Singapore Designs Law Update: Improved Protection for Design Owners
1. Broadening The Scope Of Designs That Can Be Registered
The legislative amendments have broadened the scope of registrable designs to include:
(a) features of design applied to a non-physical product; and
(b) feature of colours as a design feature.
Non-physical products have been defined in the Registered Designs Act to include virtual or projected designs. This includes anything which does not have a physical form, is produced by a projection of a design onto a surface or into a medium and which has an intrinsic utilitarian function that is not merely to portray the appearance of the thing or to convey information e.g. a virtual keyboard.
In the fast changing world of technology, designers are now able to seek designs protection for their creations, for example, in a virtual reality environment.
Although these recent amendments do not explicitly refer to Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs), we note that as of 11 December, 2014, GUIs, e.g. icons and screen layouts whether static or dynamic, are registrable designs under the Registered Designs Act.
2. Broadening And Lengthening Of Grace Period
Good news for applicants who have made their designs known to the public prior to filing a design application – any public disclosure made on or after 30 October, 2017 originating from the designer will be covered under the broadened grace period provisions. Prior to the amendment, only disclosures made under limited circumstances were considered allowable within the grace period, e.g. good faith and confidentiality.
Additionally, the grace period has been increased from 6 months to 12 months before the date of filing of the design application. The broadening of the grace period provision allows applicants who may have, inadvertently or otherwise, disclosed their designs to the public prior to filing a design application.
3. Allowing Multiple Designs To Be Filed In A Single Application
Applicants can now file multiple designs (up to 50) within a single application at the time of filing the application. This change affords an increased convenience for the applicant.
4. Changing Default Ownership Position Of A Commissioned Design
Importantly, as of the 30th of October, 2017 default ownership of a commissioned design will vest in the designer and not the party who commissioned the design.
This change allows designers to retain design rights to their own designs – even ones which have been commissioned. Conversely, parties who have or are intending to commission a design to be created will need to pay particular attention to this change in legislation to ensure that ownership rights reside with the correct party and to ensure that appropriate written agreements between the respective parties are in place. Please contact our team should you have any queries regarding ownership rights of a design.
In summary, these amendments to Singapore design law put designers and applicants in a better position to obtain protection for their designs under the Registered Design Act. In particular:
(a) non-physical products are now registrable as a design;
(b) the default ownership of a commissioned design resides with a designer;
(c) grace period provisions have been broadened to 12 months and include any disclosure made by the designer; and
(d) up to 50 designs can be filed in a single application.