Singapore: IPOS releases guidelines on registering non-physical products as designs

In brief

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) has released the "Registered Designs Guidelines on Non-Physical Products" ("Guidelines") to provide applicants with a better understanding of registering non-physical products as designs.


In more detail

To support the growth of the local design industry, Singapore broadened the scope of designs that can be registered to include non-physical products on 30 October 2017.

Earlier this month, IPOS released the Guidelines, which provide an overview of virtual designs and the registration requirements for non-physical products. We set out the key points of the Guidelines below. 

Overview of virtual designs and extended reality

The Guidelines set out brief explanations of the terms (i.e., "augmented reality," "augmented virtuality," "mixed reality" and "virtual environment" or "virtual reality") contained in the "reality-virtuality continuum" diagram as set out below:

Diagram: Paul Milgram's "reality-virtuality continuum".

The Guidelines further explain that not all forms of immersive technologies are considered non-physical products. 

Registration requirements

The criteria for the registration of non-physical products are the following:

  • No physical form: The design is not tangible or does not have a physical form.
  • Produced by projection on surface or into medium: The design is produced by the projection of a design on a surface or into a medium (including air), where the projection is from a light source. Virtual keyboards or number pads that are projected on a surface would fulfill this requirement. In contrast, designs emitted from a device (e.g., the graphical user interface on a mobile phone's display screen) will not be considered designs applied to a non-physical product as the designs are not emitted from the device.
  • Intrinsic utilitarian function, not merely to portray appearance or to convey information: The non-physical product must perform a utilitarian function. Designs for decorative purposes and that do not serve any utilitarian functions are not registrable. 

Other guidelines

The Guidelines sets out examples of what are potentially registrable and non-registrable non-physical products:

  • Potentially registrable products include designs of musical instruments and whiteboards produced via a smart projector where users can interact with the designs for a utilitarian function (e.g., to produce notes of different pitches in the case of a virtual musical instrument and to write on the whiteboard in the case of a virtual whiteboard).
  • Non-registrable products include designs of head-up displays (i.e., projections on the windscreen of a vehicle that provide information to drivers) as these displays merely convey information, and designs from a virtual reality headset as the virtual environment or design is merely displayed from a screen and not emitted, and the designs merely portray an appearance that serves no utilitarian function.

The Guidelines provide further guidance on key application requirements, frequently asked questions and the rights conferred by registration (i.e., exclusive rights of the owner of the design, right to infringement proceedings and relief that the aggrieved party may be entitled to).

The Guidelines may be found here.


For further information and to discuss what this development might mean for you, please get in touch with your usual Baker McKenzie contact.


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