The Simplified Process for Certain Intellectual Property Claims (“Simplified Process”) was introduced in April 2022 under Singapore’s Supreme Court of Judicature (Intellectual Property) Rules 2022 as an optional track for intellectual property litigation. A recent decision by the High Court of Singapore has clarified how the Simplified Process plays out in practice.
What is the Simplified Process for Singapore IP litigation?
The Simplified Process has three key features designed to enable quicker and more cost-effective resolution of intellectual property disputes, namely:
- parties would receive all directions at a single case conference, if practicable;
- directions are given with the aim of concluding the trial within two days, if practicable; and
- fixed and capped costs would apply.
When does the Simplified Process apply?
On 15 May 2023, the High Court of Singapore issued its decision on the first case to raise issues on the applicability of the Simplified Process, in Tiger Pictures Entertainment Ltd v Encore Films Pte Ltd  SGHC 138. The case involved a copyright dispute between two film distributors, Tiger Pictures Entertainment Ltd (“Tiger”) and Encore Films (“Encore”).
Tiger was the exclusive licensee in respect of the copyright in the film “Moon Man”. It had entered into discussions with Encore regarding the further distribution by Encore of Moon Man in Singapore. However, no written agreement was in place when Encore released the film in Singapore.
Tiger sued Encore for copyright infringement and sought to invoke the Simplified Process. Encore objected to the use of the Simplified Process, arguing it wished to have witnesses from China testify in Mandarin on a wide range of factual issues (with interpreters), so the trial would realistically require four days.
The High Court Judge confirmed that all three conditions required for the Simplified Process to apply, had been fulfilled:
|Did the condition apply?
|1. The dispute must involve an IP right
|Yes – this dispute involved a claim of copyright infringement.
|2. The claims for monetary relief do not/are not likely to exceed SGD 500,000 (approx. USD 365,000) or all parties agree that the Simplified Process shall apply.
|Yes – Tiger had abandoned any claim for monetary relief above SGD 500,000 (approx. USD 365,000), and Encore had not particularised its alleged losses under its counterclaims.
|3. The suitability of the case, taking into consideration factors such as:
a. whether a party can only afford to bring or defend the claim under the Simplified Process;
b. the complexity of the issues; and
c. whether the estimated length of the trial is likely to exceed two days.
|Yes – the factors weighed in favour of the Simplified Process applying, in particular because the issues were not complex.
The key issue was whether the parties had reached a legally binding agreement, and that could be determined based on WeChat messages and emails, without testimony from witnesses.
Importantly, the Judge noted that “most cases will likely turn on… the complexity of the issues and estimated length of the trial“.
The Simplified Process was developed to facilitate cost-effective access to the Courts by streamlining procedures in certain intellectual property cases. However, claimants should note that the opposing party has an opportunity to object to the applicability of the Simplified Process, and resolving that preliminary dispute may itself incur additional time and costs.
Should you have any questions about the Simplified Process, please reach out to Esther Seow at firstname.lastname@example.org.