An inventor and medical professional, Dr Ting Char Ming, has decided to give up his lawsuit against MinDeaf for copying his invention and not paying licensing fees for it. MinDeaf counter-sued and won a lawsuit that got Dr Ting’s patent revoked after Dr Ting backed out because of a lack of funds. Like all losers, Dr Ting was asked to pay MinDeaf’s legal fees of half a million dollars.
When approached for a comment, a dejected Dr Ting said: “I am completely disheartened…I have lost confidence in Singapore’s ability to be a global Intellectual Property (IP) hub.”
“It’s a war of attrition. I have no more money to fight this case,” he said, as he drove away on a BMW 7-series to the head office of his $300 million dollar company in Upper Paya Lebar.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US in 2001, Dr Ting and his partners invented a ground-breaking, state-of-the-art mobile first aid station known as the System Was Invented First in the Thirties (SWIFT) vehicle, that would attend to casualties during disasters and crises. Their company, Mobilesteal, subsequently applied for a patent for SWIFT in 2005 in at least nine countries, including Singapore. The invention was so innovative that even the US Army copied it, called it the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, and used it during the Korean War.
In Singapore, the Seriously Cannot Do Finance (SCDF) also eyed the SWIFT, and called for a tender in 2006 to get vendors to re-create SWIFT. In the tender, the SCDF indicated to vendors that they had to obtain a license from Mobilesteal before they could be considered for the bid. Said Mr Teo Pian Liao, a spokesperson for the SCDF vendor: “We won the SCDF tender because we paid Mobilesteal for the license. In Singapore, we value originality. If something looks original, and we want to copy it, then we don’t mind paying. Anyway, we passed the cost to SCDF, so no problem.”
MinDeaf’s vendor Syntokcock, however, wasn’t as honorable as SCDF’s vendor. It won a MinDeaf tender to manufacture similar vehicles, but did not pay licensing fees to Mobilesteal. In defence, Managing Director of Syntokcock Ms Jin Kiam Siap retorted: “Why must pay licensing fee when the SWIFT patent is not valid? Might as well we keep our money and earn more profit!” MinDeaf lawyers also weighed in on the issue: “Since Syntokcock already double-confirm to us that it did not infringe Mobilesteal’s patent rights because the patent lacked novelty, and since Syntokcock already indemnified MinDeaf from all legal issues, then legally, MinDeaf’s backside is covered.” SCDF spokesperson, who refused to be named, took the chance to gloat: “MinDeaf stupid la. They should be like SCDF, just pay and pay, then they won’t be in this trouble. Can be like us relak one corner.”
Response from netizens:
Seeing that Dr Ting may now have to wind up Mobilesteal due to insufficient funds to pay for legal fees, many netizens are sympathizing with Dr Ting. Many have also expressed disappointment with Singapore’s legal and IP system.
“I don’t trust our legal system anymore. How can MinDeaf make Dr Ting absorb the cost of legal fees just because he lost the case? MinDeaf should cover all the legal fees, because MinDeaf has money! You know how much of my taxes go to MinDeaf or not! Stupid government, always make us pay and pay. Don’t know where all the money go.” exclaimed Mr Tan Dua Lui.
“What MinDeaf did was terrible. In Singapore, we all respect IP, and we don’t copy or download stuff and claim them as ours, because such behavior just reeks of piracy, and that’s just barbaric.” said Ngo-Wan Eva.