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Singapore Trademark Application

History of Trade Marks

The marking of goods for various purposes, including identifying them from those of other traders, dates back to ancient times. Similarly, the existence of rules governing the use of such marks goes back to the medieval craft guilds.

By the 19th century people began to think of marks, which had become distinctive of a trader’s goods, and so attracted valuable goodwill, as a type of property. In the middle of that century, the right to take action in the courts against infringement of a trade mark came about, even when there was no intention to deceive on the part of the infringer.

The usefulness of such an action was, however, limited by the need for a trader to prove that the mark concerned was in fact capable of distinguishing his goods, and belonged to him. Several archaeological testimonies highlight how craftsmen usually branded their productions to give them, in some way, a distinctive sign. Nevertheless, the characteristics of modern trade marks went through a long process of evolution.

In the middle age the corporations had both the monopoly on sales and the distinctive symbol of their productions. In other words, they did not allow craftsmen to develop their own “signature”.

Then, with the Industrial Revolution, the issue on using signatures as a trade mark did not only preoccupy the merchants but also the industrialists.

Subsequently, the promotion and publicity of trade marks were supposed to give an image and a modern value to their concept.

First legal framework and further legislation

The first trade mark registry was established in 1875. Trade Mark law was consolidated in 1883, and the trade marks act of 1905 gave the first statutory definition of a ‘trade mark’. 1938 saw further legal changes, which had major effect on trade mark registration.

Amendments to the 1938 Act by the Trade Marks (Amendment) Act 1984 introduced the registration of service marks in respect of services such as laundries and banking. The Patents, Designs and Trade Marks Act 1986, and the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 made further amendments, which made the forgery of a trade mark a criminal offense.

Today, the trade mark is becoming one of the most representative demonstrations of modern age and its purpose changes into a social concept in which the consumer is identified.

The Federal Institute of Intellectual Property of Switzerland has its headquarters in Berne. Founded in 1888, it has always been in charge of matters concerning intellectual property in Switzerland. On 1st January 1996, it obtains the status of an autonomous public establishment so as to have its own legal personality and to be entered in the Register of Commerce.


The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations. Its objective is to develop a stable and accessible system of international intellectual property in order to reward creativity, to stimulate innovation, to contribute to economic development and to finally safeguard public interest.

The WIPO Agreement concluded in 1967 and was attached to the member States’ mandate to promote the worldwide protection of intellectual property with the cooperation of these States and other international organizations, whose headquarters are in Geneva (Switzerland).
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is one of the 16 specialized agencies of the United Nations. WIPO created in 1967 “to encourage creative activity, to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world.”

WIPO currently has 184 member states, administers 24 international treaties, ] and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The current Director-General of WIPO is Francis Gurry, who took office on October 1, 2008. Almost all UN Members are Members of WIPO (non-members are the states of Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, as well as the entities of Palestinian Authority, Sahrawi Republic, and Taiwan).

The Madrid system for the international registration of marks, also known as the Madrid System, is the primary international system facilitating the registration of trade marks in multiple jurisdictions globally. The Madrid system provides a centrally administered system of obtaining a bundle of trade mark registrations in separate jurisdictions. Registration through the Madrid system does not create an ‘international’ registration, as in the case of the European CTM system, but creates a bundle of national rights, able to be administered centrally. Madrid provides a mechanism for obtaining trade mark protection in many countries around the world, which is more effective than seeking protection separately in each individual country or jurisdiction of interest.

Madrid now permits the filing, registration and maintenance of trade mark rights in more than one jurisdiction, provided that the target jurisdiction is a party to the system.) The Madrid system is administered by the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland.


Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS)

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), is a statutory board under the purview of Ministry of Law. Since April 2001, it is the lead government agency that advises and administers intellectual property (IP) laws, promotes IP awareness and provides the infrastructure to facilitate the development of IP in Singapore.

As IP regulator and policy advisor, IPOS maintains a robust and pro-business IP regime for the protection and commercial exploitation of IP.

Singapore has a completely developed Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights(TRIPS)-compliant Intellectual Property Rights(IPR) legislative and administrative regime. It is a signatory to the following international conventions pertaining to Intellectual Property

  • Paris Convention
  • Berne Convention
  • Madrid Protocol
  • Nice Agreement
  • Patent Cooperation Treaty
  • Budapest Treaty
  • WIPO Copyright Treaty
  • WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty
  • International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants otherwise known as the “UPOV Convention”
  • The Geneva Act (1999) of the Hague Agreement concerning the International Registration of Industrial Design
  • Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trade Marks

IPOS administers the following legislation:

  • Copyright Act (Cap 63)
  • Geographical Indications Act (Cap 117B)
  • Layout-Designs of Integrated Circuits Act (Cap 159A)
  • Patents Act (Cap 221)
  • Trade Marks Act (Cap 332)
  • Registered Designs Act (Cap 266)
  • Plant Varieties Protection Act (Act 22 of 2004)

On the policy front, IPOS works with economic agencies and the IP business community to formulate and review IP policies and practices. IPOS’ work has become increasingly important in leading negotiations on IP issues in Singapore’s growing network of Free Trade Agreements with other countries.

Singapore on the Law of Trade Marks

The modern Singapore Trade Mark Act was passed in 1998 under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property. Trade mark registration in Singapore is handled by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) – a statutory board under the purview of Ministry of Law.

The Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trade Marks was adopted in Singapore on March 27, 2006. It entered into force on March 16, 2009, following the ratification or accession of ten countries, namely Singapore, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Romania, Denmark, Latvia, Kyrgyzstan, United States of America, Republic of Moldova, and Australia. The treaty establishes common standards for procedural aspects of trade mark registration.

What is a trade mark?

Trade marks are names, symbols or logos used to identify the origin of some product or service. A trade mark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.

What is a Copyright?

A Copyright is the protection that is afforded a work that is fixed in a tangible medium. Copyright laws grant the creator of the “work” the exclusive right to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute, perform and display the work publicly. In Singapore copyrights are protected just by copyright reservations and there is no single body that prosecutes for copyright infringements though there is a copyright tribunal where you can air your grievances if any.

Automatic Protection

An author automatically enjoys copyright protection as soon as he creates and expresses his work in a tangible form. There is no need to file for registration to get copyright protection in Singapore.

What is not protected by Copyright?

  • ideas (e.g. a new business idea that has not been documented);
  • concepts (e.g. an idea for a new game show that has not been written down);
  • discoveries (e.g. a research finding that has not been known before);
  • procedures (e.g. the steps involved when applying for a travel visa);
  • methods (e.g. the unique solution to a mathematical problem);
  • subject matter that has not been made tangible in a recording or writing (e.g. a speech or a dance that has not been written or recorded); and
  • subject matter which is not of original authorship (e.g. works which contain information in the public domain such as standards and the like).

Why register a trade mark?

It is not mandatory to register a trade mark in Singapore. However, if you register a trade mark it grants the owner of the trade mark a statutory monopoly. If anyone else uses the same or a similar mark on the same or similar goods or services in respect of which the mark is registered, the registered trade mark owner can rely on his registration as proof of his right to the mark and sue for infringement. Examples of trade marks are brand names like “ Prada”, “ Gucci” and “Georgio Armani”.

A registered trade mark bestows the exclusive use of that name, and provides for its owner the capability:

  • To offer licenses and franchises.
  • To be differentiated from competitors.
  • To be protected from third parties using an equal or similar name, exercising the legal actions that correspond.
  • To protect the Internet domain name.
  • To impede others attempting to register similar trade marks.
  • To have priority over third parties wanting to register their trade marks, in countries which do not require registration.
  • Singapore wants to encourage inventors to patent and commercialize their inventions. This scheme helps cover some of the costs of filing patent applications.


The procedure is firstly to conduct a trade mark search on the name, symbol or logo and then to register it under the one or many classifications that are available. classes under which goods may be registered are numbered from class 1 to 34 under the International Classification of Goods and Services generally referred to as the “ICGS”. The classes under which services may be registered are numbered from class 35 to 42. Processing time usually takes from 6 to 18 months.

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