Thursday, April 30, 2009

From Law Society of Singapore to Blawggers

The Law Society of Singapore has just issued its first Council Practice Direction of the year.  The message : adhere to professional conduct rules when blogging about ongoing proceedings.   We reproduce the guidelines here :-

1. To act in the best interest of the client;

2. To uphold the standing of the profession;

3. To maintain confidentiality between solicitor and client;

4. To comply with the rules of professional conduct and publicity;

5. To avoid comments that may prejudice matters sub judice or that may be in contempt of Court;

6. To avoid adverse remarks on the conduct or character of the opposing party.

Singapore Brands in the News

‘Singapore Airlines’ and ‘SingTel’ Make it To The Top 500

One of the few Singapore brands with a global presence that comes readily to mind is ‘Singapore Airlines’. The other is ‘SingTel’ (telecommunications). Both ranked 246 and 318 respectively in the BrandFinance Global 500 report of April 2009, the Annual Report on the World’s Most Valuable Brands.

‘Singapore Airlines’ was ranked 280 in 2008 while ‘SingTel’ was unranked.  The ranking in 2009 illustrates the positive progress these Singapore brands are making, globally.

‘Get Singapore Brands’ Launched

There are some home grown brands which enjoy recognition outside Singapore but lack the same recognition at home.

In addressing this, ‘Get Singapore Brands’, a non-profit organization was launched in March 2009. SPRING Singapore is funding the initiative. According to a recent Straits Times report there are currently 37 participating companies who pay subscription fees. The target is to get 100 companies.

The objective of ‘Get Singapore Brands’ is to market goods of the participating brands in Singapore and abroad and to create a greater awareness that Singapore produces well designed goods.

Another objective is to promote Singapore as a place known for good design and innovative retail ideas, and help participating companies exchange ideas and expertise.

The publicity extended to the participating brands is reported to include showcasing products in shopping malls, advertising campaigns and promotional materials extended to tourist. Moving forward, the publicity is expected to be extended abroad next year at international trade fairs and overseas missions.

This initiative is laudable and it is hoped that more companies will participate and take Singapore brands to the greater recognition and success that they rightly deserve.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New chapters

Six new chapters have been added to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore’s Trade Mark Work Manual.  These are :

Chapter 9 - Marks Contrary to Public Policy or to Morality 
Chapter 10 - Names and Representation of Famous People, Buildings, etc 
Chapter 11 - Other Grounds for Refusal of Application 
Chapter 12 - Deceptive Marks 
Chapter 13 - Licences 
Chapter 14 - Slogans

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Court of Appeal rules on well-known mark

"Should a modest cluster housing project in Yio Chu Kang [a modest street] in Singapore be allowed to share the name as an ultra-exclusive luxury resort in Bali where that name is not a registered trade mark in Singapore?"

This question was posed in the first line of a recent Singapore Court of Appeal judgement. The court held that the mark "Amanusa" was a well-known trade mark in Singapore (albeit unregistered ) and that the use of the mark by the housing project was likely to cause people to believe that there was a connection between the said project and the resort. The court granted an injunction restraining the use of the name by the housing project.

The court held that in deciding whether a mark was well-known, one looked at the actual or potential consumers of the proprietor of the mark. The court recognised that this made it easy for marks to be considered well-known in Singapore and, therefore, balanced this with the requirement that the proprietor of the mark show that there is a likelihood of confusion before an injunction can be granted.

The upshot of this judgement is that proprietors of an unregistered mark which is not being used in Singapore may have a remedy provided the mark is well-known to a sector of the public in Singapore and there is a likelihood of confusion. Under the common law tort of passing off, this was not possible as goodwill needed to be shown.

Asian Art We Like

Composite Interior Landscape ‘09 by Hong Sek Chern
Ink on rice paper
152 x 152cm

This painting by local artist Hong Sek Chern will grace our conference room wall as of tomorrow. Hong is currently the Head of Programme of the Diploma in Fine Art in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.  Her paintings which juxtapose "snapshots" of spaces both interior and exterior have won her many awards and accolades.  

For other Asian art that we like, please visit our website.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fake trade mark notices

According to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore ("IPOS"), companies should be cautious about fake trade mark notices demanding payment for registering trade marks. Several such instances have been reported until this day. The notices look authentic but these have no connection with IPOS or any such authorities. Companies need to be observant, and review any such notices with utmost care, so that they do not fall prey to such a mischief. Consult a lawyer or any knowledgeable consultant if you are in doubt.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Erm ... 嗯 ...

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore has very kindly posted up a list of commonly used IP terms and their Chinese equivalents.  Our My head-scratching, brow-furrowing, squinting-into-the-distance, index-finger-chin-tapping days are over!


Thursday, April 23, 2009

The long and short of it

Singapore has become rather well-known for her unusual fetish for acronyms.  See here and here.  There is even an alarmingly long list compiled by the people at Wikipedia. 

And here’s yet another – SAM or software asset management, which refers to recognising, managing and controlling the software that an organisation or business owns.   

The first step of SAM is to know exactly what software you own, and to ensure that you have not infringed anybody’s copyright.  The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore and the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation launched a campaign yesterday to help small and medium enterprises stay clear of infringement suits by the Business Software Alliance, which represents software giants such as Microsoft, Symantec and Adobe.   

Businesses may from now till 21 June sign up for a voluntary software audit and if they are found to be using unlicensed products, they have 14 days to right the situation.  They may purchase licensed products at a discounted price up to 30 June.  The most reassuring part of the audit is that compliant businesses will have immunity from lawsuits up to 21 June 2010.  

The message from IPOS and SITF is clear : to avoid being sued by BSA for copyright infringement, SMEs are encouraged to sign up for the voluntary audit.  Other organisations such as ASME, DAS, SBF, SIA and SICC have also committed their support to this campaign.

Is your business SAM ready?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Radio streaming dries up under heat from licensing body

An amendment to the Copyright Act has resulted in the suspension of Internet streaming services by radio stations here. The amendment to Section 107B makes it an infringement of copyright to broadcast digital audio transmissions (whether by simulcast or re-transmission) through the Internet, unless otherwise authorised by the copyright owners (read : payment of licence fees to Recording Industry Performance Singapore, known also as RIPS).

RIPS is a collective licensing body that issues licences to broadcast music in Singapore. According to a report in TODAYOnline, RIPS represents 13 record companies and has been in negotiations with radio stations for licence fees in order that Internet streaming may continue. However, the licence fees tabled so far could potentially cost radio stations up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, a suggestion so unpalatable that all 22 stations (run by MediaCorp, Safra Radio and SPH UnionWorks) have chosen to suspend their online services until an agreement has been reached with RIPS.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A DAShing Bunch

Mention the word "designers", and one can't help but think of Tim Gunn of Project Runway fame making his rounds in a cluttered Parsons studio and dishing out directions like "make it work" in his clipped accent. But there is more to designers than just fashion designers - we have graphic, textile, web, packaging, product, environment, interior, furniture and exhibition designers, a fact that we were recently reminded of at the Annual General Meeting of the Designers Association Singapore.

Top of the agenda was to elect the next executive committee. Newly elected President Lawrence Chong and Vice-President Ulrich Schraudolph then proceeded to communicate their vision for the DAS in a most inspiring and engaging presentation. Attended by about 50 members from all walks of design, the room sparked with ideas about taking the DAS to the next level. Our very own Ravi was elected co-auditor.

Having practised intellectual property law for more years than I care to mention (publicly, anyway), I have met my fair share of creative types - writers, artists, game designers - all originators of IP, creators, dreamers, inventors in their own right. But I have to admit that being in the presence of so many of them in one room at the same time, was awe-inspiring and just a little intimidating.

And here they are ... well, give or take 2 legal types, if you can spot us.

The evening ended splendidly on the terrace of the Singapore Cricket Club, over scintillating conversation with old friends and new, under clear skies and against the backdrop of Singapore's city skyline.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Singin' the Blues

Local singer-songwriter Tanya Chua's application for a declaration of copyright ownership was denied by the High Court in October 2008. The reasons for the judgment were released on 31 March 2009 as Ms. Chua had filed an appeal to the Court of Appeal.

In 2002, Ms. Chua had entered into an agreement with her music publisher, agreeing among other things to "irrevocably and absolutely assign, convey and grant to the Publisher (the music publisher), its successors and assigns all rights and interests of every kind, nature and description in and to the ... Compositions created by the Writer (Ms. Chua) during the term of this Agreement." In return, the music publisher was to exploit the songs composed by Ms. Chua for which she would receive royalty payments.

In 2005, a second agreement was entered into by the parties. This agreement purported to extend the obligations of the parties under the earlier agreement till 17 March 2007. Ms. Chua had an option to extend the validity of this second agreement past 17 March 2007. However, the second agreement also contained clauses that expressly stated that certain terms of the earlier agreement would survive 17 March 2007.

The basis of Ms. Chua's application was that since she had not opted for the extension past 17 March 2007, the copyright in her compositions would revert back to her. She also alleged that the music publisher had continued to exploit the compositions past 17 March 2007 without her consent.

The High Court Judge found that the music publisher was entitled to continue exploiting the compositions past 17 March 2007, as the second agreement specifically stated that this right would survive past the said date. Further, the Judge also noted that Ms. Chua had "appeared to have completely overlooked the fact that she would continue to be paid royalties (in perpetuity) by the defendant for the ... compositions that she had assigned to the company. It was not a situation where she was put into bondage by the defendant without any consideration or benefit to her."

Indeed, it would appear that this reeks a little of biting the hand that feeds. According to the music publisher, it had pulled Ms. Chua out of the realm of anonymity and helped her gain celebrity status. Ms. Chua has won several awards since 2006, including Best Female Singer and Best Album Producer at the Taiwan Golden Melody Awards.

Well, now that an appeal has been filed, I can't help but hear Mr. Kravitz's falsetto ringing in my head, going "it ain't over till (the 3 judges say) it's over".

Citation : Chua Chian Ya v. Music & Movements (S) Pte Ltd. [2009] SGHC 75

World IP Day

Celebrated on 26 April each year, World Intellectual Property Day goes green in 2009. In a bid to reduce the IP industry's carbon footprint, the World Intellectual Property Organisation has encouraged IP players to contribute by "stimulating the creation, diffusion and application of clean technologies; to promoting green design, aimed at creating products that are eco-friendly from conception to disposal; to green branding".

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore is commemorating the event with a seminar for parents and how their kids' web content may be protected. Find out what other countries around the world are doing to celebrate.

We are happy to note that our friends at Venner Shipley LLP were the first IP firm to achieve carbon neutral status. The International Trade Mark Association (INTA) is also doing its part at this year's Annual Meeting in Seattle by printing the brochure on mixed-resources paper, using eco-friendly soy-based ink for printing and going paperless where possible.