The modern business landscape is becoming more competitive every day. So businesses are trying their best to gain a competitive advantage in some form or other.
In a country like Singapore, where around 99% of all companies are SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), employing over 70% of the total workforce, it becomes vital to take advantage of opportunities wherever and whenever possible.
Trademarks are one of the best intellectual properties for such entities to gain a competitive advantage over their peers.
But it would surprise you if you get to know that a majority of these SMEs do not get their trademarks registered. Some cite that it is not crucial for carrying on their business, while the rest rue the missed opportunities because of negligence or lack of resources.
This guide would help decode the trademark registration process in Singapore and make it accessible for all.
What is a trademark?
A trademark can be anything that can help distinguish a business or its offerings from the rest of the world. It can be a letter, name, word, logo, brand, device, signature, or a combination of these elements.
These symbols help people to identify your offerings, thereby helping build loyalty and brand awareness. Trademarks can be assigned or licensed.
It is easy to ascertain a trademark as they will be followed by a ® or a ™ symbol. The former refers to a registered and protected trademark pursuant to the Singapore Trade Mark Act and laws. In contrast, the latter doesn’t necessarily signify its registration with the laws of the land. It is merely a trademark used by the owner.
Singapore trademarks act and trademarks rules
Trademark registration in Singapore is covered by the Singapore Trade Marks Act, passed in 1998 to meet the Paris Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property’s obligations.
In addition, the country also has Singapore Trade Marks Rules that further clarify the clauses present in the act.
These cover the criteria for trademark registration, reasons for refusal, the process, the duration, and the renewal process. In addition, these also contain provisions for licensing of marks, remedies for trademark holders, offenses and their punishment, and other necessary matters.
Why do you need to register your trademark?
While trademark registration is optional, doing so allows additional protection and indemnifies you from usage by any other party. Here are some reasons to register your trademark –
- It helps you differentiate your offerings in a largely homogeneous market with ease
- It prohibits the usage of the mark by any other party
- It restricts people from using the design without your consent
- It prevents a new trademark that looks similar to the one you have registered from being registered as a legal mark.
- It helps in marketing and improving brand awareness
- It is a sign of quality for your customers
- It can be licensed to third parties for temporary usage in the form of a franchise
- The owner can sell it
Who can register a trademark in Singapore?
There are a lot of reasons for applying for a trademark in Singapore. Singapore law allows any natural-born persons or legal entities within the country to get their trademark registered.
Also read our article on “How to incorporate a company in Singapore?”
But it is imperative to understand that any trademark registration in Singapore is limited within the country’s vicinity.
If they want to cover more countries, they need to get it registered with the Madrid Protocol. Singapore is a signatory of the Madrid Protocol, which means anyone can easily apply for an international trademark.
What is a registrable trademark?
Any trademark, considered as registrable, must be distinctive and graphically representable as a sign. Such signs should be able to help distinguish the holder’s offerings from similar products offered by others.
However, a trademark needs to be registrable to gain legal acceptance. Here are the criteria for a mark to be considered registrable –
- It must be capable of graphical representation
- It should be able to help distinguish your goods or services from others
- These must not be confusing or eerily similar to an existing trademark in the country
- These need not be descriptive of the goods or services sold by the holder
What is an unregistrable mark?
People often fail to distinguish between a registrable and an unregistrable mark. So here are some examples of unregistrable marks –
- Any deceptive marks misrepresenting the nature, quality, or geographical origin of the goods or services
- Marks that can infuriate people or are similar to an existing mark
- Marks that are entirely descriptive and define the characteristic of a product or a service
- Marks common to the trade, such as “computer,” “Face,” and others.
- Marks that are against public morality
What is the validity of a registered trademark?
Any trademark registered in the country is valid for ten years from the date of filing of the application. The applicant can renew the application once the current period expires by paying the renewal fees, and you can do that indefinitely. But if you do not use it for five years, the mark will be considered redundant, and another party can apply for the same.
Steps involved in the registration process
Here are the steps involved in the registration process –
1. Pre-application phase
Before you apply for registration of your trademark, it is vital that you meet the registration criteria. It includes running your trademark against the unregistrable mark criteria and searching to see if there exist similar trademarks using the Similar Mark Search on the IP2SG portal.
The IP2SG is an integrated e-services portal for filing IP applications and similar in the country.
In addition, it is imperative to classify the trademark by stating the exact class number and the appropriate description/s of the offerings as stated in the Nice Classification.
At present, there are 45 classes of goods and services to choose from. You can use the IPOS’ Classification Database to look for the appropriate description to ensure you do not face an objection while applying.
2. Filing the application
Alongside the application form, you will have to furnish the following additional information on the IP2SG platform or via hard copy –
- The name and address of the applicant
- A graphical representation of the mark
- A list of goods and services that you want to register in line with those mentioned in the International Classification of Goods and Services
- A declaration stating the use of the trademark
- Evidence of the fee paid for the application
- In case the application is with regards to non-English or non-Roman characters, the English translation or transliteration has to be attached
- Line drawings in case of a 3D mark
3. Search and examination
Once the application has passed the initial stages of checking, the examiner will conduct a thorough search to check the possible duplicacy or if the applied mark resembles an existing trademark closely in any manner.
After the search process is complete, the next step is to determine if the same is registrable in accordance with the law. In case there are any issues, the examiner will inform the applicant of the same.
4. Publishing for public inspection
After the preliminary approval of the mark, the examiner will inform the applicant of the acceptance.
Then the mark will be published for public inspection in the Trade Marks Journal for two months. If there is any opposition within the purported period, the grieved party can file a relevant notice of opposition. If the applicant wishes to continue the registration process, they will have to file a counter-statement to support their application.
The result of the dispute will determine if IPOS will register the mark or if the applicant needs to file a new application.
Cost of registration
If you have used a trademark design from the pre-approved database of goods/services descriptions, you will have to pay an application fee of SGD 240 per class.
On the other hand, if the mark belongs to a class/es whose specifications are not fully adopted from the pre-approved database, the fee would be SGD 341 per class.
Getting a trademark registered in Singapore is an effortless process. If IPOS accepts your application, you can expect to have complete protection for the next ten years. The process is lengthy and often requires professional help for seamless execution.
For more information, reach out to us at Intime Accounting.