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.