By Rutendo Mugadza-Mugwagwa
THE more the corona virus spreads across borders, the more businesses are being urged to take charge through innovating, protecting and securing the intellectual property rights. Several Intellectual Property rights including Trademarks, Patents, Copyright and Traditional knowledge systems are some of the IP rights that are relevant during this pandemic going forward for businesses, start-ups and research institutions. Intellectual property talks have never been more relevant than this year, hence the need to write on the need for an effective IP management and strategy for existing businesses, rising start-ups, universities and other research institutions.
The value of trademarks in small to medium enterprises (SMEs)
The registration of Trademarks is essential in any start-up, existing and growing business, especially in SME’s. Trademarks are tools for development of brands and this applies to several stakeholders including the business owners, consumers and the state. A trademark distinguishes one enterprise from other competing enterprises be it a service or goods. Trademarks must be registered in terms of the laws of each country and usually the application procedure and enforcement must be undertaken in terms of the laws of each country. The key factors in the mind of the consumer are “does the consumer identify the product?, is the sign recognised by the consumer to whom it is addressed as identifying the goods from a particular trade source, or is capable of being so recognised”.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a heavy influx of start-ups has emerged meaning competition is high and brand visibility becomes crucial. The value of IP is often not adequately appreciated and its potential for providing opportunities for future profit is widely underestimated by SME’s. However, when IP is legally protected and there is demand for the IP protected products and or services in the marketplace, IP can become a valuable business asset. Some of the opportunities which can be exploited include Licensing and Franchising.
Digital performances versus Copyright protection
Many if not all artists/performers have moved to the digital platforms as a means of earning a living whilst entertaining their audience at the same time. Covid 19 has led to the cancellation of all concerts and live performances and this has resulted in most artists suffering especially in struggling economies where music and art is not fully appreciated. The migration to the internet raises many copyright concerns which should be adhered to and safeguarded from infringement. Copyright infringement will result once an individual uses or exploits the copyright of another without their authority, be it in song, video or lyric format.
A crucial point to note in most jurisdictions is that copyright does not necessarily require registration as it lies automatically with copyright owner upon expression of the works in material forms and because the internet is borderless in nature, most copyright violations are ongoing on the internet because of the failure of online enforcement by most platforms. It is therefore essential for all artists to look at the fine print of all the platforms such as they use and check if they don’t relinquish their rights to these platforms and how they can end up using their content without your permission.
In light of the recourses and market opportunities and safeguard your brand, developing an IP strategy results in the organisation maximising on its assets full potential. Even if you cannot or do not want to use the IP rights yourself, bear in mind that third parties may want to use them.