Young Upstarts

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Do You Understand Your Intellectual Property Rights?

Many Singaporean entrepreneurs unfortunately do not, according to Mr. Ting Choon Meng, CEO of Healthstats International and inventor of BPro watch. So how should entrepreneurs approach intellectual property?

Mr. Ting contributed his views on intellectual property (IP) in an article to the Straits Times, 6 January 2007 entitled “Banking on those winning ideas”.  He wrote that “ideas are a natural resource, which needs to be exploited early and fast enough for the market, while also being protected”.  Mr Ting also commented that unfortunately “the concept of IP in Singapore is still in its infancy, even though we have been at it for a long time”. Mr. Ting claimed that there is no shortage of ideas in Singapore, but warned that “whatever we can do, China and India can do them better, faster and bigger”.

Mr. Vincent Low, Regional Sales Director – Southeast Asia, Netgear, advised entrepreneurs during a recent workshop that “if you have a good idea, patent it fast.  There are probably many others who have thought of the same idea.”

In any case it is extremely important for an entrepreneur – especially one in the technology business – to understand intellectual property if they’re seeking for venture capital funding, according to Mr. Jeffrey Paine, a partner of venture capital firm Generation Origin. “They are more likely to succeed in getting funding if the idea is patented, and if the product based on the patent has traction such as in the form of signed research partnerships, pilot partners or even customers,” said Mr. Paine.

“In so saying, VCs only place a value on intellectual property only if the idea can be commercialised and easily defensible,” he added, “but even having both does not mean that a VC will fund you.”

His advice to entrepreneurs?  “Do your product first, test it out and rehash it if necessary to fine-tune it.  At the end of the day, there must be customer demand.  Once you have that traction then you protect the hell out of your IP.”

According to Mr. Paine, intellectual property lawyers are important to educate the entrepreneur on the patent process and building a patent portfolio.

For more information on patents and intellectual property issues, you can visit the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS).

Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.

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