The “new” 2014 Geographical Indications Act




  1. In April 2014 the Singapore Parliament passed the Geographical Indications Act (2014) (the 2014 GIA), in contemplation of the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA). 
  2. On 13 Feb 2019, the European Parliament casted a majority vote in favour of the EUSFTA to be ratified and enforced.
  3. In light of the above, the 2014 GIA will come into force starting 1 April 2019.The GIA 2014 will replace the existing Geographical Indications Act (Cap 117B, 1998 Rev Ed Sing) (the 1998 GIA) when it comes into force. This article seeks to highlight the key changes in the laws governing Geographical Indications (GIs), and to identify areas that may be of concern, especially if you are one of the parties below, who, under the 2014 GIA, are entitled to file an application for registration of a geographical indication:
  1. a person who is carrying on an activity as a producer in the geographical area specified in the application with respect to the goods specified in the application;
  2. an association of persons referred to in paragraph (a);
  3. a competent authority having responsibility for the geographical indication for which registration is sought.

Current state of affairs

  1. At present, GIs are already protected in Singapore under the 1998 GIA, in accordance with the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) standards.
  2. TRIPS provides a two-tiered scheme of protection:
  1. firstly, all GI products enjoy a basic level of protection where GI labels cannot be used on products which do not come from the place indicated by the GI, if this misleads the public as to the true geographical origin of those products;
  2. for wines and spirits, there is an enhanced level of protection where GI labels cannot be used even if consumers are not misled as to the geographical origin of the goods in question.
  1. The 1998 GIA does not require GIs to be registered to enjoy the relevant protection. However, in practice, the absence of a registration system means that a term (e.g. “Champagne”, “Meursault”, “Roquefort” etc.) can only be conclusively determined to be a GI through a Court ruling in a civil suit. As of today, there have not been any such disputes.


  1. The 2014 GIA introduces three major changes to the GI regime. The 2014 GIA contains provisions to:
  1. establish a Registry of Geographical Indications or "GI Registry";
  2. enhance the protection of GIs in Singapore; and
  3. provide improved border enforcement measures for GIs.
  1. The 2014 GIA will not override any rights that interested parties already have under the existing regime. These rights will co-exist with those under the new regime. However, interested parties who wish to benefit from increased certainty of recognition, enhanced protection and improved border enforcement measures may opt to register their GI.


  1. The registration system improves the certainty of protection given to GIs. It gives the holder certainty that a term is recognised as a GI and enjoy enhanced protection.
  2. Registration will be a three-stage process. The process is similar to the trade mark registration system in Singapore and comprises the following:
  1. Application;
  2. Examination; and
  3. Publication and Opposition.


  1. Only persons who fall within one of the three categories mentioned at paragraph 4 above are entitled for apply for the registration of a GI. During the Application stage, applicants will be required to specify the following:
  1. name, address and nationality of applicant;
  2. capacity in which the applicant is applying for registration;
  3. the GI for which registration is sought;
  4. geographical area to which the GI applies;
  5. the goods to which the GI applies;
  6. the quality, reputation or other characteristics of the good in question and how that is attributable to the geographical origin;
  7. evidence that the GI has obtained recognition as a GI in the country of origin; and
  8. other particulars as may be prescribed.
  1. GIs may only be registered in respect of goods falling within one or more categories of goods in the Schedule of the 2014 GIA, namely:
  1. wines;
  2. spirits;
  3. beers;
  4. cheese;
  5. meat and meat products;
  6. seafood
  7. edible oils
  8. non-edible oils;
  9. fruits;
  10. vegetables;
  11. spices and condiments;
  12. confectionary and baked goods;
  13. flowers and parts of flowers; and
  14. natural gum
  1. The implication of this requirement is that non-foodstuff / non-agricultural GIs are precluded from GI registration.
  2. While the registration of a GI which is identical to or similar with an earlier GI is precluded where a likelihood of confusion exists, the Registrar may register homonymous GIs with practical conditions differentiating the homonymous GI from the earlier GI.


  1. At the examination stage, much like trademark registration, the Registrar will examine if an application for registration of a GI satisfies the statutory requirements. If it appears to the Registrar that the requirements for registration have not been met, the Registrar will provide the applicant with an opportunity to make further representations, amend the application or furnish additional evidence.

Publication and Opposition

  1. Once the Registrar has accepted the application, it would be published and becomes open for interested third parties to object to the registration of the GI. For example, a third party may oppose the registration on grounds that the GI has become a common name for describing that product in Singapore. GIs which are proven to have become common household names in Singapore may not be registered.


  1. The initial registration of a GI will last for 10 years. Similar to the trademarks, the registration may be renewed for further periods of 10 years each. To protect existing rights, GI registration will also follow the "first in time, first in right" principle. This means that a new application for GI registration may not invalidate a prior existing GI or trade mark.

Enhanced Protection

  1. As earlier mentioned in paragraph 10 above, registration of a GI which identifies any agricultural product or foodstuff confers it with enhanced protection.
  2. Under the 1998 GIA, only GIs relating to wines and spirits are entitled to an enhanced level of protection where use of GI-containing labels are prohibited, even if consumers are not misled as to the geographical origin of the goods in question. Under the new 2014 GIA, this enhanced level of protection is extended beyond wines and spirits to all successfully registered GIs, including agricultural products and foodstuff. The sections in the 2014 GIA provides such enhanced protection to non-wine, non-spirits GI would not come into force on 1 April 2019 but at a date to be determined by the Minister. This enhances the protection granted to owners of a registered GI since it removes the need to prove that the public has been misled by the use of the GI. The sections in the 2014 GIA which provides such enhanced protection to non-wine, non-spirits GI would not come into force on 1 April 2019 but at a date to be determined by the Minister.

Border Enforcement

  1. Under the new 2014 GIA, owners of all registered GIs will also have access to improved border enforcement measures. Measures include the ability to request Singapore Customs to detain suspected infringing goods which are being imported into or exported from Singapore. These measures are generally similar to those found in the Trade Marks Act (TMA), with modifications to suit the situations involving GIs. The sections in the 2014 GIA which provides such border enforcement measures would not come into force on 1 April 2019 but at a date to be determined by the Minister.
  2. Improved border enforcement measures will only be effected within three years after the EUSFTA enters into force. This will give Singapore Customs time to build up capabilities to undertake enforcement action.

Alignment with TMA

  1. In addition to the main changes highlighted above, other changes include the inclusion of a provision for remedying groundless threats of proceedings, aligning the 2014 GIA with the TMA.

Concluding remarks

  1. Producers or associations of producers of goods connected with a geographical indicator or (regulatory) authorities which are responsible for the protection / administration of geographical indicators should consider registering the geographical indicators used, protected or administered by them. This is particularly so when the 2014 GIA adopts the "first in time, first in right" principle. Registered GIs also enjoy enhanced protection.

Dentons Rodyk acknowledges and thanks associate Joshua Woo for his contributions to this article.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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