Singapore app developer withdraws patent suit against defense ministry

MobileStats Technologies, which developed an emergency mobile clinic app, has dropped its lawsuit against Singapore's Ministry of Defence due to the lack of funds.

A Singapore-based app developer has decided to withdraw its patent lawsuit against the country's Ministry of Defence (Mindef), citing a lack of funds.

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MobileStats Technologies developed an emergency mobile clinic app, called Mobile First Aid Post, and was awarded a patent for it by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) as well as the United States, which lists the company's two directors Ting Choon Meng and Mak Koon Hou as its inventors. 

The two doctors first filed the copyright infringement suit in February 2013, alleging Mindef's contractor Syntech Engineers had produced a similar app without proper licensing from MobileStats. The ministry denied the charges, arguing that the invention was not new and contained "no inventive step".

Citing MobileStats' director, Ting Choon Meng, local newspaper The Business Times reported: "We are discontinuing the suit because of financial reasons. Our patent rights in Singapore are revoked because we're not able to fight the case anymore. Settlement negotiations over the past three months have failed. We are unable to afford this war of attrition.

"How am I going to be able to carry out the mandate to help make Singapore an intellectual property global hub in clear conscience, when our own IP rights cannot be protected?"

- Ting Choon Meng, MobileStats Technologies

"I'm not a bottomless pit. It's very intimidating. [Mindef has] 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," Ting said. 

He added that the company's patent rights in seven other countries were still valid. The general practitioner and CEO of HealthStats International, ironically, is also a board member on IPOS. 

In defending its case, Mindef had argued that the patent granted to MobileStats was invalid and should be revoked. To which, Ting said in The Business Times report: "IPOS had granted the patent to us, but Mindef was trying to revoke it. Are they saying something is wrong with IPOS' decision?"

Revealing his intent to remove himself from the IPOS board, he lamented: "How am I going to be able to carry out the mandate to help make Singapore an IP (intellectual property) global hub in clear conscience, when our own IP rights cannot be protected?"

The Singapore government in April 2013 unveiled a 10-year masterplan to position the country as Asia's IP hub . The Ministry of Law said then: "Singapore's development as a global IP hub in Asia will create high-value job opportunities for Singaporeans, and generate benefits for the legal and IP service sectors, as well as IP owner."

Among its various initiatives, the government said it would introduce an IP financing scheme with which it partially underwrites the value of patents used as collateral in event of default. This was aimed at encouraging banks to recognize IP as an asset class, build IP financing capabilities among local financial institutions, and allow IP-rich companies to raise capital more easily using their patent assets.

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