Do deep pockets win IP lawsuits?

Mobilestats Technologies is dropping their patent lawsuit against MINDEF, citing a lack of funds. Dr Mak Koon Hou and Dr Ting Choon Meng claimed that their vehicular “Station With Immediate First-Aid Treatment” was copied by MINDEF vendor Syntech Engineers. Dr Ting is director of Mobilestats.

According to reports, the patent for the mobile first-aid station had been filed in 2001, and was awarded by IPOS. SCDF paid Mobilestats royalties for using the invention and rolled out its vehicles in 2004. MINDEF had apparently approached Mobilestats about the patent as well, but nothing came of that discussion.

MINDEF moved to revoke the patent following the lawsuit, claiming that the invention contained “no inventive step” and was “not capable of industrial application”.

Said Dr Ting of the dropped suit, “I’m not a bottomless pit. It’s very intimidating. They (MINDEF) have three sets of lawyers. For my case, only Dr. Mak and myself are funding MobileStats’ legal costs. If they want to chase us for costs, the company may have to wind up.”

So it seems that in Singapore, a patent is not worth much at all if you don’t have the finances to fight for it in court. Depending on the duration and complexity of the case, many companies could find themselves incapable of defending their own patents if someone with deeper pockets decided to copy them.

Having been 10 years in the creative industry, I’ve had my fair share of ideas stolen from me. Sometimes it’s hard to prove, like when a potential client you pitched a concept to selects another agency and runs with that exact same line of copy you wrote. Sometimes it’s blatant, when another site steals your article wholesale and makes money off advertising.

It’s hard to protect creative ideas. It’s barely worth applying for any form of formal protection and you usually just let the perpetrators get away with it and move on. You do so especially because you know you can’t afford to fight the good fight: financially, that is.

The horrible irony of the whole thing is that Dr Ting also sits on the board of IPOS, and will be resigning that position, following his failure to defend his own patent.



  1. I know what you mean. It sucks to develop a great idea and then have it stolen and sold by someone else. I’ve been following this case a little cos’ of my interest in transformable mobile spaces and while it may seem unfair to Mobilestats on the surface, I’m really not too sure about their patent claim. Just google “Mobile Hospital” and check out the slew of similar “inventions”. To be even more drama, go to youtube and search for US Army mobile hospital. This concept existed way back. I’d say Dr Mak and Dr Ting didn’t back down cos’ of money issues, but because they didn’t exactly invent this thing and they’re cutting back on losses, knowing they’re gonna lose eventually. They probably copied the design and threw in a few changes to try justify for a patent.



      Hi Samantha, this is an interview done by a third party media regarding this case. If you said that the patent holds no water, then why did Mindef force Dr Ting to give the patent rights for the other countries to Mindef? These patents worth something and Mindef is pulling out the grass from its roots. They are leaving no stones unturned.

      We do not know the details of the patent. Maybe Dr Ting patented for the technology on way the mobile hospital unfolds? Maybe his mobile hospital is faster and easier to setup? There are many issues to look into.

      Let me tell you, the patent will not be valid only in Singapore. That is because everything from the legal system to the organisation that was being sued is on the same side.


      1. Yes Daniel, from the first meeting the Mindef officer already said, I will be talking directly to the SCDF directly, he is saying you don’t tell me what I can or cannot do. If what Samantha said is true, why not copy other models? Why you as Mindef, the protector of Singapore citizens, lay the person you sworn to protect (SAF 7 core values) on the chopping board. I want to say is that Mindef didn’t win as there was no out come.

        Dr Ting was even ready to forget the past and let everything go. So long in future, all future contracts will go to him. He did not ask for money, he asked for what is fair to him. Look at Mindef’s claims, simply outrageous.

        Mindef may have won the battle, but eventually, it is Singapore that will pay the price and loose the war (Global IP hub my foot).

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