Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Part 2: "Refute VueStar Patent Claims Website" - Why you might want to care

[From Part 1]

I asked some people (online) if they knew about the Vuestar Patent issue, and whether they felt it applied to them. These friends and contacts are generally IT-savvy people. A few of them own their websites.

I was mildly surprised to learn that most responses typically went along these lines:
  • "Yes, I've heard about the Vuestar patent case, but I don't think it applies to me" (note: have you actually read Vuestar's patent claims?)
  • "So sad that a Singaporean is doing this" (note: Vuestar is a company that chose to register in Singapore. That doesn't make it Singaporean)
  • "Oh, wait, you mean if I'm a website owner and I enable links via images, I have to pay them a license?" (that seems to be the case)
  • "Is it possible for them to sue every owner?" (Does it matter?)
  • "OMG, this is a worldwide license?" (It's a worldwide patent - My error. See this comment. I've also verified that patents apply to only to an individual country. No such thing as "worldwide patent". There is a "Patent Cooperation Treaty" of which Singapore is a signatory, but it doesn't make a patent registered in Singapore applicable outside of Singapore.)

In my view, Vuestar has done nothing illegal. The legal ramifications of Vuestar's patent claims is something to be settled through due legal process.

So why am I concerned about the case when I don't run a website of my own (Vs. using a blogging service)?

Well I'm interested in whether the collective insights by knowledgeable individuals (bloggers and non-bloggers) would make a difference to the issue.

For most Singaporeans who've read the related newspaper articles or blog posts about this case, they'd assume only "IT people" will be affected.

But what if you're a student who runs a website using the so-called "technology to link to images" and you're suddenly faced with an invoice asking you to pay for the license?

Close down the site or blog?

Pay up?

Settle in court?

Whatever the choice, I believe in being prepared. To resolve some of the information-murkiness surrounding this whole affair.

Of course there's the saying that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing".

In this case, I think the issue for many of us is really the lack of specific knowledge, i.e. Intellectual Property and Patent laws.

The conundrum that I have is that I'm not that well informed about IP and Patent laws either.

I can only suggest that before we dismiss this Vuestar Patents issue as something that "doesn't apply to me", let's think about it further.

What are the implications for yourself, or for the website owners whom you reply on to obtain your news and information?

Or if you're a website owner, find out as much about the issues involved. See if Alice's efforts at RefuteVueStarPatent can help. Or contribute to what she's trying to do.

Surely, being informed through credible sources is a first line of defense.

[Part 3 - Official clarification from IPOS]


  1. Anonymous3:50 pm

    Important correction! There is no such thing as a worldwide patent.

    Vuestar only claim to have patents in NZ, AU, the US and Singapore. The AU patent looks to have lapsed and the US patent is significantly narrower than the one in Singapore.

    Take a look at this wikipedia article for a summary of the different rights in different countries.


    Feel free to improve the article!

  2. Thanks anonymous. I've checked that you're correct and my initial understanding was wrong. Thanks.

  3. Anonymous6:52 pm

    Your summary is very balanced as opposed to some I have read.

    I read with interest your summary and I was pleasantly surprised at the open response rather than some of the earlier threads. I also did some research and spoke with a close friend of mine who knows quite a bit about Patents, although he would be described as amateur. In response to your bullet points.

    • “Have you actually read the Patent Claims” Patent Law is very complex and each claim is interwoven to make its application very broad.
    • “Singapore Company” Vuestar must have had a reason to register in Singapore although if they wish to operate in other countries this would also require a separate registration.
    • “Oh wait, you mean if I am a web site owner and I enable links via images etc”- means that if the process uses the method described in the patent. Yes. – but not if you are a private owner and not if you post pictures as a hobby on a social network site ( I read that individuals were not targeted but Vuestar was seeking compensation from those URL owners (Businesses) who make a commercial gain from using the Patent steps/methods. My reading of the site does not seem to suggest that every site is targeted and it does not seem to infer that Vuestar invented the hyperlink for images – They seem to suggest the use of images as a means of speeding search strictly according to the steps/ingredients of the various claims of the patent. Obviously a task for a skilled Patent Attorney.
    • “Is it possible to sue every owner” – My understanding is that is not the case ,
    • “This is a worldwide licence”. My understanding also is that Patents do belong to individual Countries, however, if content from say Belgium was able to be downloaded in Singapore and IF the content appeared to use the steps of the Patent the Patent owner could seek a fee for its use. I understand there is a precedent in Law whereby a Business Man (Gutnick) was defamed by the creation of a newspaper article uploaded in New York (Dow Jones?) the Court ruled that it didn’t matter where it was uploaded if it was able to be downloaded say for example in Singapore (it was Australia I believe) and it breached the local laws the author was liable. Therefore it would have a worldwide influence.
    • I cannot read anywhere that students or in fact any private user is targeted by Vuestar.


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