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Friday, 23 December 2016

Dr Mahathir Says 3D Jobs Are Good Targets for Innovation

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Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad , former prime minister of Malaysia.

A recent interview

In a recent interview, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed spoke with social media website, iMoney. The topic at hand was about spending, because Tun M (the popular short form used by Malaysians to refer to Tun Dr Mahathir) was all hot and bothered about how the country's money is being spent. A certain politician had told Tun M, "Cash is King", and it may have been this statement that rankled Tun M's increasing soreness with that certain politician (whose name shall not be mentioned).
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Friday, 11 November 2016

Donald Trump wants to protect American IP in China

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Donald Trump is now the President-Elect of the United States of America

He is not yet the President of the United States of America, but that will happen soon. Until that time, Barack Obama will be a caretaker of the government until his handover of power to Donald Trump is completed.

Congratulations Mr Trump. I never knew you had it in you. You were truly the underdog. To be honest, I thought that Mrs Clinton would win. But that's life, it throws you a curveball when you least expect it.
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Monday, 3 October 2016

Know How and Confidential Information

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They used to say, "Know who is more important than know how!"

That's because in a competitive landscape, players get advantages from their networks. Their connections and people that they can call upon become their advantage. When I joined a networking organization some years ago, they promised to turn my network into my net worth ... they believed in the power of building relationships, for business purposes.

Sometimes having the right connections can help get you the contract.
The idea of networking is, very simply, something like this. You are looking for your ideal client. Perhaps you sell pots and pans, and your ideal client would be the army, because they can buy a lot of pots and pans from you. You sit down and think... who do you know in the army? You keep scratching your head, and a few hairs fall out. Your bald patch grows bigger. And you conclude that you don't know anybody in the army. Does that mean that you have no way of selling to the army? 

Au contraire, my friend. In adversity there is opportunity. And so, you ask around. Your neighbour. Your son's schoolteacher. Your gardener. Your secretary. Your client. Do they know anybody in the army? Bit by bit, connections pop up. Somebody has an uncle who works in the nearby army base. Somebody else happens to be related to the director general of operations. And yet somebody else is an ex-classmate of an up-and-coming rising star in the army. Bit by bit, you ask for introductions, and then, when everything seems dull and uneventful, you land a deal. Congratulations on your networking skills.
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Thursday, 29 September 2016

Blackberry's Future

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Blackberry will not be making phones anymore.

Today I read that BlackBerry is shuttering its hardware side of the business. Its future will be in software development. Here are some thoughts on Blackberry's future.

Past Popularity

The mobile phone company from Canada, Blackberry, used to be the most popular business phone. When I took up my masters, many of my friends were businessmen who ran their own companies. Some of them were working for others, doing sales or management. And they all had one thing in common: They smoked.

Just kidding ... The one thing they had in common was their use of the Blackberry. It was like a club for them. In those days, I owned a cheap Android phone. They used to laugh at Android. Most of them encouraged me to pick up a BlackBerry for its "secure messaging". But then they would tell me about how there's a small bill every month where their messages would be routed through a server in Canada. I was turned off by the idea of a subscription that I could not opt out of.

But those were the days before Samsung became the world's number 1 mobile phone maker. Before iPhones were the popular thing. Because companies wanted security and performance, and the Blackberry offered that. 

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Sunday, 11 September 2016

If a fan uploads your music to YouTube

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Imagine if you were a rock star. 

You write songs, perform songs, and sing on stage. You give concerts. You go on international tours and roadshows. People really love your songs, and some of them come up to you saying, "Your song changed my life. I was going through a hard time when I heard your song ...."

The music executives love you. They want you to crank out hit after hit, year after year. And you've already gone platinum with a few of your past albums. Never mind that you had a tough life for half a decade singing incognito in nightclubs. Never mind that you scrimped and scraped with a half hungry stomach and a smile. You've made it. And the millions of adoring fans everywhere love you for it.
Imagine if you were a famous singer, and someone uploaded your music videos on YouTube.


Then one day, you see your music video on YouTube.

Whoa. Some people really love your music. But then they've decided to upload a bunch of music videos to YouTube. The general public also loves your music so much that the videos have a few hundred thousand views. And to think that it was uploaded only some months back. 
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Thursday, 8 September 2016

3 Lessons from Project Ara

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The modular pieces that could be swapped in the Project Ara mobile phone.

Google just axed Project Ara. 


Just letting you know what happens in the end. 

But first ....


The idea behind Project Ara


You might not know what Project Ara was about. So let me tell you about it. Think about your mobile phone.

Most people change mobile phone once every few years. Maybe the battery's not functioning so well anymore and they don't make the same battery any more. Maybe they want a better camera phone for selfies. More RAM for games.

But every time somebody changed a phone, an old phone would go to the landfill. It was causing an overload of electronic waste.

That was the idea that sparked Project Ara. Why change the entire phone if you could change only the part you need? Thus was born Project Ara, "the modular phone".

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Sunday, 28 August 2016

Dispute the Patent, then Short the Stock

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I was combing through WikiLeaks when I came across this article, shared in the e-mail archives of the Italian surveillance malware vendor, Hacking Team.

The Hacking Team CEO, David Vincenzetti, shared a Wall St Journal article called "New Hedge Fund Strategy: Dispute the Patent, Short the Stock" in the e-mail.

David's comment at the top of the e-mail was:
"Very Interesting. Undoubtedly, I find these hedge funds’ aggressive strategies utterly fascinating :-)"
Mr Kyle Bass's challenges are facilitated by a proprietary software which analyzes weak patents.



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Saturday, 27 August 2016

Why you need a vesting agreement from day 1

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There was a CTO who worked for free at his friend's startup.

His name was Julian Ee. He was working "freelance" for a Singapore company. Then his friend asked him to join their startup as CTO, and become a shareholder.

He didn't really "work for free", because he expected that he would be come a shareholder. The founders told him that he could join them as a shareholder.

The startup had been founded late 2015. Six months later, they only had a simple website. They had a contact form and a data dump. The "matching algorithm" was an intern who called the numbers from the contact form. That was when the original CTO (chief technology officer) left and Julian joined.


During hyperinflation, in the Weimar Republic (modern day Germany), children used to play with money like this. The little kid on the right has been left out. He's thinking, "Where's my share?" (He was told that he would get get a piece of the pie.)

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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Four lessons that lousy clients can teach us.

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We all have them: Lousy clients.

The guys who want to ask for a reduction in your quotation, and then they want another quotation. And then your quotation is still too expensive for them.

The guys who compare your quotation with the quotation of a similar professional from their country and complain that you've overcharged them. In fact, you've given them a fair rate.

The guys who want you to start work immediately, keep asking you for updates, and expect their work to be completed ASAP. All before they even pay you a single sen.

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Wednesday, 10 August 2016

How to make money from Open Source.

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Open source rules the tech startup world.

Many tech startups today are built on open source software. PHP, Ruby on Rails, Python: open source web software. Accessible to all, and free to use in any way you like. Open source software evolves like magic, online, through the wisdom of the crowds.

Many programmers contribute hours and hours of poring through the source code. Its proponents say that open source software is safer than proprietary software, because any bug can be spotted and corrected.

Occasionally, programmers "fork" software by starting their own version based on an existing version. They can do this. WordPress was built on top of an abandoned open source CMS called "b2 cafelog". Today WordPress is a multi-million dollar thing, with a huge marketplace for customization and add-ons. You may be interested to read about the license for modified GPL code.


I think that people who promote and support open source are wonderful. They are doing whatever they can do support it. 

Linux is Open Source.

I'm a big fan of Linux. You'll know that if you read my other blog about how to be stingy (i.e. save money). Read my blog posts here, here, here, here, here, and here. But why Linux?

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Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Why Acquire IP from Someone Else?

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Why not build it yourself?

Here's a bunch of reasons why you might be a fool to pass on the opportunity to acquire someone's precious intellectual property. A wise man once said, opportunity knocks, but does not wait forever. So why should you consider acquiring IP? Why shouldn't you build it yourself?


You might be a clever fellow, but....

Brainy people are a self-confident bunch. By and large, they know that they are brainy, and they base their self-confidence in that: Their intellect. Unfortunately, that might result in them looking at others who do ground-breaking research and thinking: "I could do that, too. If only I put my mind to it. And I might do it better than he does."

And so it's easy to pass off a golden opportunity, out of arrogance. Later, the brainy-but-arrogant guys kick themselves when they see it blossom into something that is too big to acquire. Think of when Yahoo could have bought Google for $1 million, and didn't take the offer.


Frank Sinatra had some good advice. Don't be afraid to acquire IP. Become knowledgeable about it, then make your decision. And if you need some advice, I'm offering.
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Sunday, 7 August 2016

How to acquire a bunch of IP from a dying company

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Why should you acquire IP?

People acquire IP to do what they like with it. The important part is that you think it's worth it and that you can get benefit out of owning the IP. If it's just an exercise in vanity, then forget about acquiring IP. But if you think you can turn the IP into money, then you can consider going all out to get IP.

Why a dying company?

Because a dying company is in dire straits, and its owners will want to raise funds as soon as possible. And because the directors may be worried shitless about getting sued for their business debts. And also because when the company is wound up, and the assets of the company are sold to raise funds, the IP may be sold at a price much, much lower than what you could offer to the company owners.

They are dying. So help them die less painfully. 

This is a great quote. But for the purposes of this article, let me say that I am only concerned with carrying away the IP from a dying company. You could make a tidy profit out of IP, if you know how.
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Tuesday, 12 July 2016

How To Invent A Musical Group

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Milli Vanilli was a successful musical group in the late 1980's whose singers did not sing. Instead, they lip synced to pre-recorded vocals, sung by others. It all went well at first, until the duo insisted on singing for real on the second Milli Vanilli album. Image Source: Gossip Brunch

The musical group as an invention

Is it really possible? Well, it is. Sometime in the late 1980s a musical duo called Milli Vanilli burst on the international pop scene. They were a good looking duo who could sing and rap. And dance! Their music was catchy and their lyrics were simple. Soon, people everywhere were singing along to their hit, "Girl You Know It's True!" 

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Sunday, 10 July 2016

Michael Jackson and the Beatles Catalogue Copyright

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Luckily, Michael Jackson was only Off The Wall. He was never Off His Rocker. And so when he received some sagely advice for free from Paul McCartney, his whole buying spree began. Its climax came when Michael managed to purchase the Beatles' entire catalogue for only $47 million.

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Saturday, 9 July 2016

Raising Funds For The IP Owner

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What IP Owners Tend To Do

IP owners think that their intellectual property is going to add great value to their company. They position their intellectual property as the "secret sauce" that will help their company succeed. Their trademarks are well recognised and their brands are successful. Their designs are unique and enduring. Their patents resolve industry needs and present a real barrier for competitors to follow suit. 

And so IP owners will focus on the IP as the "main dish" during a fundraising presentation. They might be asking for a loan. They might be trying to attract a venture capitalist to inject funds into the company. They might be seeking a government grant. Whatever it is, it involves money and they need it bad, to take their company to the next stage.

Like everything else, you need to work hard to raise funds. Once you've done that, you can boss people around.



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Friday, 8 July 2016

A Little Rivalry Can Raise Your Brand's Presence

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Stories of Rivalry Attract Fans

Think about it, you must remember some stories of brands and how they compete against each other. Avis says that they are the number 2 car rental company, so they "try harder". English football clubs and their rivalries have become a franchise with a large following, with profits coming from merchandise, tickets, appearances. (Malaysians are large fans of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, and a host of other English football clubs.)

The English Premier League has many fans around the globe. (I'm non-partisan, don't ask me who I support.)

Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier

When the great boxer Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) passed away recently, I read how he played up the "Thrilla in Manila" with Joe Frazier over numerous television appearances. Ali taunted Joe Frazier that it would be a "killa and a thrilla and a chilla, when I get that gorilla in Manila." When one observer asked him why he riled up his opponent so much, he said that it was good publicity and stadium seats would be filled. (I'll have to look for the source, but I remember reading it.) 

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Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The Fake Bomb Detector Scandal

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A Recent Explosion in Baghdad

As the holy month of Ramadhan ends, and Muslims worldwide begin to celebrate the Eid, there are communities who are grieving for their dead. Last Sunday evening, a car packed with explosives went off in the shopping district of Baghdad, Iraq. Families had gathered to break fast and to do their last minute shopping in preparation for the Eid. Young men had gathered to watch the European football matches. 

The early estimates were about 150 dead. But many of those who were critically injured eventually succumbed to their injuries. The latest death toll is now more than 200. 

After the explosion, people began to gather at the site of the explosion. The crowd could be heard accusing the Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, of corruption. The charge? The purchase of fake bomb detectors, which were nothing more than cheap, useless plastic toys. The Iraqi government had spent millions buying fake bomb detectors that could not detect explosives, and yet, had continued to use the devices even after they were known to be fake.

Eventually, the Iraqi Prime Minister directed that the fake bomb detectors be removed from checkpoints. But the fake bomb detectors had been in use for many years, suggesting that many lives had been needlessly lost.

The Guardian interviewed an Iraqi officer who said, "This should have happened a long time ago... There isn’t a person in the country who thinks they work." Another was quoted saying, "They are fakes, fakes."

Source: BBC (2014)

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Tuesday, 5 July 2016

UK Trademark Owners and Brexit

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The Brexit : Exit from EU!

Anyone living in recent times must know that the UK has gone through a referendum, and a vote has been reached. The people of UK voted "Leave", and it has caused a huge wave of anxiety all over Europe. European peoples of neighbouring states are now calling for referendums in their own countries. The British pound, and other currencies, have plummeted against the US Dollar. Businesses are now sweating over where they will run their head offices to have access to the Common Market. British banks are wondering how they can access the common market. 

The statistics show that most of those who voted "Leave" were elderly people, those in their 50s and above. Many of the young Brits wanted Britain to stay in the EU. The explanation given was that, the older folks felt constrained and controlled by EU authorities. The youngsters felt that they had much to gain by remaining in the EU, possibly by a greater freedom to pursue their careers of choice.

Trademarks are important for businesses. But the Brexit has caused UK Trademark owners great anxiety.


UK Trademark Owners Beware!

Following the Brexit, a number of articles regarding the effect of the Brexit on UK Trademark owners have been published. These articles tend to carry similar statements, which can be summarized as follows:

  1. Following the formation of the European Union, there has been a procedure for filing trademarks which are protected in all EU member states.
  2. This represents an alternative to the traditional "national registration" in which trademarks are registered in a country according to its laws.
  3. To save costs, many trademark owners opted to file their trademarks using the EU procedure.
  4. These trademark owners failed to register their trademarks using the UK "national procedure".
  5. Their trademarks were protected by the EU registration when Britain was still a member of the European Union.
  6. Following the exit of Britain from the EU (i.e. Brexit),  these trademarks will continue to be protected by EU law, but not UK law.
  7. Separate UK registration is now required for full protection of the law.

A Possible Reprieve

According to Murrell Associates, a procedure may be put in place to allow those registrants of EU trademarks to re-register their trademarks in the UK (to continue to enjoy IP protection in the UK). 
When the partition of Ireland took place in 1921, a similar decision had to be made. On this occasion, legislation was put in place permitting proprietors of existing UK trade marks to re-register their UK trade marks as Irish trade marks. The problem with this approach was that it was not an automatic process. Therefore, not only was the onus on the proprietors to ensure that they completed the re-registration, but the UK Intellectual Property Office was also put under extensive pressure to deal with the increase in registrations. (Source: Business Cornwall.)
What solution will be offered? It is an interesting question. However, being far, far away, it probably does not matter to Malaysian companies.
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Monday, 27 June 2016

Collaboration - or Why Shouldn't Non-Techies Pursue Tech?

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The Bauhaus design school that Walter Gropius founded was influential on the development of modern architecture and design. As a fun trivia, in Malay, "Bau Haus" means "burnt smell".

Gropius as Example

The German architect Walter Gropius is popularly known as the founder of the Bauhaus design academy. Born in 1883, he was the son of an architect, and, following in his father's footsteps, embarked on a career in architecture, which was briefly interrupted by a stint in the army during the First World War. 

The thing about Walter, or Gropius (depending on how you prefer to call him), was that he was not good at drawing. Normally, that would have been devastating for any aspiring architect. But both his father (Walter Adolph Gropius) and his grand-uncle (Martin Gropius) had been architects, so he must have felt obliged to be an architect. 

But he found a way by collaborating with others. He depended on others to draw for him throughout his life. While studying architecture, he obtained the services of an assistant to help him complete his work. This does not mean that Gropius was lousy as an architect. On the contrary, his works show that he was a visionary. It was only in the drawing department that he lacked the necessary skill, which he made up for through collaboration with others.


The late Steve Jobs collaborated with Steve Wozniak to create the iconic Apple II, which formed the impetus for the formation of Apple Computers.

Steve Jobs as Example

The late Steve Jobs was hailed as a visionary. He was a founder of Apple Computers alongside the tech prodigy, Steve Wozniak. The collaboration between the two Steves produced the Apple II, which was a huge commercial success and launched Apple as a serious contender in the computer industry. But it would be a mistake to assume that their first collaboration began at the Apple II. Steve Wozniak's Apple I was a precursor to their collaboration, which began with the two Steves raising funds. Steve Jobs sold his VW Microbus and Steve Wozniak sold his HP-65 calculator.

(Source: Wikipedia's entry on Apple I and Apple II)

The Lesson

In innovation, a lack of technical skill should not be a hindrance. What is needed is the vision to see the possibilities. Of course, this is not to say that no skill is required: Some skill is required to understand the underlying technology concerned. It has been said that sometimes, outsiders are able to see the possibilities much more clearly. This may be true in the case of technologies which have very little innovation. An outsider can look at it with "fresh eyes" and ask, why aren't things done in a certain way?

Remember, innovation begins when people ask, "Why not?" Never be afraid to pursue the possibility that technology can evolve in a new way.

For the non-techie, your collaboration with the technologists can happen in several ways.

First, you can vocalize your vision for the technology, which perhaps, none of the technopreneurs have done. It might be a novel conceptualization, and you may attract collaborators.

Second, you can help seek out funding for the vision that you have, by seeking partner organizations or interested sponsors. Some of them may have vested interests, but perhaps that isn't a huge concern as long as they allow you to retain the fruits of your labour. Venture capitalists only want to see returns.

Third, you can seek out those fluent in the technology, who don't seem to be getting the funding they need for research and development. If you bring the money, you can sell the idea to them. Academics need to do research anyway, and their thesis needs to propose a new hypothesis or two. So sell your idea to them, and see if they think that it's worth their time.

Fourth, just get to know the techies, and see what happens. Share with them your vision and what you want to do. But be prepared to contribute whatever you can to make things happen. Steve Jobs had to sell that VW Microbus in order to help push the Apple I forward. It was a risk which paid off.

Good luck.
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Friday, 24 June 2016

Science and Technological Progress: Supported by the Rukunegara

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The Rukunegara

For the uninitiated, the clueless, and the non-Malaysians, the Rukunegara is often described as the "ideology" of Malaysia. These days, the Rukunegara does not seem to be valued by Malaysian society. But it's part of the Malaysian ideology.

On  10th May, 1969, there were general elections in Malaysia, following which on 13th May 1969, there erupted racial riots which led to many deaths. Malaysia was torn due to racial riots, and trust between communities was eroded. In the aftermath, a document called "Rukunegara" was promulgated by the government of the day.

Further reading available at the Hansard of 5th March 1971. (The Hansard is a record of Parliamentary proceedings.)

The Rukunegara as usually found at the back of exercise books in Malaysia. Sadly, the first half is missing. ("Cita-cita tersebut") How can you deliver a message without the proper context?


The text of the Rukunegara was not recorded in the Hansard, so here it is:

The Rukunegara in Malay

BAHAWASANYA negara kita Malaysia mendukung cita-cita untuk
  • mencapai perpaduan yang lebih erat di kalangan seluruh masyarakatnya;
  • memelihara satu cara hidup demokratik;
  • mencipta masyarakat yang adil bagi kemakmuran negara yang akan dapat dinikmati bersama secara adil dan saksama;
  • menjamin satu cara yang liberal terhadap tradisi kebudayaannya yang kaya dan berbagai-bagai corak;
  • membina satu masyarakat progesif yang akan menggunakan sains dan teknologi moden;
MAKA KAMI, rakyat Malaysia, berikrar akan menumpukan seluruh tenaga dan usaha kami untuk mencapai cita-cita tersebut berdasarkan prinsip-prinsip yang berikut:
  • KEPERCAYAAN KEPADA TUHAN
  • KESETIAAN KEPADA RAJA DAN NEGARA
  • KELUHURAN PERLEMBAGAAN
  • KEDAULATAN UNDANG-UNDANG
  • KESOPANAN DAN KESUSILAAN

The Rukunegara in English

WHEREAS our nation Malaysia nurtures the ambitions of:
  • achieving a more perfect unity amongst the whole of her society;
  • preserving a democratic way of life;
  • creating a just society where the prosperity of the country can be enjoyed together in a fair and equitable manner;
  • guaranteeing a liberal approach towards her rich and varied cultural traditions; and
  • building a progressive society that will make use of science and modern technology.
THEREFORE WE, the people of Malaysia, pledge to concentrate the whole of our energy and efforts to achieve these ambitions based on the following principles:
  • BELIEF IN GOD
  • LOYALTY TO KING AND COUNTRY
  • THE SUPREMACY OF THE CONSTITUTION
  • THE RULE OF LAW
  • COURTESY AND MORALITY

Dear Reader,

Science and Technological Progress

You will notice that the Rukunegara has two portions. The first half of the Rukunegara details what ambitions the nation has. The second half details how the nation will achieve these ambitions. In business school talk, the ambitions are the vision; while the "how" are the mission.

We often emphasize the mission but forget the vision. In Malaysian schools, we are taught to recite the second half of the Rukunegara, but never the first.

And so, the Rukunegara supports and hopes to build a progressive society that will make use of science and modern technology.

Does this mean establishing a strong intellectual property rights regime? Yes, it does. Probably.

But it also means that we must inculcate a culture of science and technology. Younger Malaysians need to look at science and technology as the first choice of tertiary education. Only then, can we become a producer of new technology. Only then can we lead technological progress. Because technology will be important in the world of tomorrow, we must start emphasizing it today.

The Bigger Issue: Progressive Society

As you may notice, the Rukunegara envisions the building of a progressive society. It's not just about technology and science. A society that uses science and technology to spread hatred over social media isn't progressive. A society that uses science and technology to create weapons of mass destruction isn't progressive. A society that uses science and technology to kill the innocent en masse, isn't at all progressive.

But a progressive nation isn't one that abstains from science and technology. There is no need to be an Asian Neo-Luddite. It's our hearts that we must nurture, so that we make it a better world for all people, regardless of who they are. Your neighbour is as entitled as you to partake in the better world that you are building, together. Could you envision a world with cleaner air and clearer skies, only for you but not your neighbour? I rest my case.

In this regard, the African concept of "ubuntu" has been touted as "love for all". It's a universal value. It would be fair to say that nobody gets to heaven by putting others through hell. Those who cry with the delight at the thought of slaughtering his neighbour because of a different faith or creed are not progressive. I'm not sure if they are even regressive. They are harmful to society, by trying to recreate a vision of a society in which only people from one faith can prosper. In the event that they do create that society, the same people will spawn a generation which discriminates among people of the same faith, thus starting a never-ending cycle of trying to show how much more puritanical they are than the last generation.

Being puritanical isn't necessarily progressive. You have to understand the other aims and goals of the Rukunegara to know what being progressive is, and how to create a progressive society. The other ambitions are:
  1. Achieving more perfect unity among Malaysian society
  2. Preserving a democratic way of life
  3. Creating a just society where the prosperity of the country can be enjoyed together in a fair and equitable manner, and
  4. Guaranteeing a liberal approach towards her rich and varied cultural traditions

As you can see, it involves, very much, the happiness of other communities, whether "they" are different in terms of race and religion, wealth and social standing, political ideals, cultural heritage, and others. When I read "guaranteeing a liberal approach", and juxtapose it against the idea of a progressive society, I believe that a progressive society is one that becomes more and more accepting of others. 

For a document that was forged in the aftermath of a terrible racial riot, and in the early, formative years of this nation's history, the Rukunegara should figure as one of the most important documents for Malaysian policy makers and law makers. Unfortunately, it does not seem to enjoy any position of importance -- just see the considerations of government policy makers for these past few years.

Support the Rukunegara, and let's make Malaysia a progressive nation based on science and technology.
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Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Why Descriptive and Laudatory Trademarks Cannot Be Registered

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Great Idea, But Bad News

You might have been sitting around with a bunch of friends over dinner. One of your friends points at the chicken and says, "Why don't we just register a brand of chicken called The Good Chicken?" And the bunch of friends laughs and applauds the idea. 

Your friend goes home, sobers up, and starts to think about The Good Chicken. It's such a great idea. He wonders why nobody ever registered "The Good Chicken" before. Surely it deserves to be registered and made the basis of a great marketing campaign! He closes his eyes and he can see it: Lines of people just queueing up outside of his chicken restaurant, just to get a taste of The Good Chicken. The daily special? Damn Good Chicken. The weekend special? Superbly Good Chicky Chicken. 

So he hires a trademark agent, who takes a look at the proposed trademark, and smiles somewhat sheepishly. "You sure you want this?" the trademark agent asks. "Why yessirree," goes your friend. "And I'd like fries to go along with it, if possible." The trademark agent smiles sheepishly again and goes off to do his thing.

Two months later the trademark agent is back. "Sir", he says rather slowly, "the trademark office has rejected your application because of the laudatory and descriptive nature of your proposed trademark. I'm afraid that you'll need to think of a new trademark or appeal."

Your friend is stunned. What! he wonders. The Good Chicken is a good trademark. Why not?

Here is why not.



No-no #1: Descriptive Trademark

Think about it. "The Good Chicken" is your friend's trademark. Does it describe anything? In the English language, the noun comes after the adjective. The last word is the noun. And the noun is "Chicken". So this is a mark that will be used to market..... chickens! 

That's precisely the problem, because if your friend is allowed to registered "Chicken" for his brand of chicken / poultry, no other chicken / poultry brand can use the word "Chicken". And that would be disastrous for them!

So that's why your friend cannot use a descriptive trademark. Another example I once learned was the case of the toothpaste brand that was marketed with a logo depicting -- no surprises here -- trademark being squeezed unto a toothbrush. If that trademark application had gone through, others could have been prevented from showing that image on their trade packaging, printed materials, et cetera. It would have been bad for the toothpaste industry. 

No-no #2: Laudatory Trademark

Let's go back to the trademark: "The Good Chicken". See that word in the middle? "Good", means positivity, and it means superiority. It means that the product is being lauded as a superior offering. "Good Chicken" implies that other chickens being sold are not "good". And what is not good is often mediocre, if not outright bad. (It could also be not "good" because it is more than good, i.e. superb or fantastic or wonderful.... but those would be descriptive as well.)

So, by calling his brand the "Good Chicken", his competitors are at a disadvantage. Unless they invalidate his trademark, theirs would be perceived as not "good". Unless, they start using laudatory words like wonderful, fantastic, or superb. And if that happens, it will be a war of self-laudatory words. Each describing his own or her own as the best.

Fortunately, the law does not allow self-laudatory trademarks to be registered. 

Conclusion

In the book by Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, a character says that "the law is an ass". Fortunately, the law of trademarks does not allow laudatory and self-descriptive trademarks to be registered. This means that the law is not an ass, but a guardian of fairness and equality in the application of wonderful, fantastic and superb trademarks. The trademark law in Malaysia is a Good Law. (Unfortunately, that phrase cannot be registered.)
Continue Reading...

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The Vocoder and its Origins in World War 2

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I listened to a podcast...

Recently, I tuned in to the 99% Invisible podcast on Tunein. That's when I heard their very fascinating episode, Vox Ex Machina (Episode 208), which was about an invention from 1939 called the "voder", called the "voice operating demonstrator". It was like a piano for voices, because it was a keyboard which people could play with ten fingers. But as the podcasters noted, voder operators would train up to one year in order to learn how to operate the voder.

The inventor was a guy called Homer Dudley, who specialized in speech science. He worked at Bell Labs.

And then there was the Second World War

So, as the podcast noted, there was a war, called the Second World War. It was quite serious -- my grandparents lived through it. I heard many horror stories about the Japanese soldiers in Malaya. 

But at that time, the focus was on encrypted communications between the British Prime Minister and the American President. Encryption technology at the time was easily broken. 

That's when the President's office contacted Bell Labs for a solution. Homer Dudley was called up.

Fortunately Homer had a solution. He had been working on speech technology for many years. That's when he created SIGSALY, the "unbreakable speech encrypter".  SIGSALY used what is today known as a "vocoder", which stands for "voice encoder".

It was a very fascinating listen. Go, listen to the 99% Invisible podcast today.

An example of an early vocoder

The SIGSALY Patent

This one I found from the Wikipedia entry on SIGSALY. 

US Patent No. 3967067 was filed on 24th September 1941, and was published on 29th June 1976. You might know that the lifespan of a patent is about 20 years.... so, its publication was probably more a matter of recognition, than exploitation of IP for profit. Which inventor doesn't want to be identified with their invention? Most of them want recognition. Even if it's 35 years after the patent was filed.

Man, I really hope that the inventor for US patent no. 3967067 made some money off his invention, somehow.

But I wonder why the patent stated the inventor as "Ralph K Potter" and not "Homer Dudley"? Maybe this isn't the patent for the SIGSALY after all....

Some other patents from Homer Dudley

A Google Patents search reveals that Homer Dudley was a rather prolific inventor. Here are a few:
  • Privacy system - Patent No. US 2213320 A - Filed on 10th September, 1938. Published on 3rd September, 1940. "The present invention relates to systems and methods of transmission with privacy. It is appreciable to line wire or radio transmission, and to the sending of speechmessages or any other type of signals which comprise a band of frequency components such that the signal wave band can be subdivided into narrower subbands." (This could be the SIGSALY patent.)
  • System for the artificial production of vocal or other sounds - Patent No. US 2121142 A - Filed on 7th April 1937, and published on 21st June 1938. "One of the objects of the present invention is to provide an arrangement for the synthetic production of speech or similar sounds and, particularly, to provide an arrangement of this type in which the desired vocal or other sounds may be produced by manual operation quite independent of any vocal control by the normal vocal mechanism of the human body." (This should be the "voder" patent. It was demonstrated in 1939.)
  • Production of artificial speech - Patent No. US 2243526 A - Filed 16th March 1940, published 27th May 1941. "The present invention relates to the artificial production of speech or similar sound waves and to such artificial production in connection with a system for analyzing speech or similar waves."

Final Thoughts

I must say that I owe quite a bit to Mr. Homer Dudley. Having read about the man and his inventions, I think:
  • VOIP, cheap international calls or free Internet-based calls owe their origins to his work on speech compression. I tend to call my family a lot using Viber / Line / Whatsapp whenever I go for holiday, just because I can. 
  • Text-to-speech (TTS) technology also owes a lot to his work on text synthesis / artificial voice production. I tend to share webpages to "Voice Reading" on my Android phone. I then listen to the webpages being read aloud, while I do whatever I am doing.
  • Vocoders are being used today by musicians to distort their voices. I love music, and that guy made these robot-like voices possible.

So go, listen to that podcast already. Link is at the top of this blog post.
Continue Reading...

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Inventors And Innovators Need to Cross The Chasm, Part 2

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First of all, I wish to apologise to my readers for having forgotten to update this blog for nearly a month. I wasn't really sure how to present the idea of "the chasm". So I was stuck in "analysis paralysis" for a while, thinking of how to start this article. And just by typing those few words, I've started the article. Problem solved.

That brings us to....

The Chasm, Explained in Easy-To-Understand Terms

To understand the chasm, we need to first get into a concept known as the diffusion of innovation, a concept proposed by the late Professor Everett Rogers in his book, Diffusion of Innovations (1962). Here, have a look at this image:

The Diffusion of Innovation Model, from SmartInsights.com

The diffusion of innovation is a concept which holds that technology is diffused slowly in society, and almost always initially by the innovators (2.5%). These innovators help to evangelize and popularize the technology to the early adopters (13.5%). By the way, these percentages describe the total user base.

Then comes the time when the technology comes into the mainstream. The early majority come in, forming 34% of the user base, followed by the late majority, also forming 34%. 

When the technology has become so pervasive, the last group in society to adopt it will be called the laggards, forming 16% of the user base.

There is only one problem with the diffusion of innovation model, and that is, it assumes that new technology will always be adopted by all sectors of society. The graph above seems to say, "Whatever the product, you will adopt it. It just depends on where you stand."

As we know, there are many new products that never get adopted in a widespread manner. Some of them might be used by the geeky, nerdy group who form the innovators, who are by nature pretty gung-ho and willing to give anything a go. But these early users might not be generating enough revenue for the inventor/manufacturer. It's only a matter of time before the inventor/manufacturer will be forced to closed down...

In 1991, Geoffrey Moore published his book, Crossing the Chasm, which proposed a "chasm" within the diffusion of innovations model. Here, look at this picture:

The technology adoption lifecycle, showing "the chasm" proposed by Geoffrey Moore. Image from UPenn @ Canvas.

The "chasm" is applicable to technology-based industries, especially disruptive technologies. Here is an explanation from Wikipedia:

Crossing the Chasm is closely related to the technology adoption lifecycle where five main segments are recognized: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. According to Moore, the marketer should focus on one group of customers at a time, using each group as a base for marketing to the next group. The most difficult step is making the transition between visionaries (early adopters) and pragmatists (early majority). This is the chasm that he refers to. If a successful firm can create a bandwagon effect in which enough momentum builds, then the product becomes a de facto standard. However, Moore's theories are only applicable for disruptive or discontinuous innovations. Adoption of continuous innovations (that do not force a significant change of behavior by the customer) are still best described by the original technology adoption lifecycle.

And when you think of it, it seems kind of true. Think about early innovations that never really "caught on". I can think of some:
  1. Sony's DAT (Digital Audio Tapes), which appeared in the 1980s - These could record audio at CD quality or higher. But due to some serious lobbying by the RIAA in the USA, legal hurdles were enacted, which effectively limited the use of DAT in the recording industry. Thankfully, the DAT became widely used in computer backups.
  2. Supersonic passenger jets, which were retired in 2003 -- These were able to bring you from London to New York in less than 3 hours, yet the maintenance costs and ticket prices made it difficult to maintain operations.
  3. Monowheel motorbikes -- These look pretty cool, and can be described as a big wheel with a man riding in the middle, as though a hamster had taken charge of a hamster's wheel and used it for transportation. I followed some fascinating reading on the M Goventosa monowheel over at Hemmings Daily. And I'm now posting some fascinating photos of the monowheel from Hemmings Daily, just because they look so cool.
Photo from Hemmings Daily (2010)


Photo from Hemmings Daily (2010)

How to apply the Concept of the Chasm ?

The question is basically, how do you avoid the chasm, and reach your early majority user base? The target for people in the technology sector, or those selling new technology, should be to become the dominant design. When a technology is still new, the forms of products that embody the technology are still uncertain, because there are no clear market leaders yet. All sorts of players jump into the fray with their own offerings at this nascent stage. Over time, as the industry matures, certain "designs" find favour with the users. Eventually, a "dominant design" emerges. 

Think of the MP3 player industry, and how Apple's iPod came to become the preferred embodiment, with its single dial and a screen to display data about the songs. Think about how numerous mobile phone makers now seem to copy the iPhone's designs: A screen without buttons, but capable of presenting buttons through an electronic display. And in terms of user interface, think about how operating systems tend to evolve over time so that they begin to mirror each other in terms of usability, aesthetics, window behaviour and even placement of buttons. Think about how offline software is beginning to become like web software, and incorporating Ajax-like features, which is a complete reversal of how online software began by trying to copy offline software. 

You, the innovator/inventor of new technology and new offerings, must protect your innovation through patent claims: This is true. But the way your technology is presented is not bound by your patent claims. This is why we patent drafters include illustrations, and describe prototypes, by calling them "preferred embodiment". It's just saying to the patent examiner, "This is a patent, and it illustrates how my client's invention can be deployed, but really, if necessary, we could make it in some other form -- within the confines of our patent's claims."

Back to the concept of avoiding the chasm, here's a few actionable suggestions for the next Steve Jobs (wannabe):

  1. Make a prototype, and then reiterate quickly. Because you want to spend as little money on making mistakes, it would do you well to come up with a simple prototype, and then start finding out how it can be improved. What do your users think the product lacks? What flaws do they see in it? How could it be improved? Incorporate all these comments into your next iteration, and reiterate. Improve your product. Try to lower costs by sourcing for cheaper materials. Try to make it better, more stylish. Ask people if they would consider using it. There's a certain book that I read some time back, "Inside Real Innovation", which said that reiteration is the key to successful innovation. 
  2. Consider pivoting. Those entrepreneurs who come from the Osterwalder / Blank / Ries school of thought will already understand this concept of pivot: If something isn't working out, consider repositioning whatever you have as something else. Related, but not quite alike. Or perhaps, not too alike. That's what you call a pivot. Pivots help young startups to avoid going into deep mistakes, by allowing the entrepreneur / innovator to reposition the technology for some other segment, or some other user base. (Admittedly, "pivots" are used often for software-based startups, but there's no reason why the concept cannot be applied for other areas.)
  3. Raise funds and Kickstart. If you plan to reiterate it quickly, you'll need funds for research and development. These things don't grow on trees. Luckily, these days it's easier to appeal to members of the public for funds. In the old days, people used to attend trade fairs to show off their new technology.... these days, it's not necessary. Websites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter have made it possible for any inventor to offer his invention to early backers at a very reasonable rate. This also helps to validate to prospective financial backers that the product is viable. By the way, raising funds for a new technology company is often very exciting, but you'll likely come across some jargon such as angel investors, series A, series B, mezzanine, and so on. Hopefully there'll be enough space to review them.
  4. Growth hack and get more users. This is undoubtedly the main idea behind this article, and thus, keeping in mind our innovators and early adopters, we can try getting this core group to start using our products through a combination of persuasion, marketing, and smart partnering. This might include offering your product for free or a very cheap rate to certain people when you know that they are social influencers, with an extensive social network. This, too, is a topic in itself.
Needless to say, I've not included patenting the new technology in the above "actionable list", but it should be clear that you should never start marketing a new product without protecting your intellectual property. 

If you have any comments, I'd appreciate it if you'd leave it in the space below. 

Thanks!
Continue Reading...

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Inventors And Innovators Need to Cross The Chasm, Part 1

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Even If You Build It, They Might Not Come

Inventors and innovators tend to think that, people will buy whatever they invent. Is this true? Are they merely living a fantasy?

There is a famous movie from 1989 called "Field of Dreams". The movie starred Kevin Costner, Burt Lancaster, Ray Liotta, Amy Madigan, and James Earl Jones. The plot goes like this: Ray had a bad relationship with his deceased father. His father was a major, big-time baseball fan. One day, while walking in the corn fields, Ray hears a voice telling him, "If you build it, he will come." Ray sees the vision of a baseball diamond in his field. His wife reluctantly allows him to build the baseball diamond.

Eventually, the desperate Ray is able to see some baseball players come on the baseball field. These aren't just any ordinary players. They are the ghosts of famous baseball players. Ray gets visions, and seeks out players who did not live out their lives in baseball, and baseball players who are retired from baseball. The visions become real, and eventually, Ray meets his deceased father again, on the baseball field, as a young man....

Why People Don't Need Your Invention 

But that movie was a fantasy. If you build it, will they necessarily come? As the innovator or inventor of a new-fangled invention, would it be realistic to imagine that people will come in droves, knocking on their doors to buy the product. Think about it:
  • People already have an existing solution for whatever you have invented or created. Why would they need your product?
  • Early iterations of the product tend to be riddled with problems. Why shouldn't they wait for your technology to mature, so that they can enjoy a more stable and robust solution?
  • Early iterations of a product tend to be expensive, because the volume is small. When there is volume, costs go down, and product pricing goes down as well. If it is not urgent to purchase your product, why shouldn't they wait?
  • Waiting for a while before buying a product means, a consumer gets to choose from competitors' offerings. Competitors may have identified flaws in your product, which they overcome through their later solutions. If your product is not mission critical, why shouldn't they wait? 
  • Early purchasers of a product tend to be "guinea pigs" who might be left with outdated technology. Later iterations of a technology might not be backward compatible with earlier iterations.
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Inventors and Innovators Who Ended Up Broke

There are real life case studies that you, as innovator and inventor, should be aware of. There are people who, despite being bright and brainy, ended up broke. Not every inventor will become a rich man. People who think that they might do well like Thomas Edison (founder of General Electric) actually miss the point. Thomas Edison was not only an inventor, he was also a marketer and a savvy business man. He knew how to promote his products. He knew how to compete against competitors in the same industry. He knew how to persuade other inventors and innovators to work with him. And he knew when to team up with his competitors for their mutual good.
Thomas Edison's life would be a great case study for this blog. I plan to cover it sometime in the future. But for now, look at these case studies, featuring Trevor Baylis, Nikola Tesla and Frank McNamara:

Case Study #1: Trevor Baylis

If you've ever heard of the wind-up radio, or used one, you've used an invention from Trevor Baylis. In 2013, Trevor Baylis was so broke that he told the Telegraph that he has to mortgage or sell his house to survive. He invented his wind-up radio, and other electrical items using similar technology, in the 1990s. Despite receiving honorary degrees, getting letters of congratulations from royalty, and even being photographed with Nelson Mandela, he did not profit from his invention.
From the Telegraph:
Despite the apparent success of his wind-up radio and several follow-up products employing similar technology including a torch, a mobile phone charger and an MP3 player, Mr Baylis says he has received almost none of the profits.

Due to the quirks of patent law, the company he went into business with to manufacture his radios were able to tweak his original design, which used a spring to generate power, so that it charged a battery instead. This caused him to lose control over the product.

Source: Telegraph, Trevor Baylis: I've wound up broke despite inventions (2013)
He has realised the problem, and the article states that since 2004, Mr Baylis has been funding a company to help inventors bring their products to market.

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Case Study #2: Nikola Tesla

You've probably heard of Tesla Motors, the electric car company helmed by CEO Elon Musk. But the name Tesla refers to Nikola Tesla, a European electricity genius who headed to America and worked for Thomas Edison, and later became the inventor of more than 700 patents. His most important patent was AC (alternating current) electricity, which could allow electricity to travel long distances. Despite all his acclaim, he died poor and penniless. Some people think that Nikola Tesla had a sharper mind than Thomas Edison, but Thomas Edison died with a $12 million estate, easily one of the richest men of his time.

Nikola Tesla was a good looking European immigrant who became a great American inventor and innovator.
Sadly, he died broke.
From Forbes magazine:
With more than 700 patents to his name, Tesla invented radio, the coil transformer, wireless communication, fluorescent lights and the alternating-current motor, which allowed electricity to flow over long distances. He had about as much business savvy as a puppy; he might have been fabulously wealthy had he not signed away AC royalties to George Westinghouse and patent rights to a wireless broadcasting system to J.P. Morgan.

Source: Forbes, Pioneers Die Broke (2002)
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Case Study #3: Frank McNamara

Frank McNamara was a businessman who, in 1949, had dinner with a business associate at a swanky upscale club in town. Unfortunately, he had forgotten to bring his money along! His wife, probably a very understanding lady, came to the club and settled the bill. She might have raised the issue once or twice after that, which led Frank McNamara to hatch the idea of using credit cards in restaurants. Mr. McNamara turned it into a business centered around credit for eating at restaurants, and earning interest on outstanding balances. Along with some friends, he made it a success. Thus was born Diner's Club - the first credit card. It soon attracted some serious competition from imitators.

His problem was that he believed that the credit card was merely a fad. By 1953 he had sold Diner's Club for $200,000. With the cash, he entered the real estate business. By 1957, at the relatively youthful age of 40 (I will be 40 in a while, so I feel it keenly) he suffered a heart attack and died, poor and penniless. (References: Biography.com, Fact or Fiction: Inventor of Credit Cards Died Penniless? (2014) AND "Frank McNamara and the Credit Card" (undated))

If only Frank had stayed the course.

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What Next?

Obviously, as the case studies above show, inventors and innovators need to learn how to profit from their inventions and innovations. Even if you build it, it might not come. "It" refers to riches, wealth, prestige, fame and fortune. "It" refers to a better life. "It" refers to the Impossible Dream that Don Quixote had been singing about. And yet, there are, for sure, successes from among inventors and innovators, people who manage to make something of their inventiveness and creativity. The most important aspect of success for an innovator and inventor is to get people to start using the product. With more users, come sales. With sales, come funds for research, development, reiteration, redesign, promotion, marketing, and diversification.

But how do you get more people to use your product? We will cover that in Part 2 of this article.

Back to Top OR Why People Don't Need Your Invention OR Case Studies on Inventors Who Died Broke
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Wednesday, 20 April 2016

MOSTI Funding for IP: ScienceFund, TechnoFund, InnoFund

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As some of you innovators and inventors in the technology sector may know, MOSTI stands for the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. It is one of the more important ministries for you, because MOSTI is the ministry that gives funding for technology and innovations.

If you're not in the mood to read about MOSTI background, skip the next section and scroll down to the picture of the RM10 note. Alternatively, you can jump straight to the funding portion or read about the ScienceFund, TechnoFund, or InnoFund.

Background of MOSTI

From the ministry's "About Page", here's the timeline of its brief history to date:
  • 1973: Established as the Ministry of Technology, Research and Local Government.
  • 1976: Changed name to Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MOSTE).
  • 27 March 2004: Restructured to Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) to lead the National ICT Development function, Multimedia and Innovation.
  • 2007: Science and technology function divided into Biotechnology, ICT, Industry, Sea to Space and S&T Services clusters.

MOSTI's OBB Programmes

MOSTI has five Outcome Based Budgeting (OBB) programmes:
  1. STI Development Programme
  2. STI Services Programme
  3. STI Acculturation Programme
  4. Ministry Management
  5. Policy Evaluation and Performance Management
I couldn't find much information about MOSTI's OBB programmes, but I guess that it means MOSTI's funding programmes are based on budgeting considerations. So, if STI development is an important consideration, then registration of IPR related to technology and innovation will be a ministry priority. You, the inventor and innovator, benefit from it.

MOSTI's MKRA

MKRA stands for Ministry Key Result Areas. The more important MKRA seem to be MKRA 1 and MKRA 2. 
  • MKRA 1: Generation of Innovation-Led Economy via Science, Technology and Innovation. Its KPI's (Key Performance Indexes) are (a) New Investments, (b) Total Jobs, (c) Contribution to GDP (RM in billions), and (d) Technology Investment (RM in billions)
  • MKRA 2: Intensification of Research and Development in STI. Its KPI's are Number of IPR filed or registered.

Unfair Advantages and IPR

When you think about it, MKRA 1 and MKRA 2 are linked. Venture capitalists and angel investors like to invest in businesses that have, as they like to say, "an unfair advantage". Patents and other legal hurdles represent unfair advantage, which competitors have to work around. And it is not so easy to work around a patent (although, there are ways of dealing with it, like cross-licensing or patent pooling). 

Angel investors and VC's like "unfair advantages" because marketing technological innovations takes time. Markets need to be educated, and patents last only 20 years. In the pharmaceutical industry, a patented drug cannot immediately be commercialized. A patent represents only the first step to protect the IP of the drug, after which the pharmaceutical company must run extensive clinical trials to ensure that no ill-effects will come from using the drug. (Read a case study on how an osteoporosis drug was developed and approved, from the US FDA.)

Anyway, on to the most important part of the article.

MOSTI has three funds that innovators and technologists may apply for:
ScienceFund, TechnoFund, and InnoFund.

MOSTI Funding

All right, now let's see what MOSTI has available by way of funds. There are three major funds that you can apply for, namely the ScienceFund, the TechnoFund, and the InnoFund. These are described below.

All three funds have a maximum funding for registration of patents up to RM10,000.00. However, the quantum of funding under all three funds are much higher. To get more information, you can read the Guidelines for the three funds: ScienceFund, TechnoFund, and InnoFund. 

But first, read the rest of this article for a summary.

That MOSTI funding is good stuff.


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ScienceFund

The ScienceFund is described as follows:
ScienceFund is a grant provided by Government to carry out R&D projects that can contribute to the discovery of new ideas and the advancement of knowledge in applied sciences, focusing on high impact and innovative research.
Its objectives are:
  1. to support research that can lead to the innovation of products or processes for further development and commercialisation; and/or
  2. to generate new scientific knowledge and strengthen national research capacity and capability.
 Funding is available for Applied Sciences.

Quantum of funding for each project is up to RM500,000.00. (Para 4.1, Guidelines for ScienceFund)

ScienceFund Eligibility Criteria

The fund is open to all research scientists and engineers who are employed on a permanent or contractual basis from the following organisations:
  1. Government Research Institutions (GRIs);
  2. Government Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Agencies; and
  3. Public and Private Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) with accredited research programmes.
Expatriates working under contract with any of the above institutions are eligible to apply. However, the project must have a permanent Malaysian co-researcher from the same institution, well-versed with the project, to ensure its completion in the event the expatriate’s contract is terminated.

Scope of ScienceFund Funding

ScienceFund covers preliminary research leading to laboratory proof of concept or towards the development of new products or processes. The quantum of fund approved will be determined based on the merit of each application.

Eligible categories for funding include:
  • Wages and Allowances for Temporary and Contract Personnel
  • Travel and Transportation
  • Rentals
  • Research Materials and Supplies
  • Minor Modifications and Repairs
  • Special Services
  • R&D Equipment and Accessories

And that's it for the ScienceFund. Read the ScienceFund Guidelines if you are interested to find out the research priority areas. Also read the Flagship Programmes at Appendix 1, Table 2. (The top three flagship programmes are renewable energy, advanced manufacturing, and electronics.)

TechnoFund

The TechnoFund is described as follows:
TechnoFund is a grant scheme which aims to stimulate the growth and successful innovation of Malaysian enterprises by increasing the level of R & D and its commercialisation. The scheme provides funding for technology development, up to pre-commercialisation stage, with the commercial potential to create new businesses and generate economic wealth for the nation.

Its objectives are:
  • To undertake the development of new or cutting edge technologies or further develop/value add existing technologies/products in specific areas for the creation of new businesses and generation of economic wealth for Malaysia
  • To undertake market driven R & D towards commercialisation of R & D outputs
  • To encourage institutions, local companies and inventors to capitalise their intellectual work through intellectual property (IP) registration
  • To stimulate the growth and increase capability and capacity of Malaysian technology-based enterprises, Malaysian Government Research Institutes (GRI) and Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) through both local and international collaborations.
Quantum of Funding is up to RM3.0 million. (Para 5, TechnoFund Guidelines.)

TechnoFund Eligibility Criteria

Eligible applicants can be researchers and other individuals from:
  1. Small and Medium Enterprises (SME's); 
  2. Institutions of Higher Learning; 
  3. Research Institutes; and 
  4. Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Agencies.
Priority will be given to applications with projects
  • that have been supported by the ScienceFund and have the potential to be commercialised; or 
  • from companies that have obtained the InnoCert recognition.

Companies (SME's) equity must
  • be at least 51% owned by Malaysians;
  • have a track record of 2 years, with financial reports;
  • have a minimum paid up capital of RM10,000.00.

Criteria for Proposed Projects:
  • must contain elements of technological innovation leading to commercialization of innovative products, processes and services; and
  • should be in pre-commercialization stage, with working proof-of-concept.

Scope of TechnoFund Funding

The Pre-Commercialization (TechnoFund) covers:
  1. Technology acquisition (foreign and/ or local) 
    1. Must be further enhanced; 
    2. Must provide the acquisition agreement, or if such an agreement is not in place, must provide details of the technology to be acquired; and 
    3. Total technology acquisition not more than 50% of total approved project cost. 
  2. the up-scaling of laboratory-scale prototype or the development of commercial ready prototype; or 
  3. pre-clinical testing/clinical testing/field trials.

TechnoFund funding can be used for:

  1. pilot plant / prototype – equipment and supporting infrastructure which is directly related to the pilot plant;
  2. New IP Preparation and Registration in Malaysia only (excluding maintenance)- existing and new IP;
  3. market testing / assessment and/or evaluation;
  4. regulatory and standards compliance;
  5. expenditure for services (consultancy/ testing) not exceeding 20% of project cost applied; 
  6. contract expenditure applicable to IHLs and GRIs only (research assistant); 
  7. raw materials/consumables; and 
  8. technology/ IP acquisition (if applicable) not exceeding 50% of project cost applied.

And that's it for the TechnoFund. Read the TechnoFund Guidelines if you are keen to learn more, especially since there's a promise of RM3 million....

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InnoFund

The InnoFund is described as:
InnoFund is a grant scheme which funds the development or improvement of new or existing products, processes or services with elements of innovation. The project must have economic value and improves the societal well-being of the community. InnoFund can be categorized into Enterprise InnoFund (EIF) and Community InnoFund (CIF).

The objectives of the InnoFund are two-fold, since the InnoFund is divided into Enterprise InnoFund and Community InnoFund.

The objective of Enterprise InnoFund is to increase the participation of micro-businesses, individuals in innovative activities and encourage technological innovation of new or existing products, process or services for commercialisation.

Whereas, the objective of Community InnoFund is to assist community groups in translating knowledge and ideas into products, processes or services that improve the socio-economic standing and quality of life of the community.


Quantum of Funding depends on category:
  • Individuals and sole proprietors can get up to RM50,000.00 under Enterprise InnoFund;
  • Micro or small companies can get up to RM500,000.00 under the Enterprise InnoFund; and
  • Community Innovation Funds can get up to RM500,000.00 under the Community InnoFund.

InnoFund Eligibility Criteria

The Enterprise InnoFund is open to individuals, sole proprietors, micro companies, and small companies.

Whereas, the Community InnoFund is open to registered associations / NGO's, registered cooperatives, and community groups.

Similar to the TechnoFund, priority will be given to applications with projects
  • that have been supported by the ScienceFund and have the potential to be commercialised; or 
  • from companies that have obtained the InnoCert recognition.

Enterprise InnoFund Applicants

For the Enterprise InnoFund, companies must:
  • have a minimum equity of 51% held by Malaysians;
  • have a paid up capital of RM10,000.00 or more (although, startups can be exempted from this requirement, with proof of ability to sustain)
Interestingly, the requirements for companies' sales turnover and/or number of employees depends on the sector.

SectorMicroenterpriseSmall enterpriseMedium enterprise
Manufacturing, Manufacturing-Related Services and Agro-based industriesSales turnover of less than RM250,000 OR full time employees less than 5Sales turnover between RM250,000 and less than RM10 million OR full time employees between 5 and 50Sales turnover between RM10 million and RM25 million OR full time employees between 51 and 150
Services, Primary Agriculture and Information & Communication Technology (ICT)Sales turnover of less than RM200,000 OR full time employees less than 5Sales turnover between RM200,000 and less than RM1 million OR full time employees between 5 and 19Sales turnover between RM1 million and RM5 million OR full time employees between 20 and 50

The Enterprise InnoFund project must be for the development of new or existing products, processes or services with the potential for commercialisation.

Community InnoFund Applicants

For the Community InnoFund, the applicant must be a registered or Government-recognised Malaysian community group.

The proposal must contain innovative elements leading to the development of products, services or processes that improve societal well-being.

Scope of InnoFund Funding

For both Enterprise InnoFund and Community InnoFund, the funding components include:
  • Specialised equipment
  • Pre-clinical or clinical trial or field trials
  • IP preparation and registration in Malaysia only (maintenance not included)
  • Market testing
  • Regulatory and standard compliance
  • Expenditure for Services not exceeding 40% of project cost (consultancy/ testing)
  • Raw materials
And that's it for the InnoFund. Read the InnoFund Guidelines if you are keen to know more.

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Good Luck

Thanks for reading, and good luck to you if you are applying. If you need a consultation about IP strategy or innovation marketing, please consider contacting me. I'm currently doing a doctorate on the intersection between business and technology.
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