Jurisdiction - Singapore
News
Singapore – Geographical Indications: Getting The GI-st Of It.

4 July, 2013

 

Legal News & Analysis – Asia Pacific – Singapore – Intellectual Property

 

Introduction 

A Geographical Indication (“GI”) is an indication that is used on a product, which identifies that product as possessing a particular quality, reputation or some other characteristic, due to its geographical origin. For example, “Champagne”, is a GI which denotes a type of wine that originates from the Champagne region in France. Bordeaux (wine), Darjeeling (tea) and Tuscany (olive oil) are other famous examples of GIs.

Pursuant to its obligations under the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (“EUSFTA”), Singapore will soon be enhancing its existing regime for the protection of GIs. 
 
Current position 

The TRIPS Agreement, which Singapore is party to, currently affords two levels of protection for GIs in Singapore:  
 
  • (i) all GIs are protected against being misleadingly used in the designation or presentation of a product as regards the true origin of the product; and 
  • (ii) for wines and spirits GIs, which are afforded a higher level of protection, the use of GIs that misleadingly identify wines and spirits that do not originate from the place indicated by the GI, despite indicating the true origin of the product by accompanying expressions such as “kind”, “type”, and “style”, is prohibited.  
     
Such protection currently afforded to GIs in Singapore is embodied under the Geographical Indications Act (“Act”). 
Notably, at present, the Act: 
 
  • (i) does not require GIs to be registered to enjoy the protection afforded under the TRIPS Agreement in Singapore; and 
  • (ii) allows interested parties (Producers and traders of the relevant products, and associations of such producers and traders are likely to be interested persons) to stop third parties from using their GIs through civil actions. 

Protection for a GI may also be sought as a certification or collective mark under the Singapore Trade Marks Act. 
 
Proposed Enhanced Protection 
 
The key features of the proposed enhanced protection for GIs are:-  
 
1. GI Registry  
 
A GI Registry within the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (“IPOS”) will be established. The applications that qualify for registration will be those in respect of (i) wines and spirits GIs, and (ii) GIs for selected categories (The selected categories of agricultural products and foodstuff are presently under consideration)  of agricultural products and foodstuffs.  
 
2. Three-stage GI registration process  
 
This is a three-stage process identical to the trade mark registration process. Following the filing of the applications, the applications will be examined by the Registry, and will thereafter proceed to publication/pre-grant opposition (The grounds of opposition are currently under consideration). If, by the end of the opposition period, no opposition is filed by any third party, that GI will proceed to registration. On the contrary, for a GI application that is opposed within the opposition period, an opposition hearing will be held.  
 
It is crucial to note that a GI will not be entitled to protection in Singapore if it has become a generic term. 
 
3. Enhanced GI Protection for Registered GIs  
 
In particular, registered GIs for agricultural products and foodstuffs will benefit from a higher level of protection than is currently available. 
 
However, notably, the same level of protection will be maintained for registered GIs for wines and spirits. 
 
Until the EUSFTA comes into effect, it is still optional for owners of GIs to register their GIs. Existing levels of protection under the GI Act will still remain applicable for unregistered GIs. However, as a matter of prudence, businesses should be apprised of the developments in this area of the law, to ensure that they benefit from the enhanced protection once available. 
 

 

For further information, please contact:

 

Adele Lim, ATMD Bird & Bird 

adele.lim@twobird.com 

  

Comments are closed.