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Education provider MindChamps has 62 registered trademarks to protect its ideas, programmes

"Without trademarks, we have little value," said Mr David Chiem, whose MindChamps group runs pre-schools and enrichment programmes.
"Without trademarks, we have little value," said Mr David Chiem, whose MindChamps group runs pre-schools and enrichment programmes.

Education provider MindChamps Holdings spares no effort and expense in registering trademarks.

This is because the group believes it is critical to protect every unique idea and programme that it has developed, said founder and chairman David Chiem, who is also the group chief executive officer.

So far, MindChamps has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in 62 trademarks in various territories, such as China, India, Japan, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

The group revealed plans for further growth, with a continued focus on research to develop new scientific-based curricula.

LITTLE VALUE WITHOUT TRADEMARKS AND BRAND RECOGNITION

"Without trademarks, we have little value," said Mr Chiem, whose group runs pre-schools and enrichment programmes.

MindChamps has been prolific in registering trademarks, because it recognises that the field it operates in is very competitive.

At MindChamps, I've always believed that it's about the brand, not just the footprint. Footprints can create a mark on the surface, but may not stand the test of time.

DAVID CHIEM
Founder, chairman and group CEO of MindChamps Holdings

According to Mr Chiem, it is often difficult for the public to differentiate the superior practitioners from the more run-of-the-mill ones.

"This is where the branding of MindChamps and its numerous trademarks have been so important and so influential in lifting us to a leading position in the premium education market," he said.

The consistent trademarking of names - of different MindChamps programmes and of individual techniques - has been a deliberate policy.

The group said that the memorable nature of each trademarked name is meant to make it recognisable, to continually differentiate MindChamp's approach and highlight its uniqueness.

"The reality of the business is that it is easy for people to take a MindChamps curriculum and copy it," Mr Chiem admitted.

"We know that the moment we launch a product into the marketplace, anybody can take all the workbooks and try to copy them. But what they can't say is that it's a MindChamps brand and that they have the depth of the understanding and know-how of our unique approach."

TACKLING INFRINGEMENTS

The cachet that MindChamps enjoys from its strong portfolio of trademarks has protected the group from infringements abroad.

Its legal department has sent letters to parties in countries such as the Philippines and India to stop them from using the MindChamps name.

The group also has a team that, supported by software provided by consultants, trawls the Internet to check for infringements.

MindChamps teachers who leave the group are required to sign a deed of confidentiality during their exit interview.

"This document reinforces our ownership of intellectual property, disclosed to or created by each exiting teacher during their employment at MindChamps," said Mr Chiem.

He said that it underscored former MindChamps teachers' obligation to maintain the confidentiality of MindChamps' information and intellectual property rights.

RESEARCH-BASED PROGRAMMES TO PLUG GAPS IN EDUCATION

When it spots what it considers to be gaps in the field of education, MindChamps carries out research and creates programmes to fill the gaps.

For instance, to address what it considers a problem of children spending many years taught what to learn rather than how to learn, MindChamps draws on research in four domains - education, psychology, neuroscience and theatre - to develop its programmes.

The group has global experts in education and science on its world advisory board. Among them are Emeritus Professor Allan Snyder, the founder of the Centre for the Mind at the University of Sydney and a Fellow of the Royal Society - a prestigious scientific fellowship whose former fellows include Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein.

CHAMPION MINDSET

Prof Snyder, who is the chancellor of MindChamps, is the "father of the Champion mindset".

His research into the lives of champions from all walks of life - in fields such as the arts and sciences, entrepreneurship, sports and politics - has provided him with an understanding of what he calls "the Champion mindset", which MindChamps inculcates in its students. 

"Champion mindset is not about elitism. It's about how can we harness every individual to be their own champion - that is, to become the best that they can be in their own chosen field," said Mr Chiem.

To ensure its teachers know how to engage children's imaginations, MindChamps requires them to undergo up to 200 hours of in-house training, regardless of their prior qualifications and experience.

"We saw that in education we must give kids a New Brain Software," Mr Chiem said.

"To excel, they need to know how to learn. They need to be flexible and require a highly creative mind to see the world through different perspectives. 

"And they've got to have the champion mind to celebrate what's uniquely them, and have the confidence to be who they are, and have 100 per cent respect and zero fear. That's what we encapsulate as part of our whole philosophy."

SUCCESSFUL FRANCHISE MODEL

The group's methods so impressed MindChamps students' parents that many signed on as franchisees.

There are currently 40 MindChamps pre-schools and reading and writing centres in Singapore, four of which are run by MindChamps itself. The rest are franchisees.

The group is a leader in the premium range of pre-schools, with a 39.5 per cent market share. About 5,000 students are enrolled islandwide.

The group also has two pre-schools in the Philippines, under a master franchise model. 

INTERNATIONAL EXPANSION THROUGH AN IP PORTFOLIO

Armed with a robust portfolio of trademarks and a strong premium brand, the group is ready to expand into more markets overseas with the help of franchising, beginning with Australia and Malaysia.

Mr Chiem lauded franchising as a strong model for the group, because people who have invested their own money to set up a school will run it with a lot of passion.

He said that the successful franchise model is underpinned by its established brand name, coupled with a scientifically-validated curriculum that is designed to ensure that children develop a deep passion for learning. 

Recently, MindChamps inked a 20-licence deal with a master franchisee to run its reading and writing programmes in Sydney and Melbourne, with further plans to open pre-schools in Australia.

In the medium-term, MindChamps has expressed its interest in the Chinese and Indian markets through joint ventures and franchising. 

To help IP-ready companies such as MindChamps compete globally, the IPOS enterprise engagement arm IP ValueLab actively helps businesses bring their innovative ideas to the global market.

This includes helping businesses access funds through the IP Financing Scheme, which permits granted patents, trademarks and copyrights to be used as collaterals to access loan facilities.

For companies such as MindChamps, this provides additional financial resources to expand their brands into the burgeoning Asian region, which is set to account for over 50 per cent of global gross domestic products by 2050.

After offering enrichment programmes, opening pre-schools and honing its expertise in the craft of teaching children how to learn, MindChamps wants to take it a notch higher.

"It's always in our pipeline to roll out our international schools, to be called MindChamps World Schools," Mr Chiem said.

True to form, he registered the trademark for the international schools about a decade ago.

In 2014, Singapore Press Holdings bought into the MindChamps PreSchool division's vision with a 22 per cent stake. Together, the two brands will be taking the MindChamps PreSchool brand to an initial public offering in 2018.


IP ValueLab is a subsidiary of the Intellectual Property of Singapore, and serves as a partner in delivering solutions in innovation and IP management. It aims to help IP-ready businesses compete globally through innovation.

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