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Unity of Invention

Approach for determining lack of unity in Singapore

6.6 Most cases under examination in Singapore are national phase filings based on PCT applications. The applicant often requests examination be conducted based on the International Search Report. Given that PCT practice in relation to unity will have been followed, generally the determination provided by the ISA should be directly applicable in Singapore.

6.7 The Singapore Examiner is not bound to follow the ISR, and may disagree with the determination made by the International Examiner (that is, if the ISR raises a lack of unity the Examiner may decide to follow the objection in full, to follow in part or with different reasoning, or to differ). However, the ensuing should be followed:

a) A lack of unity should only be raised in the clearest cases when it has not been raised in the ISR or foreign search.

(b) Any objection of lack of unity should follow the guidance provided in the PCT Guidelines and provide sufficient detail for the applicant to fully understand the basis of the objection.

(c) Lack of unity is preferably raised a priori (Section C and sub-section i of Section D in this Chapter).

6.8 The following should be followed when considering a posteriori lack of unity:

(a) Lack of unity is not to be raised where the common feature is clearly novel and inventive.

(b) Lack of unity a posteriori is most likely to be a consideration where the common feature is well known. This is likely to be where the common feature is disclosed in a manner that suggests it is part of the common general knowledge of the person skilled in the art.

(c) Lack of unity may be raised if a feature is not well known, but rather is disclosed in a document that constitutes public knowledge – such as a single journal article or patent document. Lack of unity should not be raised where a document provides only a generic disclosure of the common feature. In these cases the common feature is not “known” as such.

(d) Generally, lack of unity should not be raised where the features are obvious in view of a combination of documents.

6.9 Notably, the PCT Guidelines set out two extremes – situations where the common feature is well known and unity is clearly lacking, and those where there is a novel and inventive feature in common and unity is clearly evident. Between these, the situation is less clear, and rigid rules cannot be applied. Each case should be considered on its merits with the benefit of any doubt being given to the applicant.

6.10 Other guidance as to the level of detail required and the manner in which the inventions are broken down should follow the PCT Guidelines. However, further guidance is given in the sections that follow.