On the 4th of May 2020, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) launched the ‘Singapore Patent Fast Track Programme’. The reason for the programme is due to the acknowledgement that IP offices play important roles in supporting innovators as they provide solutions that benefit society. The programme replaces the existing patent acceleration programmes, namely FinTech Fast Track and Accelerated Initiative for Artificial Intelligence, which ceased on the 25th of April and 3rd of May 2020, respectively.
Under the program, Patent applicants can obtain a grant of their Singapore application within a short period of time, such as, within six months upon filing the application. The programme is open to all innovators from any field of technology. Innovators are given equal opportunities to request on the file-to-grant process for their patent application.
The programme is set to run from the 4th of May 2020 to the 29th of April 2022. Currently, no official fees will be payable for using the programme. However, any revision on the framework or costs, if any, will be notified by IPOS in the future. To qualify for the programme, a patent application must comply with the following criteria:
- The patent application must be first filed in Singapore (i.e. without any priority claim).
- The patent application must not be a divisional application.
- The patent application must contain no more than 20 claims.
- There is available capacity for the patent application to be processed under the programme. Only 5 applications a month will be processed under the programme on a first come first served basis. The monthly cap is reset on the first day of the new month with any unutilized requests rolled over to the next month, subject to a maximum of 10 per month.
- The patent application is filed by one who has not fully utilized his/her allowable number of requests under the programme which is set at 10 applications per year per applicant.
However, an important note is that the patent application has to be filed together with a Request for Search and Examination and accompanied with a ‘FastTrack Document’ stating the reason(s) why the patent application requires a shorter prosecution time-frame for grant as well as indicating the field of technology by which the invention relates. Several possible reasons for requesting this programme have been suggested, as follows:
- The patent application is filed for an emerging technology with a short product lifecycle; or
- The patent application relates to an invention that provides a solution in addressing an environment or public health issues, for example such medication or vaccines to combat COVID-19.
Once the patent application is accepted to be processed under the Programme, any formalities examination adverse report or written opinion relating to the substantive examination as issued by the IPOS must be responded to within 2 months upon receipt thereof to meet the prosecution timeline. Further, there is also a requirement that the patent application under the programme be published before the grant of the patent, therefore, a Request for Early Publication must be filed before or concurrently with the grant fee payment.
The Programme would be a great reinforcement for a worldwide patent filing strategy for patent applicants to use a first filing of a Singapore patent application, to accelerate their patenting process in the ASEAN region (via ASPEC) and in several countries worldwide via the Patent Prosecution Highway network.
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Sources: Circular No. 2/2020: Launch of the SG Patent Fast Track Programme on 4 May 2020