Updated 19 February 2014 to correct Service Bureau surcharge waiver period.

Updated 12 February 2014 to reflect extension of excluded days originally announced by IPOS and information on waiver of Service Bureau Surcharges

A bunch of us patent professionals (including patent attorneys and patent lawyers) were invited to meet representatives of the Intellectual Property Office (IPOS) today.

In the 2.5 hour long meeting, IPOS gave us a briefing and update on the implementation of the amended Singapore Patents Act and Rules.

This post discusses some highlights of the session relating to commencement and electronic filing (e-filing):

  • the Patents (Amendments) Act 2012 and the Patents (Amendments) Rules 2014 will come into force on 14 February 2014

  • the current ePatents electronic online patents filing system will be switched off at 2359 hours on 13 February 2014

  • the replacement patents online filing system is called IP2SG (described as a “new integrated electronic-filing portal”), and it will only be available at 8:30 am on 19 February 2014

  • there will be a “dead” period between 14 February 2014 and 18 February 2014, when it is only possible to do paper filings at IPOS; the normal Service Bureau Surcharges (some would call them Service Bureau Fines) will be waived - see below

  • IPOS Practice Direction 3/2014 specifies that 14, 17 and 18 February 2014 are excluded days

  • IPOS Practice Direction 4/2014 specifies that 19, 20 and 21 February 2014 are excluded days

  • IPOS Practice Direction 1/2009 specifies that Saturdays and Sundays are excluded days. 15 and 22 February 2014 are Saturdays and 16 and 23 February 2014 are Sundays

  • the entire period between 14 February 2014 to 23 February 2014 inclusive will be therefore be excluded days for the purposes of the Singapore Patents Act and Rules

[Information received from IPOS originally indicated that the Service Bureau Surcharges would be waived from 14 to 23 February 2014; IPOS has now written to us to state that the waiver only applies to paper filings between 14 to 18 February 2014]

Commencement Date of the Singapore Patents Act Amendments

Update 12 February 2014: Patents (Amendment) Act 2012 (Commencement) Notification 2014 (S 79 of 2014) was issued by the Ministry of Law on 11 February 2014; it declares that Sections 2(a), (c), (e), (f) and (g) and 3 to 28 of the Patents (Amendment) Act 2012 will come into operation on 14 February 2014.

The confirmation of 14 February 2014 as the commencement date of the amending legislation is interesting; this is the first time IPOS has actually confirmed that they are going to be able to make the planned commencement date (one of the slides they showed had the phrase “planned to come into force”, with the words “planned to” crossed out and changed to “will”, so the slide now read “will come into force”).

Excluded Days and Priority Convention Deadlines

Updated 12 February 2014 to reflect extra days excluded

The effect of 14 February 2014 to 23 February 2014 being declared as excluded days is that, if a deadline falls on one of these days, it will be treated as having been met if the required action is done (together with any fees paid) on the first working day after the excluded day (in this case, on 24 February 2014).

Someone from the audience asked if the excluded days also apply to convention priority deadlines, i.e., would a convention deadline falling within the period be deemed to have been met if the priority claiming application is filed on the first following working day?

The initial answer from the presenter from IPOS was “no”, which surprised many of us in the audience. After some deliberation, and a bout of excited discussion in the audience during the delay, the people from IPOS finally confirmed that yes, the exclusion applies to convention deadlines as well!

This is the sort of thing one learns in the first year of being a patent attorney trainee, so I was a little surprised that it caused so much consternation at the session. In fact, I am a little surprised that the question was asked in the first place, especially as it came from one of the more senior members of the profession. After all, a number of periods during the year are already declared as excluded days by IPOS, for example public holidays, so the concept is not really new under Singapore law.

IP2SG About Time

Updated 10 February 2014: *IPOS Practice Direction 2/2014* describes the practice to be adopted when using the Electronic Online System (EOS) provided by the Registry of Patents

As for the e-filing system, I am personally very glad to see the back of ePatents. It was full of bugs and not user friendly at all. One of the big problems was that you would find out very late in the process that you shouldn’t have included a type of document that you did at the very start, which meant that you had to start all over again.

The documentation was awful, and some passages were positively misleading. You had to work out by trial and error how to use the system. Some of the forms hadn’t been updated for years and even now they continue to refer to Sections of the Act have been renumbered or which no longer exist because the legislation had been amended in the meantime (more on this in another blog post).

There were ridiculously low character limits in some text fields (I counted the explanatory text in the label for one text field, and worked out that that text was so long that it would not have fitted into the text field itself!). Attachments couldn’t have names more than 45 characters long. For a for a long time this “feature” was undocumented, so that we had to use trial and error by renaming the offending documents to shorter and shorter names to see if they would be accepted!

Worst of all, the ePatents system required the use of a hardware key which you had to pay a non-trivial sum for (and which could only be obtained by taking a day off work and personally visiting the vendor). The software and the hardware key only worked on Windows, meaning that every time we needed to do a filing, we had to boot up our Parallels VM to use it.

The new IP2SG system looks like a prince compared to ePatents. It seems to work well on Chrome and Firefox and looks and feels quite nice, at least from the limited time we have had trialling it. It uses AJAX well. File size limits have increased by 20 fold. Speed was not great during the trial, but IPOS is aware of this and know they need to optimise the system to be faster.

To its credit, IPOS seems to have listened to feedback and has made changes to the system where it has thought it worthwhile. There are a number of issues which we have raised which have not been fixed, and a number of promised features not yet implemented (including an XML electronic filing interface) but on the whole IP2SG is a vast improvement over ePatents. The only problem is that IP2SG seems to have been written in .NET, but you can’t have everything!

We look forward to getting our grubby e-filing hands dirty on the new system when it launches on the 19th.

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