On 1 April 2019, Singapore’s Geographical Indications Rules 2019 will come into operation.
The Rules, implementing the Geographical Indications Act 2014, create a new Registry of Geographical Indications administered by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) to enable producers of wines and spirits and of selected categories of agricultural products and foodstuffs, as well as qualified producer associations and competent authorities to file applications for registration of GIs.
The Act, prompted by the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EU-SFTA) (the first free trade agreement concluded between the EU and an ASEAN country), defines “geographical indication” as any indication used in trade to identify goods as originating from a place, provided that the place is a qualifying country or a region or locality in a qualifying country and that a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the goods is essentially attributable to that place. In addition to wines and spirits, eligible agricultural products and foodstuffs include beers, cheese, meat and meat products, seafood, fruits, vegetables, spices and condiments, confectionery and baked goods, flowers and parts of flowers, edible oils, non-edible oils, and natural gum.
Applications for GI registration will be accepted commencing 1 April 2019.
Each GI application will be examined to ascertain whether it fulfils registration criteria. The applied-for GI must be protected in its country or territory of origin, must not contain the name of a plant variety or an animal breed, must not be confusable with an existing GI on the GI Registry, must not be confusable with an existing trade mark on the Trade Marks Registry, and much be applied for by a person entitled to file the application, being (i) a person carrying on an activity as a producer in the geographical area specified in the application with respect to the goods specified in the application, (ii) an association of such persons, or (iii) a competent authority with responsibility for the GI for which registration is sought.
If there exists a similar or identical GI on the new GI Registry, or a similar or identical trade mark on the Trade Marks Registry, the GI application may be refused, because the examination process will include searching these registries for earlier GIs and trade marks which conflict with the applied-for GI. Thus, it is advisable to search both the GI Registry and the Trade Marks Registry to ensure that there are no conflicting GIs or trade marks.
If the GI application is approved in examination, it will be published in IPOS’ new Geographical Indications Journal. Within six weeks after the date of publication, any interested party will be able to oppose registration of the GI.
If the GI application successfully avoids refusal, objection or opposition, IPOS anticipates that it will take approximately nine months for the application to register. The protection conferred by a GI registration is for an initial 10-year period, renewable indefinitely every 10 years.
Registration of a GI will bar registration in Singapore of later filed GIs and of later filed trade marks consisting of or containing the registered GI, and will confer on its owner enhanced border enforcement measures and enhanced remedies against unauthorized third-party use of the GI, including orders for delivery up, destruction or forfeiting of the offending goods.
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This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to a practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.