WIPO Training In Africa: Brand SMEs’ Products To Exploit Innovation And Commercialization 15/01/2016 by Hillary Muheebwa for Intellectual Property Watch 2 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)KAMPALA, Uganda – Small and medium enterprises in Uganda should brand their products with geographical indications and collective marks to gain competitive advantage. This was one of the messages during a recent World Intellectual Property Organization event entitled, Advanced Training of Trainers Program on Effective Intellectual Property Asset Management by Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, (SMEs). The training took place in Kampala, Uganda on 8-10 December. The objective of the Training of Trainers Program is to create a critical mass of trainers who have the basic knowledge, skills and experience to provide preliminary intellectual property assistance to entrepreneurs, students, and SMEs on effective IP asset management. This is to enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of the SMEs in the domestic and international markets. WIPO’s Anil Sanha leads a topic discussion According to Anil Sinha, head of the WIPO Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Section, WIPO has conducted such trainings in 20 other member states. SMEs sit at the heart of the economic development in Uganda and many developing and developed countries. They spread across all the other sectors of the economy where they are the key drivers of job creation, innovation and growth. According to Uganda Bureau of Statistics statistical Abstract 2013/14, the majority of the SMEs in Uganda are in the sectors of agribusiness, manufacturing and services. The report adds that SMEs account for over one million enterprises and approximately 90 percent of them are owned by the private sector. They employ over 2.5 million Ugandans and contribute up to 75 percent of the national gross domestic product (GDP). SMEs are enterprises with considerable growth potential but which face constraints due to their size and risk. As such they need support across multiple levels. One of the support areas is the utilisation of their IP assets. “Wealth creation in a world of heightened competition comes down to developing and owning difficult-to-replicate intangible assets, and orchestrating them astutely,” Sinha noted in a topic discussion. “Intellectual Property Rights can be instrumental for SMEs to protect and build on their new innovative or original products; position themselves competitively vis-à-vis larger enterprises in global markets; gain access to revenues; signal current and prospective value to investors, competitors and partners; access knowledge markets and networks; open up new commercial pathways; or segment existing markets,” Sinha stated in a paper titled, “The Role of Intellectual Property Asset Management in Enhancing the Competitiveness of SMEs.” While most inventions nowadays are the result of considerable efforts and long-term investment in research and development, many simple and inexpensive technical improvements, of great market value, have yielded significant income and profits to their inventors or companies. Sinha added. The exclusivity of their creative designs and brands create an appropriate incentive for investing in and improving their competitiveness. According to WIPO country profile statistics on IP filings, in 2013, Uganda received 10 patent applications, 759 trademark applications but no industrial design applications. Although Uganda has the Geographical Indications Act, 2013, the regulations to operationalise the act have not been passed, making it impossible to register geographical indications as of now. Participants undergoing the training called upon the government to expedite the process of formalising the Geographical Indications Act’s regulations, as they held the view that this will enhance the value of Ugandan SMEs products on the international market. Ugandan goods identified as having special qualities include vanilla, coffee, sesame, shea butter and cotton. Other means of exploiting IP assets were discussed in a presentation by Getachew Mengistie: “Exploiting Intellectual Property Assets; Licensing, Franchising and Merchandising; Franchising, licensing and merchandising can be used by SMEs that own IPR and those that want to benefit from the assets.” These tools are not widely used but there are encouraging developments, he said. Mengistie is an IP law consultant and attorney based in Ethiopia. “However, while there is increasing recognition of their significance, as well as the need for appropriate intellectual asset management for SMEs across developing countries, there are few regulatory frameworks or specific instruments directed to SMEs,” said Mengistie. “This is in part due the pace of technological innovation, which often exceeds the time it takes for policy makers to create appropriate responses to the changing landscape of intellectual property.” Saudin Jacob Mwakaje, an IP law consultant and attorney based in Tanzania, presented a paper on “Audit, Accounting and Valuation of IP Assets: IP-based Financing.” He introduced the participants to methods of valuing a company’s IP assets: the cost approach, market approach and income approach. “SMEs should leverage their IP assets in exchange for finance. Lending institutions around the world are increasingly extending their business to provide loans on the basis of IP, providing finance critical for start-up companies and innovative SMEs,” said Mwakaje. The type of valuation approach to use depends on factors like how unique is the asset, how much data is available and verifiable and the context, purpose or objective of the analysis. “Exporters often realise the importance of protecting their IP once it is too late: for example once they have missed the deadlines for application or once their product or brand has been copied,” Sinha pointed out. SMEs face a number of challenges in exploiting their IP assets. These, according to Getachew in the presentation discussion, include: “lack of awareness of the significance of IP tools, need for protection, management & promotion; inadequate knowledge of legal regimes by producers and relevant stakeholders; and difficulty in bringing together and unifying diverse stakeholders.” Except for copyright, which has automatic protection in all countries that are signatories to the Berne Convention, other IP rights are territorial and valid only in those countries where protection has been applied for and obtained. To achieve IP protection in more countries at a cheaper registration cost, participants were introduced to national routes, regional routes like the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), and international route systems. The international routes include the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Madrid System for the international registration of marks, both managed by WIPO. According to Sinha, “In a growing knowledge-based economy, competitiveness of enterprises, including SMEs, will increasingly be based on the ability to provide high value-added products at a competitive price. Without intellectual property protection there is a strong risk that investments in research and development, product differentiation and marketing may be infringed.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Hillary Muheebwa may be reached at email@example.com."WIPO Training In Africa: Brand SMEs’ Products To Exploit Innovation And Commercialization" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.