IPR BASICS FOR SMES
By Chilume & Company & Botswana Innovation Hub
What are the benefits of IPR to SMEs?
There is a lot of activity among Batswana youth eager to showcase or exhibit locally made products or services at various fora, for example, shows, fairs, exhibitions, markets such as Thapong Art Festivals, Trade Fair, Trade Expo and Farmers’ or handicrafts markets. Potential customers in attending these fora, are bombarded with varying forms of IP which may be traditionally local and bubbling with inspiring innovation. Gone are the days where innovation was largely technology driven. Botswana, like other countries, has established a science and innovation hub Botswana Innovation Hub (“BIH”), to focus on needs driven innovation and assist Batswana youth entrepreneurs to learn how to commercialise their ideas and protect their own intellectual property whilst solving its own specific local problems.
Innovation is the driving force behind the effort which if directed in the right way may result in benefits to SMEs. The issue becomes whether the entrepreneur understands what the benefits of IPRs are that are associated with product or service. Where there is creativity in the name of product or logo on product, even the name of a business. There are different forms of IPRs involved. They are dependent on how the public perceives or identifies your product among others, how it stands out, the packaging or branding against competitors. The benefits of IPRs to an SME are commercial, in that one may derive value from IPRs and make more money. Multinationals take steps to protect IPRs associated with their products or services in order to remain competitive in the markets thus resulting in business expansion, franchising and licensing. SMEs may likewise, make concerted efforts to derive value from IPRs in the development of their products and other stages until introduction into the market.
How do you identify IPRs in your business?
Every aspect of your business has IPRs from development stage to marketing of product or service. At the preliminary stage, the data collection relating to new product or service may constitute an IPR, for instance, in choosing the name or design of product, the logo, the packaging, the chemical formula, that is of commercial value and may constitute different forms of IPRs such as trademarks, industrial design or patent. The improvements to an existing product or service, will require you to study the IPRs behind it so as to qualify to the standard of obtaining a patent or another form of IPR under the Industrial Property Act. The research and study around the development of an idea will result in the much needed data for producing the item and for its IPR protection and management. Further, once introduced in the market, an identifier associated with a product or service to your business by the consumers produces IPRs as well, requiring protection.
How best do you use IPR to benefit your SME?
Globally IPRs have been perceived to be of great benefit to creation of jobs and economic growth, particularly by governments and international bodies such as WIPO. Botswana’s position is no different. Firstly, IPRs bestow exclusive rights on the owner to use and exploit. From this premise, then the benefit enjoyed is linked to IPRs which are intangible property rights. They enhance value to a SME, therefore perceived to be an IPR business asset that generates income, through commercialization, such as licensing, assignment or outright sale. It may be used as collateral meaning it may boost a SMEs balance sheet and its credit-worthiness to lenders.
SMEs have great potential to reach great heights simply by ‘’catching” the consumers’ eyes so that they easily see and link your product or service to your business. It may be through a colour, a fragrance or 3D figurative element.