Channel NewsAsia

Firm behind the ThumbDrive seeks to expand its business

Singapore firm Trek, which is best known for creating the ThumbDrive, plans to expand its business into areas like medical and cloud computing technologies. Putting the patent battles over the ThumbDrive behind it, Trek said it now wants to forge ahead and exploit new growth areas in technology.

SINGAPORE: Back in 2000, Trek unveiled its ThumbDrive to the world, before it had successfully secured a patent. Months later, ThumbDrive clones popped out and the lawsuits began.

Mr Henn Tan, chairman and chief executive of Trek 2000 International, admitted: "I was ‘gung-ho’ about our technology - single-handedly we it brought to the world. And I expected to change the world single-handedly. That was foolish of me."

He likened his company's efforts to a "small little fish drifting in the blue ocean", saying that they were going to "eat everybody up". 

"You cannot digest that!" Mr Tan said. "I didn't have the means to do it and that has been a very costly lesson." In fact, the lesson cost them more than S$20 million to police and enforce their claims over the memory stick.

These days, whenever a Trek product is conceptualised, patent attorneys are involved from the get-go. These legal experts will meticulously oversee the intellectual property aspects of an innovation, working towards the filing of a patent.

It is what the firm did as it ventured into cloud computing solutions with its FluCard, a memory device which can tap wireless networks to upload content. Trek has also produced an educational toy for the Chinese market which links up to a wireless surveillance system. It has a hidden camera for parents to watch their children via a smartphone.

Some intellectual property experts said other tech firms would do well to prioritise guarding their creations as a business strategy, as Trek has done.

Mr Zaid Hamzah, an intellectual property strategist at Intellectual Futures, said: "Imagine a product, (for example) a smartphone. Underlying this product is intellectual property. So if a company does not protect its new asset, the most direct impact is (its) inability to monetise (its) real asset."

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore offers resources for firms which may need help with understanding how to protect their innovations.

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia