Intellectual property, or IP, is often overlooked by business operators who are focused on developing and expanding their operations. For many, the concept seems complex and daunting; for others grappling with limited time and resources, it’s something they can easily put off – but no business owner should underestimate the importance of intellectual property.
Brand management and product development play a major role in the success of any business. One new method or fresh idea can shake up the market and make your business an overnight success; protecting such ideas or processes through IP then becomes a necessity rather than a luxury.
The benefits of IP definitely outweigh its cost. Given Trinidad and Tobago’s economic recession and shortage of foreign exchange (not to mention global pandemic conditions), some companies are opting to grow customer bases and brand presence through export. Leveraging IP paves the way for businesses to differentiate their brand, making it easier for customers to identify companies, and their products or services. Failure to set your brand apart may reduce its value and could even damage your reputation.
Thanks to the internet, there is a greater risk of the misuse and abuse of media, including photos, videos, music and sound. Because of this, the advertising practices in many countries are heavily regulated. Advertising agencies must conduct due diligence on their clients’ behalf in order to avoid costly lawsuits which could have adverse effects on their reputations. Because these laws differ from country to country, research is useful before launching advertising campaigns in new markets – both from an IP perspective and a legal perspective.
With the right to solely produce their own unique products for a number of years, businesses can fully exploit their production and retain royalties. Globally, in fields with rapidly occurring advancements, like the pharmaceutical or ICT industries, leveraging IP is critical. Locally, arts and culture-related businesses, as well as those in the food products industry, need to pay closer attention.
IP is of particular value in the global trade arena, as it can assist with market-based decision-making. Products with high IP value would naturally prefer to trade in markets where IP rights are respected and valued. The World Intellectual Property Organisation advised that exporters will encounter a range of IP issues that affect labelling, packaging and other requirements for market entry, and that marketing will be heavily reliant on trademarks.
IP is territorial, meaning it is only valid in the country where it is registered, but you can register separately in different territories, pay the requisite fees and have your rights translated, if necessary. The price is usually determined by the kind of product you are registering and the type of competition expected from similar products. However the way to obtain IP rights (designs, trademarks and patents) internationally is via WIPO, which administers the Madrid, Hague and PCT Systems.
While some of these protections are for specific periods of time (copyright, for instance, is awarded to the holder for life plus 50 years after his/her death), others, like geographical indicators, are indefinite.
For many small businesses, accessing financing is a challenge, but IP rights are an intangible asset that companies can leverage to gain access to credit. Internationally, some companies have been able to leverage their IP assets as collateral, once they have been properly valued. Such valuations may help in negotiating cheaper interest rates, since IP assets increase the overall asset value of a company. Investors also look favourably upon companies that have gone through the process of acquiring IP rights, as this often gives them a competitive advantage. IP rights and company registrations have assisted many businesses in converting their brand loyalty into steady income.
(Content submitted by the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce)