Knowledge Highlights 19 November 2019

Further provisions of the Geographical Indications Act 2014 (“Act”) have come into force on 21 November 2019. This follows the partial commencement of the Act on 1 April 2019 to establish a system of registration for geographical indications (“GIs”) as part of Singapore’s commitments under the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (“EUSFTA”).

Geographical indications or “GIs” are terms which are used to inform consumers that a product, mostly food and drink, comes from a particular place. The Act established a new system of registration in Singapore to improve the certainty of protection given to GIs with effect from 1 April 2019. Registration of a GI will provide the holder with certainty that a term is recognised as a GI and is therefore entitled to all the protections enjoyed by a GI, without needing to confirm this before the courts. This will facilitate enforcement of these rights.

Provisions in force from 21 November 2019

The provisions in the Act which came into force on 21 November 2019 relate to the following:

  • Sections 4(6) to 4(9): Provides for a new right of action in respect of certain non‑misleading uses of a registered GI identifying an agricultural product or foodstuff belonging to a category of prescribed goods.
  • Sections 15 to 16: Provides for exceptions applicable to registered GIs. For example, a person may use in the course of trade any name contained in a registered GI in relation to any goods or services, if the name is identical with the term customarily used in common language to describe the goods or services in Singapore.
  • Section 75: Provides for the registration of GI as prima facie evidence that the grounds for refusal of registration in section 41 of the Act are absent. Section 41 sets out the grounds on which registration may be refused.
  • Section 76: Provides for the High Court’s power to issue a certificate of validity of registration in a proceeding where the registration of a GI is challenged.

Provisions not in force yet

Part VI of the Act which provides for owners of all registered GIs to have access to improved border enforcement measures is expected to be effective on a later date(s) within three years of the entry-into-force of the EUSFTA.

Subsidiary legislation

The following subsidiary legislation has also been issued and took effect on 21 November 2019:

  • Geographical Indications (Composition of Offences) Regulations 2019
  • Geographical Indications (Prescribed Goods under Section 10) (Amendment) Rules 2019

Background

The changes under the Act are being implemented in stages to correspond with the EUSFTA ratification timeline. On 8 November 2019, the Council of the European Union (“EU”) adopted the decision to conclude the EUSFTA, marking the final stage in the EU’s internal approval process for the EUSFTA. The EU and Singapore proceeded to complete their respective remaining administrative processes with a view to enable the EUSFTA to enter into force on 21 November 2019.

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