Intellectual Property is a set of rights allowing you to stop others from using your intellectual creations. Key to helping your personal or organisational objectives, having your intellectual rights secured with our support gives you the peace of mind to focus on your strategies for market entry, growth and competition.
There are 3 basic characteristics to intellectual property:
Specific Forms of Creations: Granted only for specific types of intellectual creations, intellectual rights are categorised into Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks. There are other subsets to these categories, such as design rights, trade secrets, plant varieties, etc.
Territorial: You will have to register and have your rights recognised in each jurisdiction, as rights are territorial by nature. International rights do not exist, but there are international treaties and conventions that can give a similar effect for certain intellectual property rights.
Prohibitory Rights: Though this gives you the power to stop someone from using your intellectual creations, it does not give you an automatic right to use your intellectual creations without regard to the intellectual property rights owned by others. Even with a recognised right to your own intellectual creation, you may still require permission from other rights owners to use your intellectual creation.
Ideas are not really protected at all, but what you can protect is the expression of your idea. This can be in the form of a service, process or product, e.g. books, paintings, photographs, applications, etc. You can even protect the name for these ideas. In many cases, your ideas’ expressions can be protected in more ways than one. Take, for example, mobile devices such as handphones and tablets. These are usually protected by a combination of intellectual property rights, e.g. trademarks for its brand and model name, copyright for the user interface, design rights for the overall design, patents for the technology or process to make and assemble the components.
Once you have clarified your reasons to protect your intellectual creations, we can determine which ways are most appropriate and necessary for your action. Learn more about the kinds of intellectual property to find out which you need.
To protect the expression of the idea, copyrights refer to the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works. Works covered by copyright range from books, music, paintings, sculpture, and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps, and technical drawings. It is important to note copyright protection extends only to expressions, and not to ideas, procedures, methods of operations, or mathematical concepts.
Copyright is generally considered in two general sets of rights:
Economic: Allows you to derive financial reward from the use of your works by others.
Moral: Protects the non-economic interests of the author, e.g. the right to claim authorship of a work and the right to oppose changes to a work that could harm the creator’s reputation.
Under Singapore’s Copyright Act, the economic rights of an owner can also prohibit or authorise:
In the case of an artistic work, to do all or any of the following acts:
In the case of a literary, dramatic or musical work, to do all or any of the following acts:
In the case of a computer program, to enter into a commercial rental arrangement in respect of the program unless the program is not the essential object of the rental. In the majority of countries, copyright protection is obtained automatically without the need for formalities. A number of countries have a system in place to allow for voluntary registration of works.
Such voluntary registration systems are designed to solve disputes over ownership or creation. These systems also facilitate financial transactions, sales, and the assignment or transfer of rights. Rather than conferring a right through registrations, they serve as evidential proof of the copyright.
Used to protect “new” and “useful” products or methods of doing things, the composition of a new product, or a technical improvement on how certain objects work. Patents fall into 3 main categories:
Inventions - a machine, an article of manufacture, a method of doing something, a chemical or DNA sequence or the method of its use, products of genetic engineering, or improvements to any of these things.
Plant Patents / Variety Protection - granted for the development or discovery of a new variety for certain kinds of plants. Note that other kinds of plants, especially those altered by genetic engineering can also be protected under patents.
Registered Designs / Design Patents - covering the ornamental appearance of a useful device, but not its function. For example, the design of the face of the Rolex watch, or the body shape of the Porsche Targa.
For a patent to be granted, the invention must be capable of doing something in the real world, “New / Novel” (not already disclosed to the public), and "Not Obvious" (decided by a subjective test from the perspective of a person with reasonable skill in the field).
"Business Methods" - In recent years, the "doing something in the real world" has extended into what would previously have been considered an unpatentable "business method". Some countries have followed this expanded interpretation. However, the law on this is far from settled as courts in US as well as in Europe is still trying to draw the line between what is patentable and what is not.
Used to represent the source of a product or service, it helps to protect your goodwill in the market. Trademarks can be a name, device (logo) or the appearance of a product. Packaging can also be considered a trademark and is often called "trade dress". Take Coca-Cola® for example: the name and the distinct shape of a Coke® bottle are registered as trademarks.
Trademarks are not limited to just names and logos too; they can also be in the form of sounds, distinct visuals, or even scents.
Take for example:
- A sequence of notes, e.g. the Microsoft Windows chimes
- A piece of music, e.g. the Harlem Globetrotter's "Sweet Georgia Brown”, the Lone Ranger theme
- Specific colours, e.g. pink Fibreglass® insulation - Patterns, e.g. Louis Vuitton or Burberry
- The smell of fresh cut grass for tennis balls
Other forms of trade marks include:
Certification Marks: This certifies the characteristics of particular goods or service. This certification can relate to the origin, material or mode of manufacture of the goods. It can also certify the performance, quality or accuracy of a service.
Collective Marks: Used to distinguish the goods and services offered by an association or group of traders from those being offered by non-members of the association.
Geographical Indication, a key aspect of trademarks, is a sign that identifies a product as originating from a particular location. This gives the product a special quality, be it in reputation or other characteristics. Well-known examples include Bordeaux (for wine), Champagne (for sparkling wine), Darjeeling (for tea).
Software is generally protected as a form of expression in Copyright Law, but there are also movements to extend patent protection to software as well. This is an area of the law which is constantly evolving internationally. Inventions which are software based are patentable, provided the other requirements for patentability are met. However, it is important to note that certain countries do not allow or severely limit patents on computer implemented methods. Methods of operating a computer may or may not be patentable - patent applications on pure software are often rejected as being "mathematical algorithms" or "purely mental steps".
However, methods of data compression and transmission have been patented, and the rules have become more friendly toward computer-implemented methods as the technology becomes mature. This rationale for protection is more akin to method patents than product patents - one does not patent the program code (which is a copyright matter), but rather the steps (processes) the program performs.
If you are interested in patent protection outside the Singapore, you will need to consider this issue on a country-by-country basis. Copyright is still the proper way to protect program code, since it protects against copying without having to consider the novelty or non-obviousness of the code. Often, important backend processes or aspects of the program code are kept as trade secrets.
These require a veil of secrecy, thus it is important to maintain this veil in interactions where the trade secrets may be disclosed. Have agreements with users and in particular anyone who has access to the source code protecting your trade secret status.