Growing Trees Into Furniture & Art

THE next time you sit on a wooden chair, don’t be surprised to discovered that the chair has been ‘grown’ and not manufactured in a factory. No nails, fixings or machinery are used in creating the furniture.

This novel way of creating or growing extraordinary household chairs and tables is the brainchild of British designer Gavin Munro who not only challenges the way we create products, but believes in letting Mother Nature do all the hard work.

As a young boy growing up in England, he noticed that his mother had a bonsai tree which was left to grow in its own direction. It eventually formed itself into the shape of a throne. He was intrigued by the idea of a chair being created directly from nature.

However, it was only when he moved to California – to get a degree in Furniture Design, an apprenticeship to a cabinet-maker and a long stint building with natural materials – that the idea of ‘growing’ furniture as a business took firm root. While in San Francisco, he spent his free time crafting furniture from driftwood, but the thought of his mother’s bonsai plant never left him. If a bonsai plant could grow into a chair shape, why not other furniture, he thought.

Returning to England, he founded his firm, Full Grown, in 2006, with one goal in mind – to create the world’s most eco-friendly furniture design company. “My chairs and tables are formed from one solid piece of wood. No joints, no nails, no weak points and no unnecessary waster.” he said in an interview recently in the Architectural Digest magazine.

How are these grown furniture made? He trains and prunes young tree branches as they grow over specially designed plastic moulds or formers. At certain points he grafts them together so that they object grows in to one solid piece.

 

The whole process of growing a chair can take between 4 and 8 years. Using this method, he’s already created several prototype pieces and has a whole field of willow trees in Derbyshire where he, his wife and their teams are currently tending a crop of 500 tables, chairs and lampshades which Munro hopes to harvest next year. It takes an immense amount of patience to get the job done. For every 100 trees, there are at least 1,000 branches that grow with them that must be shaped, coaxed and cared for. Also, the shoots must be trimmed at the right time to preserve the health of the tree while maintaining the desired shape.

‘Growing’ furniture is not a new concept. In fact, the ancient Greeks and Egyptians grew stools while the Chinese were known to dig holes and grow tree roots through the gaps of chair-shaped rocks.

As the first commercially-available chairs are expected to be ready for sale by mid 2017. Munro is in discussions with a few galleries. Other items such as geometric lamps and mirror frames, are expected to be available in the later part of this year.

As a final note to all Investors and Inventors, stay tuned for the latest inventions showcase at ITEX 2017? Haven mark your dates yet, fraid not! Pre-register now by CLICKING HERE.

 

Image Designed by www.fullgrown.co.uk

From Sci-Fi Dream to Reality

 

FOR many decades, science fiction films have often shown what they think the future could look like – some were ludicrous, some were realised. However, self-lacing shoes was a pipe dream for many futurists.

Welcome the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0, the first performance vehicle for the company’s latest platform breakthrough, adaptive lacing. The shoe translates deep research in digital, electrical and mechanical engineering into a product designed for movement.

It challenges traditional understanding of fit, proposing an ultimate solution to individual idiosyncrasies in lacing and tension preference.

Functional simplicity reduces a typical athlete concern, distraction. “When you step in, your heel will hit a sensor and the system will automatically tighten,” said Tiffany Beers, Nike’s senior innovator and the project’s technical lead.

 

“Then there are two buttons on the side to tighten and loosen. You can adjust it until it’s perfect.” For Nike, the innovation solves another enduring athlete-equipment quandary: the ability to make swift micro-adjustments. Undue pressure caused by tight tying and slippage resulting from loose laces are now relics of the past. Precise, consistent, personalised lockdown can now be manually adjusted on the fly.

“That’s an important step, because feet undergo an incredible amount of stress during competition,” said Tinker Hatfield, Vice President for Design and Special Projects of Nike. Beers began pondering the mechanics shortly after meeting Hatfield, who dreamed of making adaptive lacing a reality. He asked if she wanted to figure it out – not a replication of a pre-existing idea but as “the first baby step to get to a more sophisticated place”.

The project caught the attention of a third collaborator Nike president and CEO Mark Parker, who helped guide the design. The process saw Beers brainstorming with a group of engineers intent on testing her theories. They first came up with a snowboard boot featuring an external generator. While far from the ideal, it was the first of a series of strides toward Beers and Hatfield’s original goal: to embed the technical components into such a small space that the design moves with the body and absorbs the same force the athlete is facing.

 

Through 2013, Hatfield and Beers spearheaded a number of new systems, a pool of prototypes and several trials, arriving at an underfoot-lacing mechanism. In April 2015, Beers was tasked with making a self-lacing Nike Mag to celebrate the icon’s true fictional release date of October 21. The final product quietly debuted Nike’s new adaptive technology. Shortly after, the completion of the more technical, sport version they’d originally conceived, the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0, confirmed the strength of the apparatus. The potential of adaptive lacing for the athlete is huge, Hatfield said, as it would provide tailored-to-the moment custom fit.

“It is amazing to consider a shoe that senses what the body needs in real-time. That eliminates a multitude of distractions, including mental attrition, and thus truly benefits performance.

“Wouldn’t it be great if a shoe, in the future, could sense when you needed to have it tighter or looser? Could it take you even tighter than you’d normally go if it senses you really need extra snugness in a quick manoeuvre? That’s where we’re headed. In the future, product will come alive.”

In short, the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 is the first step into the future of adaptive performance. It’s currently manual (i.e., athlete controlled) but it makes feasible the once-fantastic concept of an automated, nearly symbiotic relationship between the foot and shoe.

If you have gotten yourself a pair, share your shoe-experience with us in the comment box below 🙂

 

Image Designed by www.nike.com

Green Food – The Tesla of Food?

IMAGINE a plant-based hamburger patty that not only looks and tastes just like meat but bleeds as well. Or how about trying some meatless chicken strips with the same fleshy and fibrous texture as cooked poultry. There is a strong chance that the above scenario may soon become a reality.

Several Silicon Valley funded companies are on a mission to change the way people eat by creating new plant-based food that they say will be healthier, less expensive and tasty as real meat, egg, dairy and other animal-based products. More importantly, these healthier option all have a much lower environment impact.

One of a handful of tech startups that has embarked on a programme to develop animal products as well as cheese and eggs from plants is Impossible Foods. The company’s founder, Dr Patrick Brown says that its mission is to “give people the great taste and nutritional benefits of foods that come from animals without the negative health and environmental impact.”

The Standford University biologist and physician founded Impossible Foods because he knew that people would never give up the foods they love. Generally, many people are not keen on eating vegetables. They prefer to eat meat or dairy products. He believes that the answer is to mimic the taste of meat and other animal-derived foods with plants and take the animal out of the equation.

Animal farming, he says, is not only destructive but unsustainable. “Yet the demand for meat and dairy products is going up. What we are doing is reinventing the entire system of transforming plants into meat and milk.”

According to the United Nations, livestock uses about 30 percent of the world’s landmass and produce about 14.5 percent of greenhouse-gas emission. Furthermore, animal farming is also one of the biggest consumers of water. With the world’s population expected to rise to more than 9 billion by 2050, the demand for meat and other food production are expected to increase.

It is interesting to note that the crop of Silicon Valley funded startups are not targeting vegetarians and vegans but those who love meats and dairy products. This means, the companies have to replicate the meaty flavours and textures that meat lovers prefer.

 

The secret to a burger’s taste is haem, a compound found in all living cells, including plants. It is especially abundant in haemoglobin in blood and in muscle tissues as myoglobin. It also gives a burger its red colour.

During the cooking process, haem acts as a catalyst that helps transform the amino acids, vitamins and sugars in muscle tissue into numerous volatile and flavourful molecules. To create the meaty flavour in its burger patties, the company uses a heme protein equivalent to one found in the roots of legumes. According to Dr Brown, this is “the molecule that makes meat meat.”

According to a recent article in The Economist, a study by the Humane Research Council in the US states that about most vegetarians and vegans (about 2 percent of American’s population) go back to eating meat. As the article points out, this may not be an option in the future as there will come a time when it will be impossible for food production to meet the needs of the growing population, unless there is a change in the way we eat.

This being the case, there is a strong possibility the people may eventually shift to plant-based foods.

Lastly, we hope readers can share your good practices and let’s make the world a better place. Till then 🙂

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Image 02 Designed by www.impossiblefoods.com

On The Right Track of Brilliance

LAST YEARS’S Malaysian Young Inventor Exhibition (MYIE) held concurrently at ITEX 2016 has witnessed over hundreds of entries of ingenious creations submitted by the young minds from Malaysian schools.

Among them is the youngest inventor of them all — Ajendra Rajamanickam from MAZ International School, who have bagged the MYIE Silver Medal with his invention – SOS Safe Child GSM System. Recognising the impressive feat achieved by this young genius, we sat down and had an insightful conversation with the inventor about the winning entry.


ITEX: Can you tell us what does your invention do?

AR: My invention, the SOS Safe Child GSM System, allows parents to track their child’s location with their mobile phone, and also the ability to respond immediately when their child is in danger. Parents can also make calls to the device to hear their child for immediate action.

 

ITEX: How did the idea of the SOS Safe Child GSM System came about?

AR: Many parents, including my father, are always concerned whenever their children want to go out and play. This is understandable when there are so many cases of kidnapping and bullying happening daily. One day, the alarm system at one my father’s properties went off and my father was alerted immediately to respond to the situation. That’s when my thoughts sparked: “What if I can have an alarm system, like the one at my father’s property, connected to me when I go out to play?” From that day onwards, I began to work on this conceptual project with my father and finally creating the SOS Safe Child GSM System.

 

ITEX: How would your invention make sense to parents?

AR: All they need to do is to let their children carry the device wherever they go. Even when their children were playing afar, the parents can still be immediately alerted of their child’s condition for them to respond immediately and prevent further harm. It is also simple to operate and most importantly, this might save the life of their child.

 

ITEX: Are you planning to add additional features/improvement to your invention?

AR: Yes! In fact I’m planning to make my invention even smaller in size and increase its capacity to respond and track further.

 

ITEX: Did your invention receive any interest from investors?

AR: Currently I have yet to receive any inquiry from investors, but I did hear some interested parents who want to purchase my invention. I believe in the near future, this device will be highly on demand once the public were aware about it.

 

ITEX: Do you have any interest to commercialising your invention?

AR: Yes, I do. I think my invention will not only benefit parents in safeguarding and protecting their child, but also allows their child to have a secured childhood.

 

As a final note to all young inventors, click HERE to register your interest for this year WYIE (World Young Inventors Challenge) 🙂

Young Innovative Leaders of Tomorrow

#ICYMI We are excited to share this once again that ITEX 2017 will be launching the inaugural World Young Inventors Challenge from 11 – 13 May 2017. It is an invention competition to promote the spirit of creativity and inventiveness among young inventors, which is open to all young inventors below the age of 20 years old. The competition is divided into 2 categories i.e. for students aged 13 years old and below, and for students aged 20 years old and below as of 1 January 2017.

All inventions will be evaluated by a team of international judges. Awards include WYIE gold, silver and bronze medals, the Malaysian Young Inventors Exhibition (MYIE) awards for the top 3 Malaysian inventions, the Asian Young Inventors Exhibition (AYIE) awards for the top 3 inventions from Asia and the prestigious Best Young Inventor Award will be awarded to the overall best invention for the World Young Inventors Exhibition.

Wait no further and take your action today, young innovators. Click HERE to register your interest 🙂

WYIE 2017: A Tribute to Junior Inventors

AT ITEX 2017 we are all about paying tribute to the young and brilliant minds of our time. The World Young Inventors Exhibition (WYIE) will return again this year to send out a clear message: everyone has the capacity to invent. The exhibition is set to showcase what a touch of genius can do to an idea regardless of age.

So get ready for excitement to visit WYIE this year! Over hundreds of inventions from 20 countries are expected to be showcased here then!

By the way, here’s a line-up of brilliant junior inventors from around the world who managed to get their playroom ideas out into the real world!

 1) Popsicle

Bet you thought that the good old Popsicle was invented by a multimillion dollar food company when really, it was the brainchild of an 11 year old boy named Frank Epperson. Frank’s idea was in fact accidental and it has got us all thinking “Why didn’t I think of that?”

In 1905, Epperson had left a mixture of powdered soda, water and a stick in a cup on his porch overnight when it was freezing. He woke up the next morning and voila, it was a frozen treat on a stick! He initially called it the “Epsicle,” but the kids at this school kept asking for “Pop’s ‘sicle’ and that is how the name Popsicle was born. He got a patent on it in 1923 and then sold the rights to a bigger company. Today, the brand is owned by Unilever and they sell more than two billion Popsicles every year.

Source: www.greatbusinessschools.org

2) Trampoline

The trampoline was a result of a 16 year old gymnast bouncing off the idea of inventing a device that could help him improve his skills. Iowa native George Nissen visited a circus one day where he saw trapeze artists using safety netting to perform amazing feats. So, Nissen began working in his parents’ garage to develop the kind of bouncing apparatus he had thought up in his mind.

His first successful prototype was constructed while he was a student at the University of Iowa, and it was a big hit when he brought the model to a summer camp. Nissen then began efforts to bring it to the commercial public. The trampoline was named after the Spanish word for diving board – el trampolin. He obtained “Trampoline” as a trademark name for his device.

Source: www.therichest.com

3)  Braille

You might think that an effective system to help the blind read and write would have to be invented by an old but very bright professor. We all thought wrong because it was Louis Braille who invented Braille, an alphabet using raised dots, at the age of 15. Prior to that, each letter was raised and to read, one had to feel out each letter. The books were heavy and took a long time to read. Braille was actually born with sight but became blind at age three after an eye injury. He invented the Braille 5 years after he entered the Royal Institute for the Blind in Paris.

Source: www.kidsdiscover.com

4) Waterskiing

In 1922, an enterprising 18-year-old water-sports enthusiast, Ralph Samuelson, came up with the idea of waterskiing. However, apparatus for the sport was not as sophisticated as what you see today. After trying wooden barrel staves and actual snow skis for skis, he ended up with his own design and bindings made of leather. Samuelson is also credited with the first ski jump using a greased ramp. He spent the next 15 years performing shows and promoting his sport, at one point even being pulled by a World War II flying boat to reach a speed of 80 miles per hour, making him the first speed skier. Unfortunately, he never patented his invention.

Source: www.therichest.com

5) Superman

The inventors of this super hero might come as surprise to many.  Two 18-year-olds who loved comic books and science fiction, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster began making cartoons and homemade fanzines while they were still in high school. One of their creations was the caped superhero called “the Superman”. It appeared 1933 as a short story, “The Reign of the Superman.” The idea of Superman however didn’t exactly fly of the shelves.

After developing the character more, they were met with years of rejection — that is until 1938, when National Allied Publications (the precursor to DC Comics) selected it as the cover story for the company’s Action Comics No. 1. In 1939, Siegel and Shuster began the syndicated Superman comic strip; having sold the rights to National, they were never significantly acknowledged for their creation.

Source: www.mnn.com

So, all the above was invented way back in 20th century (1901 – 1999). Get ready for more on what you could explore with us as we move forward to the Digital Era of 21st Century. Come and witness all the new inventions by the young minds at The World Young Inventors Exhibition (WYIE) taking place at ITEX 2017 from 11-13 May 2017. If you are keen on exhibiting at WYIE, CLICK HERE to secure your place now!

 

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Image 06 Designed by DC Comics / www.dccomics.com

You Need to Know The Next Wave of Wearable Tech

WEARABLE technology has been around for a long time, even though it may not have been in the form that we are accustomed to. A prime example would be calculator watches which were hugely popular in the early ‘80s. Though the idea of combining two or more functions into one gadget did not catch on until much later, at the turn of the century to be precise, wearable technology has progressed a lot since the humble calculator watch.

Wearable technology is not necessarily confined to fitness trackers or smartwatches, it is more than that, given the technological advances with accelerometers, gyroscopes, altimeters, optical heart rate monitors, solar panels, superior batteries and the list goes on and on, you get the picture.

Wearable technology is advancing at such a rate that one would be able to monitor not only one’s physiological condition such as heart rates, movements, sleep patterns, thereby tapping into various biometrics enabling us to take a deeper look into our body’s physiological state but the future promises that we would also be able to monitor our body’s psychological condition.

In 2015, the French football team FC Nantes and French riders in the 2015 Road World Championship had tested an ingestible device, which was jam-packed with sensors that enabled the user to monitor changes in core body temperature from a computer, in real time. This technology could potentially assist athletes to work out the ideal recovery time before another intensive session and base their training plans around that data. It is especially useful to athletes as it does away with the need to wear anything whilst training intensively, thus enabling the athletes to focus on what matters the most, training.

There is another type of device that measures emotions through multiple sensors including a Galvanic Skin Response to detect something called Electrodermal Response, which is deemed to be a great indicator of emotional state. Again, this technology syncs up with your phone and you can monitor your psychological condition, in real time. Further, with the device syncing up with mobile phones, the device can then provide recommendations and advise on how to reduce stress and keep your emotions in check. Wearable technology is not only a means for the modern man to consume large amounts of data regarding one’s body or habits, it also provides real life application in the realm of medicine. Currently, the technology is out there with regard to micro sensors embedded into the single use silicone contact lens. The purpose for the contact lens is to be able to detect subtle pressure changes in the eye, specifically intraocular pressure changes.

This enables a doctor to identify the best time to take those measurements and the correct time to take those measurements are of paramount importance as elevated pressure changes in the eye is linked to optic nerve damage and can cause blindness. With this technology, ailments afflicting the eyes may be a thing of the past. Wearable technology does not stop at merely monitoring how the human body behaves but its applications are limitless. Wearables could be passive devices which are embedded into either clothing or accessories and such passive devices enable the user to interact with other items around them.

For example, a user could have a passive device embedded in an accessory and that passive device interacts with the security system of the user’s home or vehicle. Think about it, you will never ever be locked out of your own home or worry about losing your keys, ever again.

 

Whilst it is premature to predict specific features or form factors that will prevail in the future, wearable tech presents an interesting case study. Never before has computing been small enough to be worn relatively comfortably around the clock on the body, presenting opportunities for breakthrough medical advancements and unfortunately, marketing nuisances.

Battery life of any smart devices is by far the biggest obstacle that prevents broad market adoption and retention. Power consumption of key components like processors, radios, memories, and sensors are the primary culprit in draining our devices. More research would need to be put in in order for battery life to be extended to such an extent that we will only need to charge those devices once a month. The problem faced by wearable technology is that many still use mobile phone parts to make their product. Whilst those parts work wonderfully well for the mobile phones, those parts limit the full potential of wearable technology. Another big area to watch out for is what happens to your information which has been collated by the various devices around you.

You may think that the collation of data may not affect you but what could potentially happen is that the information collated could be used to target marketing campaigns towards you. Though the evolution of hardware for wearable technology is far from perfect, the market is developing software for wearable technology in a frenzy and in the hopes of keeping up with the appetite of the users. Therefore, developing permission based software would be of paramount importance to ensure that the data collated are either disposed of ethically and safely or handled with the utmost integrity. The future of wearable technology can be viewed as scary as it continues to challenge the traditional way we interact with devices around us but there would be no progress if we do not take that chance.

 
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Charge Your Devices As You Move Your Body

A GROUP of Chinese and American scientists recently developed a fabric that can power wearable devices by harvesting energy from both sunlight and body movements. It can also be made on a standard industrial weaving machine.

The fabric is based on low-cost, lightweight polymer fibres coated with metals and semiconductors that allow the material to harvest energy. These fibres are then woven together along with wool on high throughput commercial weaving equipment to create a textile just 0.32mm thick.

In the journal Nature Energy, the researchers described how they used a layer-by-layer process similar to those employed in the semiconductor industry. Using this method, they coated polymer fibres with various materials to create cable-like solar cells that generate electricity from sunlight and also so-called triboelectric nanogenerators.

 

The nanogenerators rely on the triboelectric effect, by which certain materials become electrically charged when rubbed against another type of material. When the materials are in contact, electrons flow from one to the other, but when the materials are separated, the one receiving electrons will hold a charge.

If these two materials are then connected by a circuit, a small current will flow to equalise the charges. By continuously repeating the process, an alternating electrical current can be produced to generate power.

The material could be used to create larger energy-generating structures, like curtains or tents. The fabrication process should also allow the energy generating materials to be combined with other fibre based functional devices, like sensors.

Next, the researchers plan to focus on improving the efficiency, durability and power management of the textile while optimising the weaving and encapsulation processes to enable industrial-scale production.

Our editors are EXCITED upon hearing this as we can soon ditch away our bulky power-bank. On a last note to all inventors, do share your UNIQUE VALUE PROPOSITION of your invention/ idea in one line in the comment box below.

More Tech-related posts will be up next week, stay tuned 🙂

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Seaweed That Tastes Like Bacon

IMAGINE eating Dulse, a type of seaweed that tastes like bacon when fried, minus the cholesterol and fats.

It seems too good to be true but researchers have quickly patented the seaweed that normally grows in the wild along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines. The seaweed is actually a new strain of red marine algae called dulse and looks like red lettuce that is packed with all the good minerals. When fried, dulse tastes like bacon which is good news for vegans, vegetarians and health conscious people.

Aquaculture researcher Chris Langdon and colleagues at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center have patented the new strain. Langdon has studied dulse, trying to figure out a way to make the nutritious algae grow quickly enough to become commercially viable feed for abalone, a type of edible sea snail. In 2004, he obtained a patent for a particularly fast-growing strain that can double its weight in just 10 days. However, a year and a half ago, Chuck Toombs, a business professor at Oregon State University suggested that Langdon might want to stop trying to grow dulse for abalone and start growing it for humans.

The succulent red marine algae is fast-growing and super nutritious plant that has about 16% protein by dry weight. It is also rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. “Dulse is a super-food with twice the nutritional value of kale.” said Toombs.

Seaweeds and sea vegetables are known for taking up vitamins from the water so minerals such as iodine, potassium and calcium are part of the goodness of eating dulse.

Several Portland chefs, as well as the Food Innovation Center in Portland, are experimenting with the new ingredient including adding it to peanut brittle and trail mix, and even candied dulse chips added to ice cream. It is interesting to note that dulse has, for centuries been harvested in the wild and used in northern European cuisine.

 

In Europe, they add the powder to smoothies or add flakes onto food. It’s an ancient snack in Ireland, where people living along the island’s northern shores have traditionally gathered it. Health food stores around the world sell it, too.

“I think the public is ready to have something that tastes good and is good for you. There hasn’t been a lot of interest in using it in a fresh form.” said Langdon.

Researchers say their dulse, when fried, smells and tastes like bacon. This is a big relief for bacon lovers who indulge in this treat but cannot eat bacon due to healthy reasons, as bacon is known to have excess sodium and can elevate blood pressure and raise risk of heart disease.

Langdon, recently said in an interview with CNN that he anticipates dulse becoming a more common bacon replacement for people who are concerned about their cholesterol levels or who do not eat meat due to other dietary or religious reasons.

Dulse’s quick growth time is an advantage that the seaweed has over other food sources, especially livestock, which is expensive and time-consuming to rear.

It can be cultivated where there is a modest amount of seawater and some sunshine. “The advantage of farming sea vegetables, like dulse is that it does not depend on freshwater supplies and ecologically benefits the marine environment by removing nutrients and dissolved carbon.” added Langdon.

He and his colleagues grow dulse in cultured tanks of seawater producing about 30 pounds of seaweed each week. Growing the dulse in cultured tanks allows them to fine-tune the nutrient content of the water and grow dulse year round, but it also constraints their ability to scale their dulse operation to a commercially-viable size.

Although there’s been no research done as yet into how well the crop could be commercialised, marketers are now working on a plan for a line of specialty foods, with the vegan and vegetarian markets to mind.

Know Your Rights Before Being Taken For Granted

MOST SMEs are started by persons who were once employees in an organisation where they had acquired the necessary technical skills and knowledge to manufacture the product their employer was manufacturing. These same individuals had the entrepreneurial spirit burning deep inside them, and so, armed with the skill/knowledge and a little capital (usually from personal savings, a little help from family members or friends), they venture out on their own to start a business, usually in competition with their previous employer.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, unless they are in breach of their employment contract or misuse their employer’s trade secrets or confidential information. The entrepreneur is now on his/her own to conquer the business world.

Initially, the entrepreneur or company started by the employee turned-entrepreneur will compete in the market on price and perhaps superior service to attract new clients. However, one cannot use price advantage for long if one intends to remain in business or for the business to grow bigger. The entrepreneur of the new SME has to secure other competitive advantages to remain in business and for the SME to grow and expand into new territories. This is where Government sanctioned “monopolies” come to assistance. Yes, we are referring to Trademarks, Patents, Industrial Designs and Copyright (collectively referred to as Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs).

Anyone who obtains a registered trademark or a grant of patent or certificate of industrial design has a virtual monopoly over the usage of the right for a limited period of time. The proprietor of these IPRs has the exclusive right to stop others from using an identical or substantially similar trademark or from using their patent-protected technology. With this exclusive right to the IPRs, the proprietor can charge a premium price to their product or service to recover their investment – R&D costs, branding costs, etc.

 

Many entrepreneurs and SMEs perceive the costs of obtaining IPRs as expensive and IPRs themselves as difficult to enforce. Plus there are other misconceptions about IPRs too, and it would probably take an entire article in itself to address these. The fact is, the cost of obtaining IPRs – at least in Malaysia – is not high and is affordable by most SMEs. It is more costly to the business if IPRs are not secured.

Imagine spending thousands of ringgit and years to build up a brand name and yet neglecting to spend a thousand or two more to protect the brand as a registered trademark, the registration of which enables the SME to sue any infringer. Let us cite an actual case that happened in Malaysia: A restaurant business was set up in a prominent part of Kuala Lumpur. Business boomed. The partners never bothered to register the name of the restaurant as a trademark. Unknown to them, some ex-employees registered the business name as a trademark, and it did not end there. After obtaining the registration, they sued the restaurant for infringement of “their trademark”.

The restaurant had to face a long trial in the High Court. Not only did the partners suffer loss of sleep, they (along with the restaurant) were also made to look bad in the media (thus affecting their reputation) and incur thousands of ringgit in legal costs. However, they did finally manage to “get back” their trademark. Their ignorance in not recognising the market power of their trademark nearly cost them the loss of their business. So SMEs, no matter what business they are involved in, should always seek their IP consultants’ advice on obtaining IP rights for the competitive advantages they enjoy.

In the current business world and rapid globalisation of trade, IPRs have come to play a crucial role in the very survival of SMEs. Unless entrepreneurs and SMEs fully appreciate the strategic role IPRs play in the existence or survival of their business, they may be wiped out from business by their competitors who have learnt to use IPRs as a business weapon to destroy or maim rival businesses.

Contributed by P. Kandiah (Founder and Director of KASS International)

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