The Brunei Intellectual Property Office (BruIPO) is responsible for the registration of patents, trademarks, industrial designs and plant varieties protection (PVP). BruIPO was set up on June 1, 2013 in an effort to restructure the national intellectual property (IP) administration.
Among the objectives of the BruIPO, according to its website, include: to provide a clear, accessible and widely understood patent system that protects ideas and innovation; to raise awareness on the benefits and protection of trademarks and industrial designs and to use them to enhance business growth and competitiveness; to promote and develop an ‘IP Culture’ where creativity and innovation can flourish; and to establish partnership with the relevant stakeholders in support of the national innovation ecosystem.
The BruIPO website includes information on various aspects of intellectual property registration.
The application system in Brunei operates on a “first-tofile” basis. It is explained on the website that this means that the first person to file a patent application will have priority over others for the same invention.
It is stated that the key feature of the patent system in Brunei is that it is a “self-assessing” system whereby the applicants decide how and when to proceed with the patent applications. In addition, the website shares that the patent system is “formality-based” and substantive examination work is outsourced to the foreign patent offices of Austria, Denmark and Hungary.
In order to be patentable in Brunei, an invention must be new (novel); and involve an inventive step and capable of industrial application.
An invention of a method of treatment on the human and/or animal body involving surgery, therapy, or diagnosis is not patentable as this type of invention cannot be applied industrially. Additionally, an invention that encourages offensive, immoral or anti-social behaviour is not patentable – even if it satisfies the criteria of patentability.
With regards to patent protection, the website explains that this is territorial and is only valid in the country where the patent is granted. It adds however, that since 2012, Brunei is a member of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). This means that it is now possible to seek patent protection for an invention simultaneously in each of a large number of countries by filing an “international” patent application via the PCT system.
Brunei is also part of the ASEAN Patent Examination Cooperation (ASPEC) – the first regional patent work-sharing programme among the IP Offices of nine participating ASEAN Member States: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The purpose of the ASPEC programme is to allow applicants in these participating countries to obtain corresponding patents faster and more efficiently so as to potentially reduce duplication in the resulting search and examination work.
The BruIPO website states that when it comes to industrial designs, to be registrable, the design must be new – it has not been registered, published, used or sold in Brunei or elsewhere before the date on which the application of registration was logged. The design must be applied industrially, meaning that it must have been applied to more than 50 separate articles which altogether do not constitute a single article or articles manufactured and duplicated in a number of lengths and pieces, except handmade articles.
The Industrial Designs Order came into force in 2000 and provides for the registration of new industrial designs or the visual appearance of products. BruIPO administers a registration system based on formalities examination only and does not conduct prior art searches.
To be registered, an industrial design must be new at the filing date of the application. An industrial design is new if it has not been registered, published, used or sold in Brunei or elsewhere before the date on which the application for registration was lodged. Once accepted for registration, the industrial designs will be published in the Industrial Designs Journal and a certificate of registration will be issued to the applicant.
Registration is for an initial period of five years and extendable for two periods of five years each, totalling a maximum of 15 years subject to the payment of a renewal fee at the end of the fifth year.
According to the BruIPO website, a trademark means any perceptible sign capable of being represented graphically which is capable of distinguishing goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings. A trademark may, in particular, consist of words (including personal names), designs, letters, numerals, or the shape of goods or their packaging.
Since 2017, Brunei has been accepting registrations for non-traditional marks: smell, sound and taste – so long as an applicant can visually represent the product’s mark in writing.
The website notes that while not compulsory, there are advantages to register a trademark. A registered trademark owner can get exclusive legal rights to use, sell, or license their trademark and can stop others from using their trademarks without their permission.
Protection of a trademark begins on the date on which the application for its registration was filed and it is initially protected for 10 years. This may be renewed indefinitely subject to the payment of a renewal fee.
Protection is only territorial. A trademark registered with BruIPO is only protected in Brunei. However, Brunei acceded to the Madrid Protocol in October 2016. This means that any local applicant wishing to protect their trademark overseas can do so via the Madrid System, subject to a fee.
A plant variety is defined as a plant group within a single botanical taxon of the lowest rank. The BruIPO website states that this protection system provides an incentive for private research and development into new breeding techniques. It also encourages the development of new and beneficial plant varieties for use by farmers and consumers and furthers the society’s development of agriculture, horticulture and forestry.
The protection will also allow plant breeders to gain an exclusive right to produce for sale and sell propagating material of the plant variety and can prevent others from using the variety without their permission. A plant variety is given a term of protection of up to 25 years, subject to the payment of annual renewal fees. In order to be eligible for protection in Brunei, a plant variety has to meet the following set of requirements under the law:
• The variety must be novel (new) and thus have not been sold or disposed of without the consent of the breeder.
• The variety must be distinct, meaning that it is clearly distinguishable from any other variety whose existence is a matter of common knowledge at the time of the filing of the application.
• The variety must be uniform in its relevant characteristics.
• The variety must be stable, meaning that the relevant characteristics must remain unchanged after repeated propagation.
All plant genera and species are protectable under the Plant Varieties Protection Order, 2015. As protection is territorial, a plant variety registered with BruIPO is only protected in Brunei. Therefore, applicants will need to file directly at the foreign Intellectual Property Office of the jurisdiction where they intend to protect their plant variety.
On March 27, 2018, the heads of ASEAN intellectual property offices – including from Brunei – and the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC).
The agreement was for the establishment of an institutional framework for structured cooperation towards promoting the development of IP systems of the parties as well as strengthening bilateral exchange and cooperation in the field of intellectual property.
The MoC was the result of discussions between the KIPO and the ASEAN Working Group on Intellectual Property Cooperation (AWGIPC) on ASEAN IP Rights Action Plan 2016-2025.
It is designed to meet the goals of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by transforming ASEAN into an innovative and competitive region through the use of intellectual property and ensuring that the region remains an active player in the international IP community.
The ARISE+IPR project was launched on March 30, 2017 as its 1st Sub-Project Steering Committee Meeting held at the Design and Technology Building in Anggerek Desa.
The project sees the European Union (EU) partnering with ASEAN member countries to further regional integration through enhanced management, protection and enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), a press release from the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) explained.
Funded by the EU, the EUR5.5 million ARISE+IPR programme is being implemented by EUIPO, an EU agency based in Alicante, Spain.
Through close cooperation with ASEAN member countries and the private sector in the next five years, the project aims to create a robust IPR system by supporting the ASEAN Intellectual Property (IP) offices to deliver timely, quality and accessible trademark and design services to users.
It also aims to enhance the ASEAN Economic Community by developing platforms and creating infrastructures; extending the ASEAN IP Networks and their engagement; creating a regional mechanism to promote asset creation and commercialisation, focussing particularly on Geographical Indications (GI); and highlighting the importance of IP for national economies and businesses.
During the opening ceremony of the 55th Meeting of the ASEAN Working Group on Intellectual Property Cooperation (AWGIPC) and Related Meetings at the International Convention Centre in Berakas on March 27, 2018, it was highlighted in a speech that the last few years, particularly 2016 and 2017, have been very significant for Brunei in terms of progress made to strengthen its Intellectual Property system.
In 2016, Brunei acceded to the Madrid Protocol for the International Registration of Marks, which entered into force in January 2017.
The BruIPO also signed a Statement of Intent with the Japan Patent Office in 2017 for a new patent examination cooperation initiative.
On August 28, 2017, the BruIPO signed an agreement with the Japan Patent Office (JPO) to kick-start a new patent examination cooperation initiative called the Patent Prosecution Highway Plus (PPH+).
The PPH+ is a patent examination cooperation worksharing initiative by the JPO that aims to accelerate the examination process for corresponding patent applications from Japan and those filed in participating intellectual property offices.
Under the PPH+ arrangement, each participating patent office will benefit from the work previously done by the other patent office, with the goal of reducing examination workload and improving patent quality.
BruIPO signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) with JPO on May 24, 2015 to enhance cooperation in the field of industrial property, namely trademarks, patents and industrial designs. Within the ambit of the MoC, JPO has supported BruIPO in developing its capacity through the training and dispatch of experts, as well as through the compilation of formality examination guidelines for patents.
On August 29, 2017, BruIPO signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a referral arrangement to conduct substantive searching and examination of patents with the Danish Patent and Trademark Office (DKPTO).
The DKPTO has been acting as BruIPO’s examiner since the implementation of the indigenous patent system in Brunei in 2012, and the MoU signified the continuation of collaborative efforts between the two offices in the area of patents for a further five years.
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