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Types of IP: Trade Mark vs Patent vs Copyright – What’s The Difference?

July 21, 2016

It has never been easier to copy someone’s work.

Take this example from a fully-accessorised iPhone 6 Plus that runs on the Android operating system!

It is said that Yahoo’s nearly 3,000 patents and pending applications could fetch up to $3 billion in a sale. IP protection has never been more crucial and worthwhile.

But to what does IP apply?

IP refers to the exclusive rights that attach to intangible human creations. IP protection is important to innovators, artists and business owners. In fact, it is even more crucial for startups, as your IP may be your most valuable asset in the early stages of your business.

But of the different types of IP – Trade Marks, Patents and Copyrights – do you know which apply to YOU?

1. Trade Mark

What is it?
Trade marks are words, designs or phrases which serve as “the brand” for a product or service. Work that may be registered as a trade mark include words, names, signatures, labels, as well as a host of other marks or a combination of these elements. Both Singapore and Hong Kong use NICE International System of Classification to classify trade mark registrations. There are 34 different classes of goods and 11 classes of services under NICE. For an element to qualify as a trade mark, it has to be distinctive and capable of distinguishing your goods or services from similar ones of other traders.  Tweet this

Why register a trade mark?
While you don’t need to register your trade mark to protect it, doing so gives you additional protection and gives the trade mark value. As a registered trade mark is a form of IP, you can license or assign it to others. For instance, you can license your trade mark to third parties (e.g. a franchisee) or sell for a specified value or help to raise equity that can be reinvested into growing your business.

How to register your trade mark?
To register your trade mark in Singapore and Hong Kong, you may file an application with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) and the Intellectual Property Department (IPD) in Hong Kong respectively.

How long can your trade mark last?
Once a trade mark is registered it can last indefinitely as long as you renew it every 10 years. It is important to keep using your trade mark in relation to all goods or services that are covered by your trade mark registration, in order to defend against a possible removal action in the future.

How to protect your trade mark?
Although not compulsory to do so, it is advisable to clearly display the ® symbol next to your registered trade mark, and the “™” symbol next to your trade mark whilst it is still a pending application. This will serve as notice to others that your trade mark is in use, and will make it easier to enforce your trade mark rights against others if required. You should also ensure that all members of your business, your licensees, distributors, and customers are regularly reminded as to the proper usage of your trade mark.

You should take appropriate action as soon as you discover any improper use of your trade mark. It is recommended that you seek the advice of a qualified and experienced trade mark professional to gain a better understanding of what options (both legal and non-legal) are available to you so that you may make an informed decision how best to proceed in enforcing your trade mark rights.

Learn more about protecting your trade mark:

 

2. Patents

Patents can be obtained for ideas or concepts which are novel and non-obvious. These typically includes inventions such as products or processes. In general, for an invention to be patentable, it must satisfy the following criteria:

  1. New
  2. Inventive step
  3. Industrial Application (Source: IPOS)   Tweet this

Related reading: Blog: What you didn’t know about Intellectual Property protection

Why register for a patent?
Securing patent protection will allow you to prevent unauthorised manufacture, use, sales or imports of your invention. If you wish to, you may license your patented invention to third parties for commercial returns or sell the patented invention.

How to register your patent?
To register your patent in Singapore and Hong Kong, you may file an application with the IPOS and the IPD respectively. The application process varies depending on the locations you are applying from. Although it is not mandatory to file a patent application through an agent, applicants may appoint agents to act on their behalf. It is usually recommended that applicants seek legal advice to ascertain the scope of their rights.

How long can your patent last?
In Singapore, the term of a patent is 20 years from the filing date. To enjoy this full term, the patent must be renewed before the expiry of the 4th year and every year thereafter. In Hong Kong, there are two types of patents: Standard patents can be renewed annually after the end of the third year, up to a maximum of 20 years. Short-term patents can be renewed after the end of the fourth year, up to a maximum term of 8 years.

How to protect your patent?
You may take legal action if you discover that your registered patent has been infringed. Possible remedies that you may seek include an injunction to stop the infringing action, account of profits and damages for the loss suffered.  

3. Copyright

What is it?
A copyright can be used to protect creative expressions such as writing, music or video. It is not necessary for the work to have aesthetic value. Examples of works which may be protected under copyright law include:

  • Literary works (e.g., written works, source codes of computer programs)
  • Dramatic works (e.g.,. scripts for films and dramas)
  • Musical works (e.g., melodies)
  • Artistic works (e.g., paintings, photographs)
  • Published editions of the above works
  • Sound recordings
  • Films
  • Television and radio broadcasts
  • Cable programmes
  • Performances (Source: IPOS)

What are the benefits of a copyright?
A copyright owner enjoys the exclusive right to reproduce, publish and communicate their work to the public, among other rights. The specific rights the copyright owner enjoys depends on the category of work produced. Copyright essentially refers to this exclusive bundle of rights and allows the owner to control the commercial exploitation of his work.

How to register your copyright?
There is no need to file an application in both Singapore and Hong Kong. An author automatically enjoys copyright protection as soon as he creates and expresses his original work in a tangible form, such as in a recording or writing.

How long can your copyright last?
The term of protection varies according to the type of copyright work concerned:

Source: IPOS

How to protect your copyright?
The “©” symbol is not crucial for copyright protection. It is merely a notice of a claim by the owner that copyright exists and does not accord the copyright owner any substantive right. In other words, you are entitled to a copyright claim in the event of infringement even without the “©”. A person who willfully infringes copyright may be subject to criminal liability in both Singapore and Hong Kong.

When your copyright is infringed (e.g. when an individual copies your work and distributes it to the public), you may commence legal action against the infringer. Possible remedies that you may seek include an injunction to stop the infringing action, receipt of the infringer’s profits and damages for the loss suffered. 

In a nutshell…

How can Dragon Law help?

Securing your IP rights is important. Dragon Law works with our network of partners to be your one-stop solution for all necessary documentation and procedures required for assigning and licensing your IP rights.

 

The Ultimate Dictionary of Jargon, Acronyms, and Abbreviations Every Entrepreneur or Small Business Owner Should Know

July 20, 2016

Does your startup provide an “end-to-end solution that synergises content across platforms”? Startups were warned at this year’s RISE Conference about jargon overuse – not only do they mean nothing, they also make it difficult for ordinary people to understand what your company actually does.

But is it possible to completely steer clear of jargon? Terms like exit strategy, ROI, and minimum viable product are thrown around the room with our speakers, panelists and attendees at our Dragon Academy series. Jargon, when used right, can help to articulate your ideas in a clear manner. But most importantly… you have to understand what they mean!

In today’s post, we have identified, defined, and put to use the most commonly used terms every entrepreneur should know at each stage of your business. Read on to start speaking the same lingo as your investors do:

Early stage: Defining your business

Accelerator = A centre that provides your startup with resources (such as mentorship, office space, or money) to help it grow. Offers help for a shorter time than an incubator.

“I have this great FinTech idea, but I need some more development time until it’s viable. I’m considering joining the OCBC Open Vault accelerator programme.”

Bleeding Edge = Technology that’s very new. Usually high-risk, high-reward.

“I’m working on a blockchain accounting platform. It’s very bleeding edge stuff, but my Co-Founder has a PhD in Computer Science, so we’ll manage.”

Bootstrapping = Starting a company with little or no money / using personal finances to start a company.

“Look, getting investors right now will just hurt your profitability in the long run. Why don’t you bootstrap this startup instead?”

Deck (aka Pitch Deck) = A 10-slide powerpoint presentation that covers all aspects of your business in a concise and compelling way. There is a standard format and real artistry to making a good deck. Do your homework, get lots of feedback, and consider hiring a graphic designer to polish the final version.

“Did you ask the intern to update the deck with the new testimonials?”

First Mover Advantage (FMA) = The benefits (in brand recognition and monopoly profits) you get when you launch a product in a previously empty market niche. However the term in itself can be misleading: it’s not necessarily an advantage if there a gap in the market, but no market in the gap!

“There aren’t yet any mobile apps in Singapore that let you compare cat food at the click of a button. If we develop one quickly, we’ll get first mover advantage!”

Incubator = Like an accelerator, it provides your startup with support to help it become viable. Suitable if you are creating highly-complex products that take longer to go to market.

“Since we’re developing this technology from scratch, we’re going to need more than twelve weeks in an accelerator. Let’s apply to join the JFDI’s incubator programme instead?”

Lean Startup = Prove your business concept early and quickly by launching and running with low overhead costs.

“We could hire two more people, but I think we’d be better off running as a lean startup for now. That inspires more investor confidence when we succeed.”

Monetise = To make money from an idea. Many people can make a game app – the challenge is figuring out how you can make money from it.

“I get that we’d be the first app that allows you to instantly compare cat food, but how do you plan to monetise that idea? Who would pay for that?”

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) = The “minimum” version of the end-product your company is wishing to achieve.

“I think our MVP is simply when we have about one half of the features ready to go; it won’t be polished, but it’ll work.”

Product-Market Fit  = How well your product meets the needs of a large enough market.

“Although you have an elegant solution to a problem, are you sure this is a problem people in this country actually have? Have you thought about product-market fit or just about the product?”

Runway = How long until your business can stay afloat for at the current cost and revenue trajectory.

“With the 10k we’ve sunk into this idea, and our current revenues and costs, our cash runway lasts approximately until… four months from now. Better get to work!”

Software as a Service (SaaS) = Instead of buying a program (like Photoshop) you pay a monthly or annual fee to use it (like Xero or Dragon Law).

“Dragon Law isn’t just paid access to legal templates, it’s SaaS that allows you to easily draft legal documents perfectly customized to your business!”

Sweat Equity = Paying your early employees or consultants in shares instead of dollars.

“Usually you’d get paid $4,000 for branding work, but we’re willing to offer you $5,000 worth of shares instead.”

Valuation = How much a company is worth, theoretically.

“Since we raised put in $2 million by giving out 20% of our shares in our series A round, our evaluation is at least $10 million!”

Growth stage: Demonstrating value for investors

Accredited Investor (AI) = A wealthy individual willing to risk money by investing in your startup. In Singapore, AIs are permitted to make larger and riskier investments than regular investors. Everyone can apply to become an AI – the only prerequisite is that you are wealthy enough.

“I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Tan here. He’s an accredited investor who is looking to invest in startups with potential for high returns.”

Burn Rate (aka Run Rate) = The rate at which money is spent, or “burnt”, in your startup.

“I won’t invest in your startup – the burn rate is way too high! You have to either pay yourself and your people less or figure out some other way to cut costs.”

Cottage Business = A business that is sustainable on a small scale but is not scalable.

“Your grandma bakes great cookies, but I really don’t see how you can scale this. You have to rethink the premises or this is going to remain a cottage business.”

Churn Rate = The rate at which customers stop subscribing to your services. Since each new customer takes time to nurture, the churn is a major hindrance to long-term growth.

“You signed up 200 new subscribers this month? That’s great, but what’s the churn rate?”

Exit Strategy = Strategy that outlines how and when your investors get their money back.

“I want to make sure we have a clear exit strategy or I’m not giving you any money. How will I cash out these shares – are you looking to get your company bought out, or will you buy them back later?”

Hockey Stick = An exponential graph, purporting to show how your company will grow over the next few years. Shaped like a hockey stick.

“Make sure to include a hockey stick graph in our pitch deck!”

Market Penetration = Percentage of market share currently held.

“We only have 4% market penetration among adults, but 60% of people under 18 have downloaded our app.”

Seed funding = Very early-stage investment, often provided before it is clear whether the project is viable. Comes from friends and family or angel investors.

“We’re fortunate that we manage to convince Mr. Tan to give us seed funding, given that we don’t yet have our MVP ready.”

Series A, B, and C funding = Different rounds of funding. Each new round adds more funds but dilutes the ownership of the founders.

“We just closed our series A round, raising over $1.5 million!”

Related reading: Avenues to raising funds for your startup

Traction = Quantitative proof that there is an actual demand for your product.

“The fact that we’ve managed to get five hundred backers on Kickstarter in two days is pretty clear evidence that we have traction!”

Value Proposition = The qualities of your business that attract customers.

“Our value proposition is: We bring instant gratification and happiness to our clients by providing them with up-to-date cat food comparisons.”

Venture capital (VC) = Capital provided in exchange for your stocks/shares, usually by larger institutional players. Often comes with more complex contracts and requirements.

“We now have enough capital to expand into Malaysia, but we first need it to clear it with our VC investors.”

Day-to-day: Business as usual

A/B-testing = Running two very similar versions of your ad or landing page at the same time to find out which one is most effective.

“Do you think we should go for more or less text in the copy?”
“Let’s just run an A/B test and find out what works!”

Customer relationship management (CRM) software = A platform that lets you easily track your customers and how different members of your sales and marketing teams have interacted with them.

Sarah, have you logged Tony’s details into our CRM system?

Freemium = A service that is offered free-of-charge, but requires payment for access to premium features.

“I just need some simple accounting software that gets the job done – just look online for some freemium software.”

Growth Hacking = Utilising technology and social media to gain users at low cost.

“Peter here is our growth hacker. He’s currently running an A/B test on our social media pitch.”

Loss Leader Pricing = Heavily marketing underpriced products in order to entice customers who will then, in theory, wind up buying products with large contribution margins.

 “As we enter this market, we’ll have to engage in some loss leader pricing: market our starter pack heavily even though it loses us money, and then convince them to switch to professional.”

Low Hanging Fruit = The easiest path to make money, at least in the short run.

“It’s relatively easy to sell automation software to startups, so let’s make sure we market to them first. Let’s pick the low hanging fruit and then broaden our appeal!”

Pivot or Persevere = When your company goes after a different market segment or continues working with the market they have.

“Our cat food app is not taking off. We have two options: we can pivot into the dog food market, or persevere and maybe ramp up our marketing.”

Ramen Profitable = When a startup makes enough money to cover overhead.

“We’re finally ramen profitable! Everyone’s getting paid this month!”

Responsive Design = A website designed to be accessed on different devices.

“Have you checked out Unbounce? It’s a software builder that makes it really easy to create responsive websites.”

Return On Investment (ROI) = How much benefit you expect to get from the money you put into a project or product.

“If we subscribe to Dragon Law, how much money will we save on our legal needs? What’s the ROI, in time and money?”
“Well Bid4Ad told us that they saved 78% on their legal needs, but why don’t you try for yourself?”

 

I’m sure you’ve had enough of hearing these terms get thrown around the room! Did we miss out on any? Tell us in the comments below!

Are You Infringing On Hong Kong’s PDPO?

July 14, 2016

Have you done any of these lately?

  1. Sent emails to old clients that your company no longer serves,
  2. Failed to update your marketing database with opt-out requests,
  3. Contacted someone in your mailing list who had requested to be removed from  your mailing list, or
  4. Sent personal data of clients to your email account.

If so, whatever your intentions, you will have violated the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO).    Tweet this

Enacted in Hong Kong in 1995, PDPO seeks to protect the privacy of individuals in relation to personal data.

In an article titled Hong Kong Regulators Step up Enforcement on Personal Data Protectionby the Data Protection Report in May this year, an insurance agent, marketing agency, as well as portfolio manager were penalised for the improper handling of personal data by the Securities and Futures Commission (“SFC”) under the PDPO. In each case, the plaintiffs were sentenced to a Community Service Order, fine, and SFC disciplinary action respectively.

So, what is personal data?

Personal data is information that:

  • Relates to a living person,
  • Can identify that person, and
  • Is stored in a form that allows for processing.

These include names, identity card numbers, and medical and employment records.

Section 35C of the PDPO requires that your company provide the following information to the individual orally or in writing before using his personal data in direct marketing:

  1. You intend to use his/her personal data;
  2. You may not so use the data without his/her consent
  3. The kind(s) of personal data you will use;
  4. The classes of goods, facilities or services you offer/advertise; and
  5. The channel through which the individual may communicate his/her consent to the intended use.

Pursuant to section 35G(3) of the Ordinance, a company which receives a customer’s request for cessation of using his personal data in direct marketing must comply with the request without charge.

Failure to comply with any of the above requirements is a criminal offence, which is punishable by a fine of up to HK$500,000 and imprisonment for up to 3 years.

Source: Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data

So, what can organisations do to avoid infringing on the PDPO?

Source: Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data Hong Kong

Ensure you have a well-drafted data protection policy that outlines the following:

  1. Your purpose of collecting the data,
  2. The classes of persons to whom the data may be transferred,
  3. How long you will keep the data for,
  4. The steps you will take in event of unauthorised or accidental access, processing, erasure, loss or use, and
  5. How an individual can reach out to access his/her personal data and  make corrections.

If you collect data on your website, it is also required by law that you have a Website Privacy Policy that informs customers about how you use their data.

 

Get a free Website Privacy Policy with a Dragon Law free trial

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Sign up for a free trial. No minimum commitment, no credit card required.

In today’s era of internet and connectivity, consumers are more concerned than ever about protecting the privacy of their personal data. Observe good data management practices, and you will be putting your customers at ease.

The Latest Developments in Legal Technology: A Roundup

July 12, 2016

We’re always excited to hear about new technological developments that give the legal industry a little shake up. Are you keeping up with the latest developments?

In the last two months:

Robot Lawyer overturns $4 million worth of fines; Dragon Law launches in New Zealand; more companies go online to meet their legal needs

1) A robot lawyer, DoNotPay, quashed 160,000 parking tickets in London and New York worth over $4 million.

The creator of DoNotPay, a 19-year-old Stanford University undergraduate, has dubbed it “The World’s First Robot Lawyer” that helps you “get free legal help in under 30 seconds”. DoNotPay’s easy-to-use chatroom interface takes the place of the traditional, dreaded, appeals process:

To challenge a ticket, users log on to donotpay.co.uk and chat to a bot that asks them for additional details of the parking incident, such as visible road signs or the size of a parking space. The chatbot then generates a free appeal to the council in question on the user’s behalf. In just 21 months, DoNotPay has successfully appealed 160,000 out of 250,000 submitted parking ticket cases.

2) Dragon Law is now available for use in New Zealand

Less than two months after our launch in Malaysia, we are ecstatic to officially announce the launch of Dragon Law in New Zealand! As part of this promotional launch, we are offering the entire suite of New Zealand documents for FREE! This means:

  • Dragon Law clients in Hong Kong and Singapore will have the ability to also access Malaysia and New Zealand-localised documents at no additional cost, and

Sign up for a free trial. Free for a limited time only.

 

3) More Singapore companies go online to meet their legal needs

TODAY reported the emergence of online platforms in Asia that help small and medium enterprises with a range of legal needs: from drafting contracts and registering trademarks to obtaining visas. These online alternatives are perceived as fuss-free, high-speed and come with small price tags.


Ms Fanny See, Chief Marketing Officer of local tech startup Detrack and a Dragon Law subscriber, had praise for an on-demand legal service in the cloud that has the ability to provide fast and immediate answers.

Speaking at the Canon Think Big Leadership Convention 2016 earlier this year, Professor Tan Cheng Han, Senior Counsel and chairman of the Centre for Law and Business at the National University of Singapore, also recognised that the “Uberisation” of legal, among other professional services, makes way for new and better solutions to service transactional requests.

Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, was also quoted as predicting “less need for lawyers… because technology will make it possible for customers, consumers to get what they want at a lower cost.

While the concept of self-service legal is still perceived as novelty to Asia, the West have long been early adopters with the likes of legal technology platforms like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer. The reason for change is clear: Technology and the Internet have transformed the way businesses operate, yet legal work continues to be conducted largely offline. Bringing legal online is a move toward better productivity and efficiency that even law firms, too, have learnt to embrace.

 

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How to Choose The Right Business Structure When Starting Up

July 8, 2016

Your choice of business structure has an immediate impact on your business’ operational efficiency, personal liability, paperwork, and tax requirements. This is why it is important for you to fully understand the available options in order to determine what’s right for your business.

When approaching the subject, consider the following elements:

  1. What are the characteristics of each business structure? What are the pros and cons of each?
  2. What is your long-term business plan, and the underlying business objectives?
  3. What filing and documentation is required for each type of business structure?

You will commonly find these business structures in most countries:

1. The Sole Proprietorship

You, the ‘solopreneur’, come up with the idea, set up the business, procure all assets, raise capital, and are solely responsible for business growth. Because you do all the work, you can expect to reap all the benefits too. However, not all is rosy because your personal property can be at risk if the business funds are not enough to cover losses. This is a high-risk option that can pose as a huge deterrent to startups.

2. The Partnership

You, along with your partner, set up and own the business together; pooling together resources and skills. The two main types of partnerships based on liability are the unlimited/general partnership, and the limited liability partnership. The latter allows the partners to be actively involved in the working of the business while liable only to the extent of the capital contributed by them. The profit-sharing ratio is determined by the partnership agreement.

3. The Company

This is, first and foremost, a separate legal entity from its owners – the assets and machinery are in their own name. The two main types of companies based on limitation by shares are the public company with more than 50 shareholders, and the private company with no more than 50 shareholders.

Most entrepreneurs opt for the private limited company (Pte. Ltd.) where your shareholders will own the company and your liability will be limited to the original value of the shares you hold. The profits, after paying off the creditors, are distributed among them as dividends.

Pros and cons

Knowledge about the benefits and drawbacks of each type of organisational structure is essential in making an informed decision about the ideal structure for your business.

The most common for businesses in Singapore is to opt for incorporation as a limited company. This setup has several benefits, such as the ease of raising capital (or seeking investment), limited liability for owners, and separating management from ownership. Moreover, the taxation scheme implemented by the Singapore government for companies is the third lowest in the world.

Are you incorporated as a private limited company? Do you know what legal documents you will need? Read more:

 

Related reading: Free eBook download: Incorporating in Singapore

Related reading: Free eBook download: Incorporating in Hong Kong