• TM Registration

How Can Trademark Act in Singapore Protect Your Business?


The Singapore Trade Marks Act is just a small part of Singapore’s governments efforts to provide a robust system of intellectual property protection in the country. Because of a strong legal structure to protect trademarks, patents, and copyrights, the citizens are also encouraged to create and register their own IPs. Over the years, this has contributed to the country’s economic development among many others.


Protection for Trade Marks in Singapore

Singapore's trademark protection is actually one of the world's most persistent enforcement systems. This stems from the government's efforts to encourage people to develop and register their own marks and intellectual properties. They do this by providing monetary incentives and even tax deductions.  They, for instance, give grants to small companies that are able to develop and register intellectual property.

Given that, they provide strict legal frameworks to protect registered trademarks. There has even been a specialized IP court created in 2002 just to handle the increasing IP cases. In addition to that, a Graduate Certificate in IP law is also being offered by the IP Academy of Singapore just to make sure that more jurists and attorneys are well-versed in trademark matters.


Important features of Singapore’s Trade Marks Act 

  1. Firstly, the protection of trademarks under Singapore's Trade Marks Act is territorial. This basically means it is only effective within Singapore. If an individual or company wants to register their trademark in another country, they will have to do it in those countries or they can proceed with an international registration through the Madrid Protocol. Even so, this won't be much of a problem because Singapore is already a contracting country of the Madrid Protocol. One can simply file their international application through the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS).
  2. The trademark should be represented graphically. That means it can be any letter, numeral, name, brand, word, or any mixture of these. In Singapore, there is also no need for any evidence of use to be filed when having the trademark registered.
  3. A trademark is officially registered from the date of filing. It is then considered a valid registered trademark in Singapore for a period of 10 years. It can be renewed indefinitely before the initial 10-year period ends. It is important to note that while there is no time limit when filing for a trademark, only the marks that are officially registered are fully protected under the Trade Marks Act.
  4. In the International Classification System, goods are placed under classes 1-34 while services are under classes 35-45. Because of the addition of service marks, the examination of trademark applications has been improved. For example, class 10 is for medical supplies while class 44 is for medical services. Because both are closely related, if you were to register a mark under class 10, the examination will also include class 44. If there is a registered mark under class 44 that's similar to yours, you might have difficulty registering it even if you put it in class 10.


Scope of Trade Mark Act

Under the Trade Marks Act, a "trademark" is any sign that can be represented graphically. The mark is also not necessarily limited to signs that are perceptible visually. For example, a DJ's signature sound or intro sound can be considered a mark that is registerable. Along with other forms of intellectual property, this is basically the scope of the trade mark.


Appealing for a Denied Application

All appeals against the decision of the Registrar, whether it be the denial of an application or of opposition proceedings will be made to the High Court. The appeals might also be moved to the highest appellate court, the Court of Appeal, if necessary. The appeal process may also take about a few months to a year if certain evidence is presented.


What is Intellectual Property Law?

The Intellectual Property Law of Singapore is the comprehensive legal structure for protecting intellectual property. This, of course, includes trademarks, copyrights, patents. These three are also the three mechanisms in which intellectual property rights can be registered.

  1. The Trademark Act

A trademark can be anything from a brand name to a logo. It is basically a symbol used by the company or business to distinguish their goods and services from others. We won't dwell too much about the trademark law here since it is already discussed in most of the parts in this article.

  1. The Patent Act

In Singapore, as long as the owner can pay the renewal fees, the patent is considered valid for 20 years. A patent is basically granted to an inventor for his/her creations so that others are barred from making, using, or selling them without his permission. There is, of course, a criteria used for granting a patent. One, that it should be new and not already known publicly anywhere else in the world; two, that it should be inventive; and lastly, it should have practical application.

  1. The Copyright Act

The Copyright Act was made to protect original works ranging from sheet music, novels, films, paintings, computer programs, performances, and etc. The author or creator of the work is considered the owner. He/she will have the exclusive legal right to publish or perform the work. What makes copyrighting different is that there is no registration process for it. It is important to note that the copyright does not include having the idea for a creation. That means the copyright only begins once the piece is created. If one faces copyright issues, he must prove that he created and used the piece first.


What is trademark watch service?

A trademark watching service is basically used to determine if there are newer trademarks that may be similar to yours. This can be useful for those who are in the process of registering their trademarks and also who already have their trademarks registered.

In Singapore, after your application passes the initial examination, it will be published in the trademarks journal for public viewing. This is part of the watching service. Others can view this publication so that they can oppose the application if necessary. You can also use this to your advantage. By checking the publications, you can see if your mark can still be used or if it's already registered by another party.


Duration and maintenance of registration

As mentioned earlier, a registered trademark is considered valid for 10 years. It can also be renewed for another 10 years, as long as the owner is able to file for a renewal before the initial 10-year period ends.

There are also instances where you may stop using the mark within the 10-year period. If your mark is not used in the market, others may try to have it registered for their own. So if you want to maintain your ownership, you can appoint a third-party company to distribute your goods or services. This way your mark is still being used and others will not be able to infringe upon you. But actually, as long as the mark is still registered and considered valid, you will still hold exclusive legal ownership of it.


What are trade secrets and how to protect them?

A trade secret is another form of intellectual property. It is basically something that gives the owner a competitive edge in the market. Secret recipes, computer algorithms, marketing techniques and the like are examples of trade secrets.

Compared to the other forms of intellectual property mentioned earlier, trade secrets can be considered a Do-It-Yourself type of protection. That means that as long as the secret is kept, "secret" without statutory limitations, then the trade secret protection will last. That being said, if the trade secret becomes available to the unauthorized public, the protection will cease to exist.


What is the difference between trademark and copyright?

Both trademarks and copyrights protect intellectual property, but there are also significant differences between the two.

Trademarks are words, logos, sounds and names which companies or businesses use to distinguish their goods and services in the market.  In other words, trademark protection is there to stop unauthorized parties from using one's brand to get a competitive advantage in the market. For example, if your products and services are getting recognized by a lot of consumers but you didn't have your trademark registered, some other party will try to sell products similar to yours. Because you don't have a registered mark, you won't be fully protected from these infringers.

Copyrights, on the other hand, protect literary work, artistic work, musical work, and etc. Compared to trademarks, a copyright does not require any registration process. A work is automatically copyrighted once it is created. The owner will only need to prove that he/she created the piece first in the event of a copyright dispute. Basically, the author or creator can document this by mailing a copy to himself or to his lawyer and keeping it inside the envelope with the postmark still attached.

To finalize the difference between the two, let’s consider a very simple scenario. A certain company registers their trademark so that their brand is fully protected. They start producing music on their own. Once their productions are finished, they are automatically copyrighted. In this example, you can easily distinguish the trademarks and the copyrights.