Singapore's design protection regime was  expanded significantly in 2017 to provide greater protection for designers, and to keep pace with developments in technology. As part of this change, it has become possible to register designs for non-physical products.

A “non-physical product” is defined as any thing that:

(i)  does not have a physical form;

(ii)  is produced by the projection of a design on a surface or into a medium (including air); and

(iii)  has an intrinsic utilitarian function that is not merely to portray the appearance of the thing or to convey information.

New guidelines for what constitutes a registrable non-physical design

To assist designers to better understand the type of non-physical product in respect of which design registrations can be obtained, IPOS has now released a set of  guidelines.

The guidelines provide the following examples of potentially registrable non-physical products:

  • A design of a musical instrument projected via a smart projector, for example where the projection can be interacted with by a user to play the instrument.
  • A design of a whiteboard produced via a smart projector. The projected whiteboard can be “written” on as though it were a physical whiteboard.

Not all digital designs are registrable as “non-physical products”

On the other hand, designs such as those produced in the course of playing an augmented reality game or using a virtual reality headset may not be registrable as non-physical products. This is because they are emitted from a screen, and not projected onto a surface. However, all is not lost for such designs, as they may instead be registered as a GUI applied to an article. A  practice direction from 2018 provides more detail of how this can be done.

In short, registration is generally available in Singapore for designs in the digital world, though care needs to be taken in specifying the article and class to which the design is applied.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.