Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Corporate Social Responsibility

“As long that you have a decent job, work hard, law-abide, you can consider yourself fulfilling a role as a good citizen,” there was this CEO trying his best to cajole newbies with his over-simplified motto when I first joined the IT company right after my graduation.

That moment my conscience shot back, “Yeah? How about those who work hard at licensed casinos or at tobacco companies? How about your cars that spit carbon monoxides and contribute to pollution everyday? How about …….?” We all have sinned; the simple mantra for life won’t get you near to any role model example.

Corporate Social Responsibility 
We often heard of the listing regulatory authority emphasizes on the importance of corporate governance and social responsibility. But, when you have the chance to look at the courses constantly offered to the directors, you would realize on how pale the contents really are.  The real purpose of these courses is to urge the directors to protect the minority shareholders’ interests, not the real public’s interests. Indeed, a lot of public listed companies have very little concern of the public, even those who made corporate governance and corporate social responsibility the ‘bible’ in their daily operations. 

The reason is simple. They’re driven by profit, by the greed of ROI. Even when the public companies have tens of thousands of shareholders, the number is still considered minority to the real public. And we have no short of examples where the interests of public companies conflict with the publics.

Take for an example the increase in electricity tariff; the share price rises for the electric power provider, the investors are happy, and they would tend to ignore the inflation and the increase in the cost of living as the after-effects. And the minority shareholders might think, “What can I do about it? Since I couldn’t beat them, it’s better that I suffer less from the side effects and join them.” And believe me, these vultures are well aware of every tactic to lobby the government to work towards their interests, to add bigger profit to their already lucrative monopoly business.

Stop Lynas, Save Malaysia
You may criticize these companies, but would your virtue be strong enough to avoid investing in their stocks that guarantee dividends? We saw the shameless shareholders posted their comments on the Facebook page of Lynas after the company been awarded the temporary license to operate their rare-earth plant that may harm the environment by emitting radioactive Thorium as by-product, despite hundreds of thousands Malaysian demonstrated and staged numerous strong protests against the operation. Where are those social responsibilities at the time of need and when the law permits (not to have one)? And we all know that laws are so easily bent in developing countries.

That is why quite some pharmaceutical companies have their clinical trials on new drugs in developing countries like Kenya, Nicaragua, Cambodia, and Mongolia, because it is much easier to find human guinea pigs, and the loosely regulatory environment in these countries avoid them from the threat of litigation if things went wrong.  

Federal Court dismisses Bukit Koman residents' appeal

When Bukit Koman Anti-Cyanide Committee in Malaysia called for a donation after they lost their legal battle against a gold mining company early this month and the Federal Court ordered them to pay RM15,000 (USD5,000) as legal cost, we donated RM10,000 to inspire more corporations to support civil society movements and underprivileged groups.

To me, charitable activities shouldn’t be just an icing on the cake.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Patent War

Patent war has become nasty nowadays. Even when it comes to your original work, you still might have a chance to infringe other people’s rights. The absurdity of the fact could be explained in this following scenario: Your product was launched for quite sometime but you didn’t file for patent application while the other company (that made the same product as you) had filed and granted the patent though the product is still under incubation. They could sue you for violating his patent, you could lose the case and compensate their losses, although technically, you’re not stealing anything from them. And, there is a possibility that they copied your idea in the first place.

Most technology startups, especially those from developing countries, have high chances of losing when engaged in intellectual property war game.  Most of them are even unaware of the magnitude of the IP right, or in the state of penny-pinching, any budget allocation for patent expenditure seems unrealistic, and would instantly be considered excessive in their plan; to be dropped without much hesitation.

Patent War
But when we look at startups in the Silicon Valley, whom are showered with all kinds of funds from angel investors and venture capitalists, and whom have enough exposure and guidance to survive and prosper in the modern warfare, who knows how to play lawyer first, inventor later. According to Bloomberg Businessweek (August 13 – 26, 2012 issue), in an article, Hiring a Mercenary for The New Patent War, a new startup, Tactus Technology, filed 20 applications before even beginning to bring their inventions to life. 

How much do you have to spend to start a patent application?  Schox Patent Group responded to Businessweek interview by saying that they charge a flat rate of US$15,000 per patent. For big corporations, this sum is peanuts, but a big sum to smaller companies.

“Decades ago a machine might have five or ten patents,” says Schox. “But today, the phone in your pocket has about 5,000.”  It seems that the patent filing is a lucrative business, but the huge incentive lies on the patent litigation war.

Patent War
On 24th August 2012, Apple won its patent lawsuit against Samsung on the infringement of its multiple patents in the US, including scrolling, zooming, navigation features, as well as icon design and appearance, which awarded the company a US$1.05 billion in settlements.  The patent war ignited by Apple is also a strategy aimed at Google to suppress the advancement of its Android powered smart phones and tablets.

The impact? The initial objective of patent rights was to protect the novelty of an invention; now it has become a double-edged sword to subdue competition and innovation to some extent. 

We are a technology company, no matter how I loath the twisted development of patent application; it is still one of the indicators to measure the technology strength of a company or a nation. As a technology company, we have to file more patent applications to protect our intellectual property. This month, we filed in a patent application for “A Time Attendance tracking method and system” for TimeTec Mobile App, and another patent on one-touch technology is to be filed next month. Here is our part done in the patenting world.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ