What's a bright idea worth?

With intellectual property (IP) fast becoming a critical asset in today’s global markets, Singapore companies can tap on government resources to grow and flourish.

Safeguarding a company’s intellectual property (IP) helps to maximise its value to stakeholders.

The process, while relatively pain-free in Singapore, can nonetheless prove daunting for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with few resources beyond what is needed for their core businesses.

But with the support of IP ValueLab, a subsidiary of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), companies such as Aptus Business Logic (ABL) have been able to gain a stronger business understanding on how their intellectual property can be commercialised for global growth.

ABL provides secure and robust electronic payment software solutions that allow its clients to safely process non-cash payments.

IP Valuelab recommended that we should put in place a strategy to protect our IP through the use of patents or copyrights before going ahead to commercialise or monetise it

Chief Executive Officer
Aptus Business Logic

ABL’s invention, glo.data, is a software application that can copy and extract data from multiple Point-Of-Sale (POS) systems without the need for any POS integration or modification.

With help from IP ValueLab, IPOS’ enterprise engagement arm, ABL has successfully mapped an IP strategy and is now reaping the benefits. IP ValueLab serves as a partner in delivering solutions in innovation and IP management.

It aims to help IP-ready businesses compete globally through innovation.

Started in 2010 with a small team providing software development, consulting and project management services primarily in Singapore, ABL today has 35 employees with offices in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, serving a client base across Southeast Asia, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.

The company’s clientele include NETS, Ez-Link, Touch ’n Go, Land Transport Authority, ComfortDelGro Taxis and café chain Simply Wrapps.

ABL has one of the largest teams of software architects and developers in the e-payment domain in Southeast Asia. Its glo suite of solutions addresses all areas of e-payments, including mobile payments, e-wallets and person-to-person transfers.

Rising to the challenge

In ABL’s case, the process of applying for its first patent took five years.

“Like all software companies, we have always wanted to protect our IP through copyrights and patents. However, the reality is that the company was ‘boot-strapped’ and from day one, the emphasis had always been on improving cash flow to pay salaries and bills,” said Mr Koh Tze Wei, ABL's Chief Executive Officer.

“There are only 24 hours in a day, so all of our available time was spent on commercialising our IP and deploying solutions for our clients,” he added.

To protect its IP, ABL signed non-disclosure agreements with their clients and business partners. It also implemented various software to ensure the integrity of its software and prevent unauthorised access to the source codes and designs.

Earlier this year, ABL met up with IP ValueLab to learn about best practices in IP management. This resulted in the company filing a patent for glo.data.

“The range of applications that can leverage glo.data includes management of vouchers, loyalty programs, advertising, consumer purchase data analytics, payments, and credit scoring,” he said.

“Consumers need not be concerned with issues of confidentiality as there is no personal information collected from the POS systems, except for the description of the items and value of the items purchased,” he added.

“Applying for a patent is an additional step to enhance the value of our IP portfolio. However, we have always been innovating and enhancing our IP portfolio so as to offer our clients the benefits of our ongoing R&D efforts. For example, with the rapid proliferation of smartphones and the mobile Internet, our e-payment solutions now include an option for our clients to adopt ABL’s tokenisation solution, which greatly increases the security of mobile payment transactions,” said Mr Koh.

Easy filing process

Mr Koh was pleasantly surprised to learn from IP ValueLab that the Government offers grants and various schemes to help companies develop IP management strategies and deepen IP management capabilities.

With a patent in place, ABL will be able to commercialise its invention and work with its partners and clients on a revenue-sharing or licensing model.

This will allow it to develop into a truly sustainable business with global reach and multiple recurring revenue streams.

For ABL, it was worth the effort it took to file for IP protection.

“Our own experience has shown that it is not as costly or as time-consuming as commonly thought,” said Mr Koh, who shared that it took about two months to prepare the necessary documents to file the patent.

The big picture

To tap IP as a new growth area, and develop the IP industry into a vibrant sector that helps to boost the Singapore economy, IPOS has in recent years, launched a number of initiatives.

These include an IP financing scheme that allows companies to access loan facilities using granted patents, granted trade marks and copyright related rights as loan collateral; patent acceleration initiatives to enable applicants across countries to obtain patents more efficiently, and the introduction of a mediation promotion scheme that help businesses by co-funding parties who opt for mediation in IP disputes.

In tandem, these measures help to build an IP infrastructure and ecosystem that will give local business an equal playing field in the international business arena.

By unlocking the value of their intangible assets and ideas, homegrown businesses will have a competitive edge that may make all the difference between success and failure.

“All SMEs, whether in the software business or otherwise, should leverage the support for continued innovation and IP protection and development that various government agencies in Singapore offer,” said Mr Koh.

IP ValueLab is the enterprise engagement arm of IPOS and helps IP-ready businesses compete globally through solutions in innovation and IP management. It educates companies on the importance and competitive edge presented in IP, sets industry best practices, and facilitates IP valuation and financing.

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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