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Exceptions to novelty: grace period

Learned society

3.100 A learned society includes any club or association constituted in Singapore or elsewhere whose main object is the promotion of any branch of learning or science (Section 14(5)). This suggests that a “learned society” includes any body of persons seeking to promote and organize the development of specific subjects, usually by the provision of a forum for the exchange and discussion of ideas and the dissemination of information, usually through the publication of its proceedings. However, some caution should be exercised in how this provision is applied. For example a meeting organized by a government department, university department or company may in some instances not constitute a learned society. On the other hand a conference organized by the Royal Society of Chemistry or IEEE would generally be considered a learned society.

3.101 In Ralph M. Parsons Co (Beavon’s) Application [1978] FSR 226, it was considered that learned societies would disseminate the relevant learning without consideration of economic gain. Thus, a learned society would normally be a non commercial body of persons, and is not typically associated with commercial exploitation. For a publication to be regarded as a “transaction” of a learned society, it has to be published under the auspices of and finally be the responsibility of the learned society. Therefore, a publication that occurs via a third party, such as a reporter, who is present at the conference, would not be regarded as a publication by the society.

3.102 In Western Minerals Technology Pty Ltd v Western Mining Corporation Limited [2001] APO 32, a conference organized by the Camborne School of Mines (CSM) was considered to be a conference organized by “an institution of higher learning, conducting teaching and research at the undergraduate and postgraduate level”. CSM was not regarded as a learned society as there was no evidence that it was “a society made up of persons seeking to promote and organize the study of specific subjects by the provision of a forum for discussion and a means of contact for those of a common interest”. The participants at the conference, which might comprise highly learned individuals, were not a consideration for the case. The Delegate considered the participants to represent an ad hoc group – “a wide range of people, for example from academia, research institutes, industry and consultancy” who had responded to “notices placed in international journals and the like”. The publication of the conference proceedings in the journal Minerals Engineering Vol. 4, Nos.7 11, 1991, entitled Special Issue Material Engineering ’91 was also clearly not by a learned society, but by Pergamon Press Plc, a publishing company.