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Attempt to patent an architectural design in Singapore

A former Country Club manager has attempted to patent his concept of high-rise gardens in apartment blocks in Singapore. His ‘garden house in the sky’ concept, submitted to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos) earlier this year, has come against much criticism as many industry experts are of the view that the patent will not be granted.

Mr. Lim Tong Kay’s aim is to replicate the foliage found at ground level by stacking gardens, accessible to the general public, on different levels of housing blocks. The space of each of the gardens would be about two storeys high and the reason for this is to allow for additional surface area and extra light for the trees and plants.

Mr. Lim’s reason for this patent attempt was to ‘document something which is useful’ and so ‘encourage other people to look at patents closely and look into developing the sky terrace concept’. Sky terraces serve the purpose of providing communal spaces and greenery in the sky for medium or high rise buildings. They are also building features that add aesthetic interest to the building articulation and design. With ownership registration of his concept, Mr. Lim hopes to collaborate with developers, architects and consultants ‘to advance this concept worldwide’.

The most crucial check, it would seem for this application, would be the concept’s originality. A decision from Ipos, which has only granted 28 patents related to building designs since 2004, may take about 2 years. An architect from MKPL Architects has argued that it is impossible for architectural designs to be patented and that is because all the designs have evolved from previous ideas, thereby eviscerating the claim of originality. This is further proven by the fact that various elements of Mr. Lim’s concept can already be found in existing projects taking place in Singapore.

Intellectual Property experts, on the other hand, claim that this patent is technically possible, as Singapore laws do not prevent anything from being patented as long as it does not cause offensive, immoral or anti-social behavior. So long as the product is new, inventive and can be applied industrially. Although this is a rare occurrence, patents for architectural concepts are existent in places such as the USA. On the other hand other countries, such as Great Britain, do not grant patents for musical or artistic work, which may include architectural concepts.