Key Recent Intellectual Property Developments in Singapore: RCEP, UKSFTA, and Singapore IP Strategy 2030

By Alban Kang, Ho Fai Mok

03-2021

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (“RCEP”)

The RCEP Agreement is a Free Trade Agreement (“FTA”) signed on 15 November 2020 between 15 countries, including the 10 ASEAN member states, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea. Together, the RCEP member countries account for 30 per cent of global GDP, and about one-third of the world’s population, and the RCEP Agreement is therefore the world’s largest FTA to date.[1]

The RCEP includes a comprehensive 44-page IP chapter.[2] In fact, the RCEP expressly acknowledges that it provides for more extensive protection of intellectual property than is required by the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPS”) Agreement (which, it should be noted, is a minimum standards agreement).[3]

Some of its key features include:

  1. Accession to key IP multilateral agreements: Including the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works; the Patent Cooperation Treaty; and the Madrid Protocol, respectively for copyright, patents, and trade marks.

    These multilateral agreements provide for enhanced intellectual property protection, for example, by allowing Singapore companies to only file a single patent or trade mark application that would apply in other RCEP member countries.

  2. Wider range of protection of non-traditional trade marks: The RCEP also includes provision for RCEP member countries to allow for protection of non-traditional trade marks such as sound marks.

    Previously, under the TRIPS Agreement, it was up to members whether they wished to provide for the protection of sound marks. The RCEP clearly provides that sound marks should, in principle, be eligible for protection.

  3. Reaffirming enforcement in the digital environment: The RCEP provides that RCEP member countries shall provide adequate legal protection and effective legal remedies against the circumvention of effective technological measures.

The RCEP also expressly reaffirms that the enforcement procedures shall be available to the same extent with respect to acts of infringement in the digital environment. This reaffirmation is timely especially given the increased presence of IP right infringements on the internet and on online platforms.

The RCEP Agreement will enter into force 60 days after six ASEAN member countries and three non-ASEAN member countries have deposited their instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval with the Depositary.

UK-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (“UKSFTA”)

The European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (“EUSFTA”), which came into force end 2019, was a landmark agreement, being the first FTA between the European Union and an ASEAN country. Following almost 5 years of negotiations, it brought about important changes to Singapore’s IP regime, including changes to it’s Geographical Indications Regime and Border enforcement regime.

Following the departure of the UK from the European Union, the UK and Singapore entered into the UKSFTA, which entered into force on 11 February 2021, at 8am Singapore time.[4]

The UKSFTA is the first FTA between the UK and an ASEAN Member State, and provides certainty and clarity in trading arrangements between both countries. More relevantly for present purposes, the UKSFTA allows Singapore and the UK to continue enjoying the benefit of the comprehensive Intellectual Property Rights chapter of the EUSFTA.

Singapore IP Strategy 2030

During the recent 2021 Committee of Supply Debate,[5] Second Minister of Law Edwin Tong announced that the Ministry of Law is working on the Singapore IP Strategy 2030, which aims to strengthen and reinforce Singapore’s position on the world stage as a global hub for innovation.

It is envisioned that the Singapore IP Strategy 2030 will build on past programmes, including the SG IP Fast programme in 2020, which sought to fast track the registration of patents, related trade marks and registered designs in Singapore, to cut the processing time for businesses.

More details on the Singapore IP Strategy 2030 will be announced on World IP day, which falls on 26 April. This will certainly be a space to watch.

This article is produced by our Singapore office, Bird & Bird ATMD LLP, and does not constitute legal advice. It is intended to provide general information only. Please contact our lawyers if you have any specific queries.

[1] https://www.mti.gov.sg/Improving-Trade/Free-Trade-Agreements/RCEP 

[2] https://rcepsec.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Chapter-11.pdf 

[3] https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/intel2_e.htm

[4] https://www.mti.gov.sg/-/media/MTI/Newsroom/Press-Releases/2021/02/THE-UK-SINGAPORE-FREE-TRADE-AGREEMENT-ENTERS-INTO-FORCE.pdf

[5] https://www.mlaw.gov.sg/news/parliamentary-speeches/2021-03-02-response-speech-by-mr-edwin-tong-at-the-committee-of-supply-2021-minlaw