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What You Didn’t Know About Intellectual Property Protection

June 28, 2016

An interview with Thomas Griffiths, Senior Associate and Patent Attorney at Spruson & Ferguson

Intellectual Property (IP) protection is crucial for your business’ competitive advantage and long-term product development goals. It is through securing protection for ideas, inventions and creations, that you will be able to leverage on your innovations and make this a viable part of your livelihood. How should your business go about acquiring and enforcing your IP rights?

We sat down with Thomas Griffiths, Senior Associate and Patent Attorney at Spruson & Ferguson, to learn more.

˅ Jump to question ˅

  1. What are the most common questions you get regarding intellectual property (IP)?
  2. What do business owners normally overlook and what are the implications?
  3. How does an inventor know whether his invention is new and different from anything that currently exists and therefore qualifies to be patented?
  4. How much of my process or product must be developed before I can register for a patent?
  5. What does the process of registering for a patent look like? How do I get started?
  6. What happens when someone infringes my copyright/patent/trademark? Is there a way to take action and protect my IP rights that doesn’t involve going to court?
  7. When potential clients consult you on whether their inventions can be patented, what can they expect during a first meeting? What should they prepare beforehand?
  8. Is there anything else that startups should know that we haven’t covered or advice for business owners looking to protect their IP rights?

1. What are the most common questions you get regarding intellectual property (IP)?

“This idea isn’t patentable… or is it?”

Many inventions result from a series of iterative developments. Often, inventors look at those developments and don’t think any particular one of them is particularly innovative. So they fall into the misbelief they cannot protect their ideas.

Many inventions are made up of incremental developments that, individually, may not seem like much but the overall effect is significant.

 So, if you have a technology with a saleable point of difference then it will often constitute something that is patentable.  Tweet this

The other question often asked is: “Is it worth patenting?”

There is a reason big businesses file patent applications, and also why the technologies of small businesses are purchased by big businesses. IP protection can be a barrier to market entry for anyone except the IP rights holder.

In a nutshell, if you have a commercially useful technological point of difference (i.e. a reason somebody would want your technology) then you likely have something worth patenting that is also patentable.

2. What do business owners normally overlook and what are the implications?

The main ones are 1) publication and 2) value.

If an idea is published before a patent application is filed, many countries will not grant you valid IP protection for that idea. Particularly for a startup, this is difficult. IP protection can be costly and revenue is sometimes necessary to afford it. It is a difficult one… If you market your technology before filing for IP protection then you can often no longer protect it. There are some limited exceptions given in a few countries, such as the U.S. and Australia, but the general gist is that it cannot be protected once published.

On the value side, IP applicants are asking governments for what is a sort of temporary statutory monopoly – it is the right to stop others from dealing in the technology or design you have protected. Most governments are pro-competition so they don’t give out such monopolistic rights readily. So the cost is pretty reasonable when considering that it can purchase a 20-year right to stop people competing in a particular technology.

3. One can obtain a patent for an invention that is novel, and this can include both products and processes. In general, for an invention to be patentable, it must be new, involve an inventive step and have an industrial application (source: IPOS). How does an inventor know whether his invention is new and different from anything that currently exists and therefore qualifies to be patented?

Unfortunately, there is no way to answer that question with absolute certainty. With 7 billion or so people on the planet, new technologies are being developed every day. Only a small amount of that new technology will be discoverable when trying to assess whether a technology is new and inventive.

That said, the main way for people to assess whether their idea is new and inventive is to conduct a prior art search. There are good public databases for this, and firms that conduct these searches.

The faster the technological space moves – take software-based inventions and medical devices for example – the lower the likelihood of locating relevant prior art. Patent applications typically aren’t published for about 18 months. Hence, patent applications filed in the last 18 months often cannot be located by searching.

In reality, the inventor is often an expert in the field and has a pretty good knowledge of what other technologies are out there. Inventors also typically develop their ideas with a particular problem or market in mind that existing technology doesn’t address. If nothing is out there that currently addresses the particular problem or targets that market, then a new technology that does so has a reasonable shot at being novel and inventive.

There is no uniform, hard and fast rule on what is industrially applicable. It differs a little bit from country to country. That said, in general, most things that are inventions are also industrially applicable – in other words, they are technical and have some sort of commercial application. In Singapore, certain methods of treatment of a human or animal body are excluded from industrial applicability, as are certain methods of diagnosis performed on human or animal bodies.

4. How much of my process or product must be developed before I can register for a patent?


Most patent applications are speculative. The inventors simply need to be able to tell a skilled person – generally an expert in their field similar to themselves – how to put the invention together. In legalese, the patent specification needs to say how to “perform” the invention.

No prototype. No testing. Nothing else is needed.

This is to be distinguished from a wish list. I can say “I have a great idea. How about I build a glass elevator to the moon as a low-cost alternative to Virgin’s space program?” But unless I can say how I would build such an elevator and how it would work, I don’t have enough for a patent application.

5. What does the process of registering for a patent look like? How do I get started?

You need to first identify that whatever technology you’re developing has a point of difference that is commercially viable. Then go and speak to a patent attorney. The main point at the outset is knowing what your invention is. You can then leave the rest of the process to the attorney.

The process of applying for a patent can be complex. It also depends on the needs of the patent applicant. That said, the *very general* overview is the process includes the following stages:

  1. Drafting a patent specification
  2. Filing a patent application with that specification
  3. Having the patent application examined
  4. Getting a granted patent
  5. Paying renewal/annuity fees (these simply allow governments to purge their patent register of patent rights that patentees no longer want to maintain)

6. What happens when someone infringes my copyright/patent/trademark? Is there a way to take action and protect my IP rights that doesn’t involve going to court?

Nowadays, most IP disputes can be kept out of court. In general, the start of the process would be a “Cease and Desist” letter. That letters identifies the rights that are infringed and what the other party is doing to infringe those rights. It can also say “Offer up any infringing products you have made, or destroy them” and “I would like an account of profits for infringements to date”.

That letter often works.

If that letter does not work, then there are other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, such as mediation, that can avoid court-time.

You can also consider licensing your IP. In effect, this turns a potential infringer into a paying client.

7. When potential clients consult you on whether their inventions can be patented, what can they expect during a first meeting? What should they prepare beforehand?

The first meeting is really an information gathering session for both parties. We don’t know what the invention is and the inventors are often unaware of how the patent process works, the costs and timeframes.

We host initial meetings free-of-charge. So people can come without fear that they will receive an invoice or have any ongoing obligation to us. We will then guide the inventors through the collection of any additional information that is needed to enable us to draft a patent application.

Book an initial, free-of-charge meeting with Spruson & Ferguson


8. Is there anything else that startups should know that we haven’t covered or advice for business owners looking to protect their IP rights?

Not really. In brief, keep your technology and your designs secret until you have filed for IP protection. If you can’t, try to ensure whomever you need to tell understands the idea, technology or design is to be kept confidential.

Create a Confidentiality Agreement for free with Dragon Law
Start a free trial. No minimum commitment, no credit card required.


With that in mind, go and speak to a patent attorney. For Spruson & Ferguson, that chat will be free and can be used to answer questions that relate to the specific invention in question.


Still have questions about Intellectual Property protection?


Related reading: Legal documents required for protecting Trade Marks


Thomas Griffiths is a Senior Associate of Spruson & Ferguson, based permanently in Singapore.

Thomas’ practice primarily involves the preparation, drafting and prosecution of patent applications, advice in relation to patent validity and enforcement, patent strategy and patent infringement advice. Thomas has also been involved in large-scale patent litigation, patent litigation support, evidence strategy, and revocation and invalidation strategy before the Federal Court of Australia.

Thomas practices in the field of electrics, electronics and computer science technologies, focusing on medical devices, apps & software, semiconductors, solar cells, data transformation and e-commerce technologies.

Prior to joining the firm, Thomas worked for several years in the patent group of one of Australia’s major patent law firms and prior to that worked in the mining industry as an engineer.

Thomas is a qualified Australian and New Zealand Patent Attorney. His technical qualifications include:

  • Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronics)(Hons),
  • Bachelor of Computer Science and
  • Master of Intellectual Property Laws,

all from the University of Melbourne.

Thomas can be contacted at

The 8 Questions Your Website Privacy Policy Should Answer

June 22, 2016

Did you copy and paste your Website Privacy Policy? Risky!

Here’s the thing: Someone else’s Website Privacy Policy will not be able to protect you and your visitors, because you may use data in very different ways.

An inaccurate Website Privacy Policy may expose you to the risk of having your website taken down, or even potential legal action.

Many entrepreneurs share the misconception that they only need a Website Privacy Policy if they sell goods (or services) online. Wrong.

Website Privacy Policy and Website Terms of Use are minimum legal requirements, even if you are just marketing and not selling goods or services online.   Tweet this

The regulation of personal data use is overseen in Hong Kong and Singapore by the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) and the Personal Data Protection Council (PDPC) respectively.

In order to have a Website Privacy Policy that truly reflects your organisation’s practices, there are a few essential questions it must answer:

1. What information will you be collecting from your visitors?

List out specifically the types of information that you may collect and process. This ensures that you are transparent with your website visitors and/or users regarding what information about them that you are collecting and what types of activity you are monitoring.

Simply pick what is applicable to you when drafting your Website Privacy Policy with Dragon Law. Try now.

2. Will you use the collected information in another country?

You have to state explicitly all the countries and/or territories in which you will be storing or using the data.

Note: Be extra careful if your server is located overseas or if you are a using a hosting service provider with overseas servers. You may be subject to additional provisions that restrict transfers of personal information.

3. How will you use the data you collected?

Next, it is crucial to specify the purposes for which you will use the information you have collected from your users. It is recommended that you create the most extensive list possible, to keep possibilities open for the future. Even if you are currently only using the data for record-keeping, there might come a time when you want to do direct marketing!

Dragon Law’s Website Privacy Policy covers the following purposes:

(a) ensuring that content from our site is presented in the most effective manner for you and for your computer;

(b) providing you with alerts, newsletter, education materials or information that you requested or signed up to;

(c) carrying out our obligations arising from any contracts entered into between you and us;

(d) allowing you to participate in interactive features of our service, when you choose to do so;

(e) designing and conducting surveys/questionnaires for client profiling/segmentation, statistical analysis, improving and furthering the provision our products and services;

(f) complying with laws and regulations applicable to us or any of our affiliates in or outside Singapore;

(g) legal proceedings, including collecting overdue amounts and seeking professional advices;

(h) researching, designing and launching services or products including seminars/events/forums;

(i) promoting and marketing services and products subject to your exercise of the opt-out right (please see further details in clause 2.2 below); or

(j) purposes directly related or incidental to the above.

If you intend to share the data you have collected with other entities (such as business partners or overseas offices), you need to state this in your Website Privacy Policy. In general, just as with purposes, you want to leave your options as open as possible.

5. Does your website use cookies? What kind of cookies?

Most websites use cookies to distinguish a user from other users. Cookies contain a small file of letters and numbers stored on the browser or hard drive of the user’s computer. This helps websites to provide users with a good experience when they browse the website.

There are different types of cookies. Some identify users and track website performance in order to provide a more personalised experience for visitors. Others help analyse the effectiveness of website content. The four most common types of cookies are:

Strictly necessary cookies are cookies that are required for the operation of your website. They include, for example, cookies that enable the user to log into secure areas of your website, use a shopping cart or make use of e-billing services.

Analytical/performance cookies allow you to recognise and count the number of visitors and to see how visitors move around your website when they are using it. This helps you to improve the way your website works, for example by ensuring that users are finding what they are looking for easily.

Functionality cookies are used to recognise the user when the user returns to your website. This enables you to personalise your content for the user, greet the user by name, and remember the user’s preferences (for example the user’s choice of language or region).

Targeting cookies are cookies that record the user’s visit to your website, the pages the user has visited, and the links the user has followed.

It is critical that you specify what type of cookies your website uses and explain what kind of information these cookies will collect.

Not technically-savvy? Me neither! That’s why the Dragon Law app provides helpful and clear definitions that guide you through drafting each agreement.

Your website may be using a third-party web analytics service, such as Google Analytics, to collect information on web traffic. If your website uses a third-party web analytics service, your Website Privacy Policy should also specify which analytics service is used.

6. Can customers make payments online via your website? If so, what kind of encryption do you use for web payments?

If you allow customers to make online payments on your website and use technology to encrypt the transactions, you should specify what security technology you use. The most common type of encryption is Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

7. Who can users get in touch with if they want to access the data?

Remember: Under the law, individuals have the right to check whether you hold personal data about them, the right to access that data, the right to require that inaccurate data is corrected, and the right to request removal or deletion of the data. Therefore, it is essential that you provide a contact person and full contact details (including name, address, telephone number, fax number & email address) that users can get in touch with should they want to assess or correct the data they have provided.

Under the PDPA, organisations in Singapore are required to designate at least one individual, known as the Data Protection Officer (DPO), to oversee the data protection responsibilities within the organisation and ensure compliance with the PDPA.
Appointment of a DPO is also implicitly required in Hong Kong under Data Protection Principle 1.

8. When will you publish your Website Privacy Policy? How will you further notify users of updates?

Your privacy policy only binds users if it clearly states when it came into effect. Also, whenever you update your website, or use new analytics services, you want to make sure to update your Website Privacy Policy. Hence, you will also need a clause that states how users will be notified of new policy changes.

Last but not least….

It is recommended that you provide a link to your Website Terms of Use in your privacy policy so that your website visitors can find it for reference easily.

A Website Terms of Use specifies the rules for using your website and defines the legal relationship between you as the website operator and your website users.

Now, preview your document:


And you’re done!

Congratulations! Your Website Privacy Policy is ready to go. You can now download your Website Privacy Policy in Word, PDF, or HTML, and upload it onto your website.

Running a business may be challenging, but with the right processes and documents in place, you can build prudent legal protections and ensure you stay compliant.   

Ready to get started?

Let Dragon Law’s smart Document Builder guide you through the essential steps of drafting a Website Privacy Policy.

Sign up for a free trial

No commitment, no credit card required.
Fully customisable to suit your needs.

GoGet x Dragon Law in Hong Kong: Solutions For The Modern Business

June 14, 2016

.@DragonLawAsia & @GoGetMalaysia team up in #HK to make you super productive: #GoGetDragonLaw    Tweet this

Everyone needs an extra pair of hands. Not all the time… but just at the most crucial times. Imagine being able to get that extra pair of hands ON-DEMAND – wouldn’t that just be perfect?

Launched in Malaysia in June 2014, GoGet is THE go-to to Get more stuff done. The idea behind GoGet is not complex at all: Simply tell them what you want, and they will get it done – it’s as easy as that!

GoGet is available on web, Android, and iOS so you can get the help you need whether you’re in the office or on-the-go. Simply key in the details of what you need done, and a trained and verified GoGetter will be matched to complete the job. You get more time to focus on the more important things, and no longer have to send your precious employees staff on mundane errands such as office stationery runs and last-minute document dispatches! Turn same-day delivery from nightmare into reality.

At Dragon Law, we are our own advocates for productivity and efficiency. Which is why we are SO excited to partner GoGet in their launch in Hong Kong, to help all of you save time for all the things you care about.

Related reading: The technology tools to help you do more with less in your small business

Imagine the seamlessness with GOGET x DRAGON LAW: Create your legal documents online, and if e-signing is not an option, print, sign, and let a GoGetter deliver it for you.


Just sign in to or download GoGet (iOS / Android) and use the promo code GOGETDRAGONLAW to get HKD 100 credits for your first GoGet errand. Promo ends 31 July 2016.


Singapore’s PIC Cash Payout to Reduce from 60% to 40% Effective 1 August

June 7, 2016

Singapore announced in Budget 2016 some changes to the nation’s popular Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme.

What’s changed and what should you, as a business owner, do NOW in order to take full advantage of the full benefits as it is currently?

The PIC scheme

Qualifying activities under the PIC scheme Source: Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore 

The PIC scheme was first introduced in 2011 to boost productivity and innovation among businesses in Singapore.

Under the PIC scheme, qualifying businesses are rewarded with cash payouts and tax deductions for their investments in these six qualifying activities that help boost productivity >>


What’s about to change?

This cash payout rate will be reduced from 60% to 40% for qualifying expenditure incurred on or after 1 August 2016. The PIC scheme will lapse after YA 2018.

Am I eligible for the PIC?

All businesses, including sole proprietorships, partnerships, companies, registered branches and subsidiaries of a foreign parent or holding company, are eligible for PIC.

You may enjoy PIC benefits on the cost incurred to acquire or lease equipment that are in this PIC IT and Automation Equipment List. The IRAS approves expenditure on a case-by-case basis if they help to automate or mechanise business processes and enhance productivity but are not in the list.

In addition, your business must meet the following qualifying conditions for the respective benefit:

Source: Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore

So, what must I do now?

To enjoy the 60% cash payout while it lasts, you must make your purchases before 31 July this year and submit the PIC Cash Payout Application Form directly to IRAS online.

Is my purchase of Dragon Law PIC claimable?

Of course! Dragon Law helps your business become more productive by automating the process of legal document creation. In other words, your Dragon Law subscription is claimable as a qualifying activity under PIC’s Acquisition and Leasing of PIC IT and Automation Equipment.


Incorporated in Singapore?

(Cash payout rate will be reduced to 40% from 1 August 2016)

Dragon Law 2.0: Enhanced User Experience and Availability for Malaysia, All-in-One Domain

June 1, 2016

Hello Dragon Law lovers – we have good news for you!

We are very excited to announce that we have hit another big milestone in our mission to make legal more accessible to businesses.

Dragon Law is now DRAGON LAW 2.0

We’ll admit it. Dragon Law 1.0 was not at all perfect.

Dragon Law 1.0

When we first started Dragon Law, we set ourselves on a mission to create a brand new, revolutionary way for businesses to self-service legal.

While Dragon Law 1.0 helped our users achieve this, we learnt there was much more to empowering businesses: What more can we do to instil in business owners the confidence they need in order to make informed and smart legal decisions?

Here’s the thing: You don’t know what you don’t know.

Dragon Law aims to bring accessibility to legal to everyone. But sometimes, you don’t know what you don’t know. As a business owner, you know you need to have a website. You know you need to hire staff. You know you need to raise funds. But you don’t necessarily know what you need to get there. That’s why in Dragon Law 2.0 we have:

A complete facelift: Dragon Law 2.0

The new features a seamless integration between our website and document builder. Find what you need from one integrated menu, assess your needs, and start drafting right away.

See it LIVE: Dragon Law 2.0
One platform to learn, one legal help desk, and one bill to pay.

In the past year of our product going live we have paid attention to our customers’ needs. You asked, we listened. We are very proud to announce we now have close to 400 documents for use across not two, but three different jurisdictions!

Beta launch for Malaysia

Another one of Version 2.0’s highlights is our beta launch for Malaysia, where, for a limited time only, users in Malaysia will get access to Dragon Law’s full suite of legal documents for free.

What this means for you

For a limited time only:

  • Existing Dragon Law clients in Singapore and Hong Kong will have the ability to also access Malaysia-localised documents at no additional cost.
  • New users can sign up to get access to the entire Malaysian suite of documents for free.
  • Free trial users in Singapore and Hong Kong can continue to use the Dragon Law app for creating a Website Privacy Policy and Confidentiality Agreement, and Upload & Sign over the cloud.

A year in review

Following strong growth in Hong Kong and Singapore, in 2016 alone, we:

  • Set up our swanky Singapore office in
     Ann Siang Hill,
  • Grew our Singapore team from 2 to now 5 Dragons on the ground running,
  • Launched our Legal Startup Academy, a legal crash course series that aims to empower startup founders and entrepreneurs with the essential legal knowledge for every stage of the business, and
  • Increasingly, receive more and more love from our clients!

What to do next

Get your free Website Privacy Policy and Confidentiality Agreement localised for the Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia jurisdictions.

Upload and Sign your legal documents over the cloud when you sign up for a free account.

Check out our full document list and safeguard your business with the right legal documents.

Combining innovation with customised service to deliver productivity and reliability

It has only been a year since Dragon Law came out of beta in Hong Kong. We are now assured that our product does address a need in the market, and are better placed to keep making improvements based on feedback we hear from our clients.

Coming up this year, you can expect that Dragon Law will serve you in additional jurisdictions, pioneer more initiatives to value-add to the small business community, and generally have in store greater enhancements to our app to make your experience managing legal even more seamless.

WE ARE VERY GRATEFUL to the more than 3,000 businesses who rely on Dragon Law daily, to the partners who support us, and to our thousands of legaltech fans who support our mission to make legal more accessible.

Your trust has helped us through this journey.

Experience the new face of legal
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