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Updated 29 Sep 2020


Safeguarding creations of the mind

Protecting your intellectual property is no longer sufficient – you also need to know how to manage it properly.


14 November 2012  Share  0 comments  Print


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Emerging economies are generating more intellectual property than ever before. The sad fact is that thought leaders in these areas are not as adept at protecting it as their developed world counterparts.

IP world geography changing

More intellectual property (IP) is now generated by emerging market economies than ever before, literally changing the IP geography in the world, says Karen Lee Rata, head of the executive programme at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Academy in Geneva, Switzerland.

While emerging markets are producing industrial property (inventions, patents, trademarks, designs) and copyright (literary and artistic works) that add to new knowledge, and could be profitable for companies and countries, they are not capitalising on their innovations.

Imbalance in fees vs royalties

Even though the growing intellectual property rights systems around the world have stimulated greater cross-border trade in knowledge assets, developing nations are still paying much more in licensing and royalty fees to third parties than they receive, says a recent World Bank report.

For example, International Monetary Fund records show that South Africa received less than US$48 million in royalty and license fees but paid out nearly US$1.7 billion; compared to the USA, which received US$90 trillion and spent US$25trillion.

Strategic IP management key

Strategic intellectual property management is becoming increasingly significant for the majority of businesses now, says Rata.

In an increasingly cut-throat business environment, protected innovation is the way to stay ahead, gain an edge over competitors and grow market share. It can turn solid brands into market leaders.

“Effective IP management requires executives and lawyers to tightly integrate their company approach to IP with broader strategic considerations. Failure to do so can be detrimental or even catastrophic.”

“The question is not whether businesses use IP, but how to maximise the use of IP for competitiveness, and for this, effective IP management is very important,” says Rata.

Why manage your IP?

“A strategic approach to IP management for sub-Saharan Africa, as well as emerging economies, is vital because IP also allows such economies to jumpstart and take advantage of the benefits of IP without waiting for the economies to become more developed,” says Rata.

8 Tips for IP management

  1. Create and foster an innovation culture in your organisation
  2. Generate a strategy for integrating R&D, design, manufacturing, and marketing
  3. Have a clear insight into product design and development
  4. Understand the basic concepts of IP law and management
  5. Know how companies are generating value from IP
  6. Examine how your company can extract maximum value from innovation, R&D and IP
  7. Explore how technical functions can leverage IP
  8. Understand the most recent developments in the IP arena that will impact your organisation.

Register your IP

To protect your intellectual property, register it with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), to prevent your competitors from using it.

CIPC administers the Register of Trademarks, which is the official record of all the trademarks that have formally been applied for and registered in South Africa since 1916.

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