Supreme Court of Singapore adds Appellate Division for hearing of civil appeals

19 January 2021

Supreme Court of Singapore adds Appellate Division for hearing of civil appeals

The Supreme Court of Singapore has a new Appellate Division in addition to the General Division. This change took effect on January 2, 2021 amid a growing number of appeals being made to the Court of Appeal.

The new Appellate Division will hear civil appeals on High Court cases heard by the General Division. These include civil appeals in connection with intellectual property, except patents. However, specific categories of appeals will still go directly to the Court of Appeal for hearing.

If a civil appeal is heard by the Appellate Division, parties to the case may further appeal the decision of the Appellate Division to the Court of Appeal if the appeal raises a point of law of public importance.

“We will have to wait for more guidance from the Court of Appeal as to what constitutes public importance. What we do know, based on the parliamentary debates, is that circumstances in which leave may be granted are intended to be narrow,” said Tony Yeo, managing director for IP at Drew & Napier in Singapore.

However, Yeo said the addition of the Appellate Court does provide an additional layer of appeal for IP cases.

According to an article in The Straits Times, Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong said in a Facebook post: “In the past five years, the number of cases received by the Court of Appeal has increased significantly – by more than 50 percent, with cases getting more complex by virtue of the world we live in today.”

Not only has their firm been receiving more inquiries about IP rights protection and infringement remedies, Yeo said, but IP-related cases are indeed also becoming more complex.

“This is a natural consequence given that technology has advanced at a rapid rate in recent years across all industries,” he explained.

Citing Brexit, Covid 19 and political developments in the US, Yeo added that such global events have seriously affected business operations, people’s livelihoods and the world economy.

“Against the backdrop of an increasingly globalized yet fractured world, we are living in abnormal times where the central theme appears to be rapid advancement in technology coupled with enormous uncertainty and disruption. Viewed against this backdrop, the addition of the Appellate Division and the Intellectual Property (Dispute Resolution) Act 2019 provide a clear roadmap to navigate the difficulties faced in the modern technological world. With every crisis, new opportunities are also presented, and these developments will certainly help boost the promise of Singapore as a premier IP dispute resolution hub,” Yeo explained.

Meanwhile, appeals on cases involving patent matters shall still be made directly to the Court of Appeal.

“While this means that patent cases will only have one final round of appeal, the grounds for appeal will nevertheless be heavily scrutinized by the Court of Appeal judges,” said Yeo. “In fact, this suggests that the Court of Appeal accords a higher degree of importance to patent cases, which is likely because of the complexity and technical nature of patent cases.”


Espie Angelica A. de Leon

Law firms

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