Feb 29, 2016 BIH News

Intellectual Property is the Currency of Innovation and Creative Works

Intellectual Property (IP) is defined as a creation of the mind, an intangible asset that accords creators, authors, artists and inventors an incentive to invent. Some IP is protected by law, to give statutory expression to the moral and economic rights of creators in their creations. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) states that, “By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.”

An expert in business development and innovative products and services commercialisation, Ambrose Makgonatsotlhe states that a study conducted by the Southern African Innovation Support Programme (SAiS) concluded that, “Intellectual Property is critical in unlocking value from an inventive and innovative product, service or process. In knowledge intensive economies IP provides the platform for competitive and comparative advantage. It also focuses the innovator to operate entrepreneurially especially in the early stages of the product and business life cycles.”

Makgonatsotlhe observes that for Botswana to effectively leverage intellectual property assets, there is need for integration and convergence of components that lie within the IP value chain such as policy, special purpose instruments, funding, IP policing etc. He said, “It has been observed that IP rights in Botswana lacks coherence and remains largely fragmented with gaps in the overall IP support services.”

To close these gaps, the government of Botswana established the Register of Companies and Intellectual Property (ROCIP) and the Companies and Intellectual Property Authority which provide a structural and strategic framework to promote and enable the full protection of the rights of investors and right-holders. As a key player in the innovation and creative works space, Botswana Innovation Hub in partnership with the Southern Africa Innovation Support Programme and the University of Botswana established the National Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Office.

The office is staffed with a Technology Transfer Officer (TTO) who is responsible for the identification and commercialisation of intellectual property arising from research, innovations, indigenous knowledge and technology developments.

The incumbent officer, Samuel Gaborone says, “The role of the TTO entails giving advice on commercial issues in contracts, identifying and protecting intellectual property and taking a leadership role in commercialising the IP through licensing and/or the creation of start-up companies.”

Located within the Botswana Innovation Hub’s flagship technology entrepreneurship development programme, First Steps Venture Centre (FSVC) currently resident at River Walk Mall in Gaborone, the National Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Office provides local entrepreneurs and innovators with the required tools to develop, protect and monetize their innovations.

Gaborone says the TTO offers specialized expertise services to facilitate the technology transfer and intellectual property which contribute towards generating knowledge-based job opportunities for the country. He said the office operates on a three pronged approach with a focus on IP Awareness and Capacity Building, IP Registration and Management, and IP commercialisation strategies.

Presently, the TTO is engaged in an awareness and capacity building drive and recently hosted the Intellectual Property Training Seminar in partnership with Chilume and Associates law firm. “The seminar which was attended by 20 FSVC clients focused on IP law, interrogation of IP presence in inventions and ideas, drafting, filling and management of IP portfolios for clients,” said Gaborone.

Going forward, Gaborone said they will run awareness and capacity building campaigns focused on patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. He said, “IP advisory services that help our clients leverage social and economic benefit for their inventions and creative works range from literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.”

Gaborone states that IP advisory services are an important component of a well-functioning Science, Technology and Innovation ecosystem that Botswana Innovation Hub is currently building.

By Tigele Mokobi