy levels remain high for a developed, high-income country. A crucial weakness is the lack of transparency and data on customs seizures of IP-infringing goods.
Singapore does not publicly report the statistics on seizures of counterfeit goods. According to the United States Chamber of Commerce’s International IP Index, it does not rate highly on enforcement of physical counterfeit goods, online sales of counterfeit goods, or digital online piracy.
Singapore is unlisted in USTR’s 2023 Special 301 Report, an annual review on the adequacy and effectiveness of United States trading partners’ IP protection and enforcement of IP rights. However, the report identifies Singapore as a transit hub for counterfeits to third-country markets that need more effective or adequate IP enforcement systems. It identifies “dissatisfaction with border enforcement in Singapore, including concerns about the lack of coordination between Singapore’s Customs authorities and the Singapore Police Force’s Intellectual Property Rights Branch.” It mentions that Singapore has “notable levels of piracy through ISDs and illicit IPTV apps.”
In any foreign market, companies should consider several general principles for effective protection of their intellectual property. For background, link to our article on Protecting Intellectual Property and Stopfakes.gov for more resources.
IP Contact In The Southeast Asia Region:
Name: Mr. Matthew Kohner, IP Attaché
Office of Regional IP Attaché for Southeast Asia
Address: United States Embassy Bangkok, Foreign Commercial Service
GPF Witthayu Tower A, Room 302, 93/1 Wireless Road, Patumwn, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Telephone: (662) 205-5913
For more information, contact ITA’s Office of Standards and Intellectual Property Rights (OSIP) Director, Stevan Mitchell, at Stevan.Mitchell@trade.gov.
To access the Singapore’s Investment Climate Statement, which includes information on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, visit the U.S. Department of State Investment Climate Statement website.