Thursday, July 23, 2009

E-Learning Content on IP

Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), the Korea Invention Promotion Association (KIPA), and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has joined forces to create an e-learning content on IP. The program, called IP PANORAMA helps SMEs to utilize and manage Intellectual Property (IP) in their business strategy. Topics covered include invention and patent, patent information and trademarks arranged in the following chapters:

1. Importance of IP for SMEs
2. Trademarks and Industrial Designs
3. Invention and Patent
4. Trade Secrets
5. Copyright and related rights
6. Patent Information
7. Technology Licensing in a strategic partnership
8. IP in the Digital Economy
9. IP and International Trade
10. IP Audit
11. Valuation of IP Assets
12. Trademark Licensing

We recommend all inventors and researchers to understand chapter 3 and 6.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Plant Varieties Act 2004

Malaysia is blessed with agriculture produce. Research is being carried out to increase the yield of agriculture produce. It is timely that New Plant Varieties Act be introduced in Malaysia to protect new plant varieties from such research.

The New Plant Varieties Act has been gazetted on 20th October 2008. Following this, the Plant Varieties Protection office will begin accepting applications for registration as from 1st November 2008.

A plant variety shall be registered as a new plant variety and granted a breeder's right if the plant variety is new, distinct, uniform and stable. On the other hand, if the plant variety is bred, or discovered and developed by a farmer, local community or indigenous people, the plant variety may be registered as a new plant variety and granted a breeder's right if the plant variety is new, distinct and identifiable.

1) The plant variety is new if on the filing date of the application for registration and grant of a breeder's right, the propagating or harvested material of the plant variety has not been sold or otherwise disposed of on a commercial basis by or with the consent of the breeder.

2) The plant variety is distinct if it is clearly distinguishable from any other plant variety, the existence of which is a matter of common knowledge.

3) The plant variety is uniform if, subject to the variation that may be expected from the particular features of its propagation, it is sufficiently uniform in its relevant characteristics.

4) The plant variety is stable if its relevant characteristics remain unchanged after repeated propagation or, in the case of a particular cycle of propagation, at the end of each particular cycle.

5) The plant variety is identifiable if it can be distinguished from any other plant grouping by the expression of one characteristic and that characteristic is identifiable within individual plants or within and across a group of plants; and such characteristics can be identified by any person skilled in the relevant art.

The grant of breeders right shall subsist for a period of twenty years for a registered plant variety that is new, distinct, uniform and stable or fifteen years for a registered plant variety that is new, distinct and identifiable. For trees or vines, the protection period is twenty five years.

This Act is similar as Copyright Act as it prevents a breeder for producing (copying) a protected plant variety. It is adapted from the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, UPOV.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Biotechnological Inventions

The production of wine or beer involves processes using living organisms. It is regarded as one of the earliest biotechnology invention.

Our patent act excludes plant or animal varieties to be patentable. Biological processes for the production of plants or animals are also not patentable. However, man made living microorganisms, microbiological processes and the products of such microorganism processes could be patentable.

In genetic engineering, scientists develop biological processes to modify the genetic composition of living organisms. A microorganism created by Chakrabarty were able to break down components of oil pollution in oceans and rivers. These microorganisms was the subject of a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court, in which modified microorganisms were recognized as patentable subject matter.

Other than solving the problems of environment, genetic engineering process may also be used in the modification of microorganisms for the production of new medicines. It may also lead to new opportunities for obtaining food and energy.

The Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the Purposes of Patent Procedure, facilitates the processing of biotechnology inventions where protection is sought in various countries. A list of International Depository Authorities are also available.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Phison finds new growth area

NEVER in his wildest dreams did Malaysian Pua Khein-Seng expect to own one of the most successful information technology (IT) companies in Taiwan.

The 33-year old Pua is the president and one of the founders of Taiwanese pen drive maker Phison Electronics Corp, the world's number one in terms of market share for pen drives and products related to NAND flash memory.

It manufactures about 65 million to 75 million pieces of pen drive and memory controller a year and has a 35% market share globally.

Pua's success story started when he arrived in Taiwan in 1993 to further his studies in electrical control engineering in National Chiao Tung University.

“My plan was to graduate and go back to Malaysia to get a good job. To be an engineer with a salary of RM3,000 to RM4,000 per month – this was still good for 1993 standards,” he told StarBiz during a company visit in Taiwan.

However, fate had other plans for Pua who hails from Sekinchan, Selangor.

In 1997, a professor at the university offered Pua a salary of NT$5,000 per month to research and develop memory controllers for him. Pua then worked for the company after graduation.

Due to some friction in the team, Pua and some of his fellow engineers moved on to another company, a spin-off from the first.

“The original shareholders promised to invest in the spin-off company but the money never came and it closed in 2000. We decided to source funds from other investors and started Phison.

“We had no intention in the beginning to start our own company. We just wanted a place to work in,” Pua recalled.

Phison was set up in November 2000 by Pua and four engineers – a Malaysian and three Taiwanese – all from Chiao Tung University with an initial investment of US$1mil.

The name Phison was derived from the fact that five persons started the company.

Product development

Within six months, the young entrepreneurs came up with their first invention: a USB storage device called pen drive. Business began to boom and the company grew by leaps and bounds.

At last count, market capitalisation has grown to over US$700mil from about US$65mil when Phison was listed on the over-the-counter market in Taiwan in December 2004.

Despite their success, Pua and his partners – who are still involved in the company – realised that they would need to position the company strategically to weather a global slowdown due to the US subprime crisis and for continued business growth.

According to Pua, the way forward for Phison would be to focus on developing products based on NAND flash memory (electronic memory) applications.

“It will be the next big market for us from this year. We started supplying the product in a small way last year,” he said, adding that Phison was looking at manufacturing NAND flash memory for notebooks which currently used hard drives.

The hard drive usage makes them heavier, consume more power and crash easily.

“The use of NAND flash memory will reduce the weight and power consumption of the notebooks as well as make them more cost-effective to produce,” Pua said.

A NAND flash memory drive has the capability to hold and store data even when the power is off.

This makes it an excellent storage solution for many applications such as MP3 players, USB drives, removable storage cards and cell phones where mobility, power use, speed and size are the key factors.

Pua said Phison was also developing memory controllers for cell phones in collaboration with Japanese tech giant Toshiba Corp, a major shareholder of the company with some 17% stake.

Vertical integration

“We are also on the lookout for vertical integration,” he said.

“We have invested in two start-up companies – one involved in software development such as anti-virus programmes and application software for cell phones for NAND flash application and the other in semiconductor packaging. This will help add value to our products.”

Pua said Phison's investment in a 40% stake in the software company, which started one year ago, was less than US$1mil while its investment in the semiconductor packaging company was over US$10mil.

He expects the semiconductor packaging company, which started in March 2006, to be listed in the first quarter of next year.

“It is very profitable as it is supported by Phison, which owns a 25% stake in the company. The other shareholder is a US customer.

“Competition is very tough, especially with the lower cost producers in China; hence we are using vertical integration to add value to our products,” he said. - StarBiz