Trek 2000 and the ThumbDrive



Trek 2000 International Limited is the Singaporean company that created the ThumbDrive, a thumb-sized universal serial bus (USB) data storage device which revolutionised the way digital data is stored and transferred in personal computers.1 Headquartered in Singapore’s Loyang Industrial Estate, the public listed company has offices in many parts of the world.2 It was included in Forbes’s list of Best Small Companies in the World in 2000 and 2002, and named Best Managed Small Company in Singapore by AsiaMoney in 2003.3 The ThumbDrive has also been recognised as one of the top 50 engineering achievements in Singapore since 1965.4

Company background
Trek was a family-owned electronic components trading business until 1995 when it was bought over by current chief executive officer and chairman Henn Tan for S$1 million to provide customised engineering solutions to businesses.5 Focusing on developing innovative design solutions for the digital industry, specifically in the areas of mobile data transfer and storage technology, Tan and his engineers explored ways to utilise the USB interface to create a device that could replace the floppy disk. This led to the eventual development of the now ubiquitous ThumbDrive.6

In addition to the aforementioned accolades from Forbes and AsiaMoney, Trek also received the INVENT Singapore Award in 2008, the ASEAN Business Award for Innovation in 2011, the Asia-Pacific Enterprise Leadership Awards for Spirit of Innovation Award in 2013, and the SD Association Leadership Award in 2014.7


ThumbDrive
Trek launched the ThumbDrive in 2000 at the CeBIT international trade fair for information technology and telecommunications solutions held in Germany. Response to the product was overwhelming, even though Trek’s booth was modestly decorated.8

The success of the ThumbDrive propelled Trek onto the global arena. The company grew from a five-men outfit into a global enterprise with offices in over 10 countries, including the United States, the Netherlands, Japan, India, China and the Philippines. Multinational companies such as Toshiba, Lenovo and Imation were among its clients.9

Developed within a year, the ThumbDrive is a thumb-sized external portable data storage device that utilises flash memory technologies to store digital data.10 It provides convenient plug-and-play capabilities and can be connected directly to a computer via the USB port without a need for cables. It does not require a battery and, instead, derives its power through the USB connection. To the computer user, the ThumbDrive functions like another hard disk drive. It allows the user to drag-and-drop, read, create or delete digital files as easily as using a normal computer hard drive. Some of the newer models also come with advanced technological features, such as biometric fingerprint authentication, data encryption and data compression functions.11


The ThumbDrive, which has no moving parts, is considered to be more robust and durable than a floppy disk and thus ideal for use as a mobile storage device. Today, it has replaced the floppy disk as the default portable storage medium in personal computers.12

ThumbDrive patent
The immense interest and popularity of the ThumbDrive led to a proliferation of similar devices in many parts of the world shortly after its launch.13 There were also competing claims to the invention of the device.14 For example, Chinese company Netac Technology claimed to have invented the USB flash drive.15


After Trek’s ThumbDrive patent was approved by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore in April 2002,16 it commenced legal action against four companies that infringed on its patent in Singapore. The High Court of Singapore ruled in favour of Trek in 2005.17

To protect its intellectual property rights for the ThumbDrive outside of Singapore, Trek had to progressively obtain patent protection in other countries since patents are valid and enforceable only within the granting country. While Trek has since successfully obtained patents for the ThumbDrive in many countries worldwide, patent application is a lengthy process which often requires many years and may not be smooth sailing.18 For instance, Trek’s patent for its portable USB data storage device was revoked by the United Kingdom Patent Office in 2006.19

Beyond the ThumbDrive
Besides the ThumbDrive, Trek has developed other data storage products, such as hard disk drives and solid state drives that include state-of-the-art security features and offer higher data storage capacities than the ThumbDrive. The company also provides customised engineering design solutions based on its clients’ specific requirements.20


With its strong focus on research and development, Trek owns more than 420 patents and trademarks in various technological fields.21 On 20 January 2010, the company unveiled its latest innovation, the FluCard, which took more than six years to develop at a cost of US$6 million (S$8.3 million). It is a memory card in the form of a secure digital card that enables direct wireless transfer of image and video files between various electronic devices.22



Author

Jean Lim




References
1. Au Yong, J. (2006, January 8). The drive to succeed. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Trek 2000 International Ltd. (2013). Regional offices. Retrieved 2017, February 10 from Trek website: http://trek2000.com.sg/index.php?id_cms=23&controller=cms
3. Trek 2000 International Ltd. (2014, August). Corporate fact sheet. Retrieved 2017, February 10 from Trek website: http://trek2000.listedcompany.com/misc/factsheet_020914.pdf
4. Trek 2000 International Ltd. (2016, July 7). Trek’s proprietary ThumbDrive™ recognised as one of top 50 engineering achievements in Singapore at IES-SG50 awards [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, February 10 from Trek website: http://trek2000.listedcompany.com/newsroom/20160707_185147_5AB_W2D2VFDPDKR1IDI4.1.pdf
5. Nanda, A. (2011, January 24). Trek record. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Trek 2000 International Ltd. (2014, August). Corporate fact sheet. Retrieved 2017, February 10 from Trek website: http://trek2000.listedcompany.com/misc/factsheet_020914.pdf
6. Trek 2000 International Ltd. (2014, August). Corporate fact sheet. Retrieved 2017, February 10 from Trek website: http://trek2000.listedcompany.com/misc/factsheet_020914.pdf; Chia, Y. M. (2013, July 30). Thumb drive creator’s back... with the Flucard. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Trek 2000 International Ltd. (2014, August). Corporate fact sheet. Retrieved 2017, February 10 from Trek website: http://trek2000.listedcompany.com/misc/factsheet_020914.pdf
8. Au Yong, J. (2006, January 8). The drive to succeed. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. ListedCompany.com. (2017). Welcome to Trek 2000 International Ltd investor relations. Retrieved 2017, February 10 from Trek website: http://trek2000.listedcompany.com/; Tham, I. (2011, June 19). ThumbDrive founder’s crusade against copycats. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Au Yong, J. (2006, January 8). The drive to succeed. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Lee, M. (2004, August 15). Thumbs up for thumb drives. The Straits Times, p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Lee, M. (2004, August 15). Thumbs up for thumb drives. The Straits Times, p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Lee, M. (2004, August 15). Thumbs up for thumb drives. The Straits Times, p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Tham, I. (2011, June 19). ThumbDrive founder’s crusade against copycats. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Netac Technology Co., Ltd. (2016). Company profile. Retrieved from Netac website: http://www.netac.com/About/index.html
16. Ng, S. (2002, November 6). Trek sues several firms for breach of patent. The Business Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Au Yong, J. (2006, January 8). The drive to succeed. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Ho, A. (2006, January 13). Protecting patent an uphill Trek. The Straits Times, p. 30; Tan, A. (2004, March 17). Trek 2000 clinches $17m contract from Japan's Teac. The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Trek 2000 International Ltd. (2006, November 26). Trek’s portable USB data storage UK patent [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, February 10 from Trek website: http://trek2000.listedcompany.com/news.html/id/96299
20. Trek 2000 International Ltd. (2014, August). Corporate fact sheet. Retrieved 2017, February 10 from Trek website: http://trek2000.listedcompany.com/misc/factsheet_020914.pdf
21. Trek 2000 International Ltd. (2014, August). Corporate fact sheet. Retrieved 2017, February 10 from Trek website: http://trek2000.listedcompany.com/misc/factsheet_020914.pdf
22. Chua, H. H. (2010, January 21). S’pore-made wireless camera memory card. The Straits Times, p. 2; Chia, Y. M. (2013, July 30). Thumb drive creator’s back... with the Flucard. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Organisations>>Companies
USB (Computer bus)
Computers and information technology>>Computer hardware>>Storage and peripherals
Business enterprises
Computer storage device industry--Singapore