Last updated: 
5 June 2020

IP is a valuable asset that can support you when doing business overseas. An Australian patent, trade mark, design or plant breeder’s right does not secure your rights outside of Australia. You should consider IP protection in the countries that you are planning on doing business, including manufacturing, or selling products online.

Please note, IP registration and protection can be a complex process, especially in an international context. It is recommended that you seek advice from an IP professional.

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Singapore has a population of almost 5.6 million. Singapore is Australia's largest trade and investment partner in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and our eighth largest trading partner overall. While the official language is English, national languages are Malay, Mandarin and Tamil.

IP protection in Singapore

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) is responsible for the legislation and registration of IP in Singapore. Applications for patents, trade marks and designs can be made via the IPOS website, or manually submitted. Plant varieties protection applications can only be filed manually.

An address for service in Singapore and a local agent or attorney is generally required when seeking IP registration.

 Trade marks

  • Trade mark applications can be filed through IPOS or through the Madrid System for the international registration of trade marks. Applications can be submitted online.
  • When deciding on whether or not to enter Singapore with your trade mark (and ideally before you apply for a trade mark in Australia), you should consider two things when applying for an international application through the Madrid System.
    • Firstly, you may wish to search the Global Brands Database to make sure your chosen trade mark is available to be registered.
    • Secondly, acceptable claims for goods and services vary across the world. Consider consulting the Madrid Goods and Services Manager database, which outlines what claims are acceptable in various jurisdictions globally.
  • Like Australia, Singapore employs a “first to use” rule for obtaining trade mark rights. This means that the first person to use a mark in Singapore will generally have superior rights to a person who files a trade mark application later.
  • Unregistered trade marks may in some cases be protected under common law in Singapore. However, a registered trade mark provides statutory protection which offers significant advantages in trade mark disputes.
  • While the official language is English, there are a number of other languages that are used. Applicants using word elements in their trade marks may need to consider protecting in relevant characters, as well as translations and transliterations.
  • A trade mark is valid for 10 years and can be renewed indefinitely for further 10 year periods upon payment of fees.
  • Trade mark registrations may be removed if they are not used over a period of five or more consecutive years after registration.
  • There are other circumstances under which a trade mark may be challenged, cancelled or removed. Please check the relevant requirements prior to application.

Patents

  • Applications may be filed with IPOS or can enter through national phase entry via the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).
  • The standard patent is the only type of patent available in Singapore.
  • IPOS is a participant of the Global Patent Prosecution Highway (GPPH) pilot program. A request for accelerated examination of an IPOS patent application may be made relying on national work products or PCT work products.
  • Patent protection is for up to 20 years from the date of filing.

 Designs

  • Applications may be made directly to IPOS.
  • Registration of a design must be applied for in Singapore within one year of the date the design is first published.
  • Protection is available for five years and can be renewed every five years up to a maximum of 15 years.
  • Singapore is a member of the Hague Agreement and can therefore be designated in an international application where the applicant is able to establish entitlement. Australia is not currently a member of the Hague Agreement.

Geographical indications

Geographical indications can be protected in Singapore under the Geographical Indications Act 2014 for an initial period of 10 years, renewable for further 10-year periods.

Copyright

  • Like Australia, copyright arises automatically at the time of creation of an eligible work.
  • The term of protection varies depending on the type of work. In general, most published works are protected for the life of the author plus 70 years.

Plant varieties

  • Applications may be made directly to the Registry of Plant Varieties of IPOS.
  • Legislation in Singapore covers all genera and species. There are specific criteria that need to be met to obtain protection.
  • Protection is granted for up to 25 years.

Enforcing your IP rights in Singapore

It is your responsibility to protect your IP. You should actively monitor the marketplace for any unauthorised use of your IP.

IP law is complex. If legal action is necessary, then you should consult a legal professional who specialises in IP law.

Doing business in Singapore

Before entering the business market in Singapore, there are a number of factors to consider including culture, politics and business etiquette.

You can start by taking a look at the extensive information about doing business in Singapore on the Austrade website.

The Singapore Government is working towards transforming Singapore from an investment-driven economy to an innovation-driven economy. Singapore has a growing reputation as Southeast Asia’s premier startup launch pad and is home to an Australian Landing Pad. Its business and innovation-focused environment is home to around 3,600 tech startups. More information can be found on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) website.

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