Under the EU Singapore Free Trade Agreement, Singapore must improve its Customs IP border protection system. A new Intellectual Property (Border Enforcement) Bill passed into law on 9 July. It will improve IP border enforcement measures in the following ways:
- Allow upon IPR holders’ requests seizure of exports suspected of infringing copyrights and trademarks (imports can already be seized)
- Allow upon IPR holders’ requests seizure of imports and exports suspected of infringing registered designs
- New powers of disclosure by Customs to IPR holders of names and contact details of persons connected to the import/export of seized goods necessary to start IPR infringement actions. This is a narrow exception to Customs’ normal obligations of confidentiality and can only occur after seizure and document proof of rights and payment of security deposit.
The precise timing of the above new powers depends on the coming into force of the Singapore EU FTA, currently estimated to be mid-2019. Only the third of the above on information disclosure starts immediately.
Singapore is often criticised for failing to stop infringing goods passing through its ports. It is the largest transhipment port in the world and Economist Intelligence Unit research suggests a vast trade in illicit goods occurs. These new rules don’t touch goods in transit, but at least exports and imports can be properly controlled. One key main challenge is the cost of bringing expensive civil litigation proceedings against freight forwarders/shippers.