Intellectual property rights allow an owner to deter another party from copying work or a design, using someone else’s invention or logo, and passes it off as his own for gain.

Let’s start with the basics: in Singapore, several types of intellectual property are recognized. Patents protect new ideas that are technical in nature. These may be new products, processes, materials, or modifications in existing products and processes, and so on. Trademarks protect the unique association of a word or symbol with a particular product or entity such as a brand name or logo.

Registered designs protect the outside appearance of a product — but NOT its function. Finally, copyright protects original musical, dramatic, literary, and other artistic works from being copied by others.

The Copyright Act (CA) provides that the copyright owner has the sole right to publish, reproduce, perform, and adapt the work. In Singapore, copyright protection is automatic once the work is created. There is no need to register for copyright in order to earn its protection.

What is Copyright?

According to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), “copyright protects the expression of ideas in tangible forms. When you own the copyright to a work, you control the use and commercial exploitation of these works. This means that you have the right to prevent others from reproducing, publishing, performing, communicating to the public, or adapting your work.”

Copyright protects literary (poems, lyrics, source codes), dramatic (scripts, choreography, etc.) artistic (paintings, sculptures, building models, etc.), and music (melodies). Just be clear that it is not ideas that are protected by copyright law, but the expression of it. For a work to be protected by copyright in Singapore, it absolutely needs to be original and expressed in a material form like in writing or recording. Originality means the work was created with independent effort.

Copyright vs. Trademark: Knowing the Difference

Man holding a hologram with intellectual property

Both “copyright” and “trademark” refer to the protection of intellectual property. However, each provides protection to different categories of intellectual property. The US Copyright Office indicates that copyright “protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works,” but that it “does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.” On the other hand, trademarks cover signs or symbols, such as logos and brand names. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office defines a trademark as anything that represents a brand, such as its name or identity.”

Remember: copyright protects the expression rather than the subject matter of, in this case, your song. For example, a specific melody of a song could be copyrighted, but this only prevents others from copying the melody (or tune); it would not prevent them from coming up with a melody with the same beat, rhythm, or chords.

What Can You Do?

Suing the infringer may be the knee-jerk reaction, but bringing a lawsuit can be time-intensive, not to mention costly. Consider the adversarial nature of lawsuits and their negative impact, especially if you have a working relationship with the other party. Even if you don’t, you may want to think about alternative dispute channels such as negotiation or mediation.

Negotiation is generally the recommended first step to resolving disputes. Negotiation is when the parties involved and their respective legal advisors seek to resolve the conflict amicably by agreeing to a compromise.

Negotiation is definitely a flexible way of resolving a dispute as the process is entirely based on the involved parties’ decisions. As an example, both parties might agree to keep the proceedings or agreements transparent or confidential. Negotiation is also the most cost-effective alternative as only the parties are involved – negotiation might happen with or without legal counsel and no third party adjudicator is required.

Mediation, on the other hand, combines the flexibility and compromise strategy of negotiation with the able supervision of a mediator. A mediator can be a lawyer or law practitioner who has copyright laws expertise, such as the people behind, and is able to help “bridge the parties’ differences”. Should the mediation succeed, the parties involved will reach a settlement agreement that is enforceable by law.

Intellectual property can be an invention, design, trademark, copyright, confidential information, trade secret, etc. They are also sometimes referred to as industrial property and are considered intangible assets — and therefore need to be protected.

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