Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah said that only two applications have been made by the government to revoke patents since 2001, and that both were made to the High Court because they involved counterclaim proceedings.
Ms Rajah was responding to queries from Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Gerald Giam, who asked raised the question to the Law Ministry in Parliament on Thursday.
He also asked if the government or government-linked companies have in Singapore have applied to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) instead for revocation of patents, registered trademarks or registered designs belonging to local intellectual property (IP) owners; the main reasons for revocation; and how many complaints has the Government received from local IP owners about ministries, agencies and statutory boards or GLCs in Singapore infringing their IP rights.
Ms Rajah noted that the two cases to revoke patents by government agencies were Mobilestats Technologies Pte Ltd versus the Ministry of Defense, and Mr Yiap Hang Boon versus the Housing Development Board. Both applications for revocation were approved.
However, she did not go into details on the reasons for revocation apart from citing that patent claims are judged on the basis of the individual patent’s novelty, innovation and industrial application.
Mr Giam also asked for the considerations for government agencies to go to the courts instead of IPOS to apply for revocation of patents, and if IPOS would grant patents to inventions that are not patentable – meaning they are not new, do not have an inventive step or do not have an industrial application.
Ms Rajah said that patent protection varies from country to country and it is not possible to expect IPOS to carry out complete checks on all patents. She also added that all patents are open to patent challenges all the time.
Noting that the patent search and examination process is a highly technical and complex process and that it took IPOS years to build up its patent search and examination capabilities, Mr Giam then asked if the courts would have the necessary technical expertise to decide if patents are invalid.
Ms Rajah responded that the application to revoke patents will be supported by the evidence provided by expert witnesses brought to court.
She also said that the two cases of patents revoked by government agencies did not affect the confidence that businesses have in Singapore. This is in response to Mr Giam’s question on whether the recent cases between the government and entrepreneurs might have affected confidence among local and foreign businesses about Singapore’s position as a good place develop and launch their intellectual property.
Early in January, TOC covered Mobilestats’ case against the Ministry of Defence, where inventor Dr Ting Choon Meng has sued MINDEF for deliberately infringed the company’s patent, but had to give up the case due to mounting legal expenses.
MINDEF had sought a court ruling to have the patent revoked, and had recently issued a statement to deny Dr Ting’s account.