Design Protection of Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) in Singapore


In our article of 21 May 2014, we reported that the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) had launched a public consultation on review of registered designs regime in Singapore. One of the issues that IPOS was seeking feedback was the amendment of the definition of “design” in the Singapore Registered Designs Act to include other types of designs such as Graphic User Interfaces (GUIs), interior layouts, computer generated graphics, etc.

More recently, on 10 December 2014, IPOS has issued a Practice Direction specifying the practice to be adopted when registering GUIs as designs in Singapore. The main points of this Practice Direction are summarized below.

1. Article Name

To satisfy the definition of a “design”, a GUI has to be applied to an article by an industrial process. Accordingly, the applicant must indicate the article that the GUI is applied to when filing a design application for a GUI, for example, Electronic Display With Graphical User Interface Applied Thereto.

2. Animated GUI

An animated or dynamic GUI can be filed in a design application as a series of static representations in consecutive order, each showing a freeze-frame of the GUI in action. The applicant can provide an explanatory statement for each representation to clearly describe the elements in the GUI (e.g. how they are activated, how they interact, whether the GUI only appears in an “on” state, whether certain GUI elements subsequently arise from user interaction, etc.).

3. Number of Views

A design application for a GUI should contain sufficient number of different views to completely disclose the design, but should not exceed 40 views. At least 2 views should be filed for a single dynamic GUI.

The Practice Direction confirms that it is possible to seek the registration of GUIs as designs under the Singapore Registered Designs Act. This provides much-needed clarity while the relevant legislation has yet to be amended. Although there have been many design registrations in Singapore relating to GUIs, it was previously not clear whether the subject matter of such registrations was actually registrable. In this regard, it should be noted that only a formalities review is conducted for each Singapore design application and the validity of a GUI design registration has not been considered by the Singapore Courts.

Looking beyond Singapore, a number of countries in the region, such as China, Thailand, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, also allow GUI design registrations / design patents. If you have any questions relating to this increasingly relevant field, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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