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October 18, 2014

We welcome you to Arielle Law Corporation's newsletter! Every month, we highlight legal issues that may be of interest to you. Please do not hesitate to contact us at should you need any legal advice.  We hope you find our newsletter useful. 
- Koh C-u Pinn, Arielle Law Corporation

What Businesses Need to Know about Data Protection (Part 1)

Does your business possess personal data?

Chances are that your business controls or has access to some form of personal data. Names, IC numbers, email addresses, residential addresses, and photographs of clients, customers and employees can all be considered personal data.

The Personal Data Protection Act (the “Act”), which came into effect on 2nd July 2014, sets out the law for an organisation’s treatment of such data. The compliance obligations can be broadly separated into two branches: personal data protection and obligations under the Do-Not-Call registry. Businesses that fail to comply face the possibility of fines.

In this first part of a series on the Act, we explain the personal data that falls under the data protection provisions of the Act. In subsequent parts, we will discuss the obligations of personal data protection and the practical steps you should take to comply with the Act.

What is “personal data”?

Personal data is data about an individual who can be identified from that data, or from a combination of data that the organisation is likely to have access to.

For example, a residential address on its own relates to a place, and it is not apparent who is staying there. It is data but not personal data. However, if the residential address is associated with an identifiable individual, then it is that individual’s personal data and falls under the protection of the Act. Even generic information such as age and gender can be personal data, if it can be combined with other information to identify and individual.

Identifying an individual does not necessarily mean that the individual has to be named. An individual can be identified if that individual can be singled out from other individuals by the organisation based on one or more characteristics of the data. A photograph of the individual, an NRIC number, a thumbprint, a personal email address or other pieces of information can constitute identification of the individual.  
An exception to personal data provisions is business contact information. Data protection obligations do not apply to business contact information, which is information that is not provided for personal purposes. For example, in most cases, information from business name cards will be considered business contact information.

In next month's Part 2, we will explain the obligations of personal data protection. 

Geographical Indications : Current law and upcoming changes

Current Law  

The term Geographical Indication (“GI”) is a sign that signifies where goods bearing the sign originate from. An example is “Bordeaux”, which when found on a wine, indicates a region in France that the wine came from. A GI informs the consumer of the origin of the product and represents that it enjoys the special quality or reputation associated with that origin. Because of the protection afforded to GIs, a Singapore wine-maker is liable to be sued if it represents its wine as Bordeaux wine. 
Geographical indications are protected under the Geographical Indications Act. This protection is separate from that given to trademarks, thus GIs may also be eligible for trademark registration. Currently, no registration is required to enjoy protection under this Act. Protection is automatically accorded to GIs of any country which is a member of the World Trade Organisation, a party to the Paris Convention, or a country designated by the Singapore Government as a qualifying country. The GI must also be protected in its country of origin.

The protection means that a GI cannot be used in a misleading manner which suggests that a good originates from a geographical area other than the true place of origin. Wines and spirits enjoy enhanced protection, in that they may not be used on products even if consumers are not misled as to the products’ true geographical origin.

Upcoming Changes

On 14 April this year, Parliament passed the enhanced Geographical Indications Act, which sets out a registration system for GIs. Several categories of goods, such as cheese, wines, seafood, meat, and flowers will be eligible for registration.  The registration system has three steps: application for the GI by setting out unique characteristics of the goods attributable to the geographical origin, examination of the GI for these characteristics, and allowing for a period of time for third parties to object to the registration. Registration of a GI will last for 10 years initially, and is renewable. Under the new system, registered GIs of the different categories will enjoy the same enhanced protection that is currently enjoyed by wines and spirits.

The enhanced Geographical Indications Act is not yet in force. The registration system will only be implemented when the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUFSTA) has been ratified by the European Parliament, and the enhanced protection for registered GIs will only take effect when the benefits of the EUFSTA commence.

Employment Law Update: Constructive Dismissal and Breach of Implied Mutual Trust and Confidence

This update originates from the recent Court of Appeal decision on Wee Kim San Lawrence Bernard v Robinson & Co (Singapore) Pte Ltd.

Facts of the case

Mr Bernard Wee had worked as a senior manager in Robinsons for six years. When he resigned in August 2012, Robinsons paid him four months’ salary in lieu of notice and cash for his unused annual leave. 

After resigning, Mr Wee sued his former company, Robinsons. He alleged that he had resigned not as a matter of choice, but because he had been unfairly harassed and persecuted by his superior for his homosexuality. Examples alleged included humiliating him in front of his colleagues during meetings on several occasions, and disparaging his work by asking him if a customer compliment had been orchestrated by him, specifically asking if the customer was Mr Wee’s auntie. 

As a result, Mr Wee sought damages for constructive dismissal. A constructive dismissal is where the employer has effectively terminated the contract by showing that it no longer intends to be bound by the contract, and this is accepted by the employee who resigns.
Mr Wee also argued, based on the same facts, that there was a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence in the employment contract. This implied term is understood to mean that the employer shall not, without reasonable and proper cause, conduct itself in a manner calculated and likely to destroy or seriously damage the relationship of mutual trust and confidence between employer and employee. 

The Decision

The Court of Appeal rejected Mr Wee’s claim for damages beyond the amount of salary payable for his contractual notice period. 

It held that for cases of constructive dismissal, the damages claimed would be limited to the amount payable in lieu of notice had the employer terminated the contract lawfully. This is because the only loss suffered is from the premature termination of the employment contract.

In contrast, where there is a breach of implied trust and confidence, there may be other types of losses suffered other than the financial loss from the premature termination of the contract. For example, the breach may have affected the employee’s future employment prospects causing a loss of opportunity, or it may have caused financial loss flowing from psychiatric illness or trauma. In such cases, the heads of damages claimed is not limited to the premature termination of the employment contract.

In the current case, the claim was only for financial loss arising from the premature termination of the employment with the company, hence Mr Wee was only entitled to premature termination losses, which is the mount of salary payable for his contractual notice period.
Koh C-u Pinn is a director at Arielle Law Corporation, a boutique law firm that provides individualized services tailored specifically to your needs. 

Simply email us at, or give us a call at (+65) 6818-9785 to chat with us about your needs. We are always happy to discuss what works best for you, whether over email, the phone, or a freshly brewed cup of coffee.
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