We came across this message on a Singapore-based Telegram group:
The author of the message claims that the SPF is paid by pharmaceutical companies (‘Big Pharma’) and thus arrests anyone who has been reported to have infringed on ‘Big Pharma’s’ trade marks.
While the abbreviations are not specified, the context suggests that the author is referring to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) and Singapore Police Force (SPF).
It is uncertain where the author got their information from, but it does seem to be in line with the conspiracy theory that ‘Big Pharma’, made up of pharmaceutical companies, regulators, politicians and others, are “secretly working in consort against the public interest”.
Who funds the SPF and do they act on behalf of Big Pharma?
When we reached out to SPF for comment, they shared that they are “unable to comment on this matter as of this juncture”. However, given that there is no evidence that it is funded by pharmaceutical companies, we rate the claim as likely false.
As for whether or not SPF can “arrest anyone reported to infringe on Big Pharma’s trade marks”, we have to look at trade mark law in Singapore.
According to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), trade marks, typically a sign that can be used to distinguish one’s business’ goods or services from those of other traders, will enable the trade mark owner to “enjoy a monopoly over its use”. Once a trade mark is registered in Singapore, it will be protected for 10 years from the date of filing.
- Counterfeiting a trade mark – Fine not exceeding $100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to both
- Falsely applying a registered trade mark to goods or services – Fine not exceeding $100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to both
- Making or possessing of article for committing offence – Fine not exceeding $100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to both
- Importing or selling, etc., goods with falsely applied trade mark – Fine not exceeding $10,000 for each goods or thing to which the trade mark is falsely applied (but not exceeding in the aggregate $100,000) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to both
- Falsification of register, etc. – Fine not exceeding $50,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to both
- Falsely representing trade mark as registered – Fine not exceeding $10,000
- Representation on trade marks of Arms or Flags prohibited, etc. – Fine not exceeding $50,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to both, and shall forfeit to the Government any goods or things to which the trade mark bearing the prohibited representation is applied
The Act also notes that any police officer may arrest without warrant any person who, in any street or public place — (a) sells or offers or exposes for sale; or (b) has, or is reasonably suspected of having, in the person’s possession for the purpose of trade or manufacture, any goods to which a registered trade mark is falsely applied.
It is important to note that this applies to any person who has infringed a trade mark registered by any individual or organisation, not just ‘Big Pharma’. While it is true that police officers can arrest anyone who has infringed on another individual or organisation’s trade marks, it is not exclusive to trade marks registered by ‘Big Pharma’.
However, the insinuation that SPF is motivated to act on these cases due to their alleged links with ‘Big Pharma’ is false.