Within the National Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) Policy approved recently by Cabinet, plans have been laid out to safeguard the intellectual property of that sector.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Sonia Foster, pointed this out recently as she addressed the start of a three-day workshop for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) on managing intellectual property assets, jointly-sponsored by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation.
Ms. Foster, who was speaking on behalf of Minister Donville Inniss, noted the plans include: support of the creation of a regional patent and trademarking office that would provide much needed technical assistance to MSMEs; and appropriate framework instruments to stimulate and support innovation and the development of technology by MSMEs.
WIPO, she added, had also given assistance to Government in the formulation of a national intellectual property strategic plan, aimed at enhancing institutional and capacity building through the realignment of intellectual property and related development policies.
“That plan ensures that key areas like creativity, innovation and productivity remain central to the economic, social and cultural wellbeing of this country,” the Permanent Secretary stated.
Explaining the importance of protecting one’s intellectual property, she said: “Time and time again, we keep hearing horror stories of local entrepreneurs or inventors who, as a result of their failure to recognise the importance of protecting their intellectual property, lose out on considerable business opportunities.
“Significant monetary value is lost when we fail to protect our intellectual assets…. Greater emphasis must be placed on monetising intellectual property to increase its value-added and economic gains. This can only be achieved by a joint, collaborative effort of both public and private sectors…”
While stating that patent, trademark and industrial design registration were key indicators used to assess inventive activity, as well as the capacity to exploit knowledge and translate it into potential economic gains, Ms. Foster disclosed that statistics from WIPO’s World Intellectual Property Indicators Report, showed innovators around the world filed some 3.1 million patent applications, in 2016.
Of Barbados, she said, in that same year, 41 patent applications were filed, all of which were non-resident. Trademark registrations during the same period were 402, with 18 being done by residents.
Additionally, four industrial design applications were made, three of which were made by residents. “Some of these statistics are considerably lower than in previous years, suggesting that our local entrepreneurs have not fully grasped the importance of monetising IP,” she remarked.
Business professionals were therefore urged to better manage the intangible assets of IP and called upon to be more innovative, invent, protect, sell, franchise, license and unleash a wave of new enterprises, business opportunities that literally know no boundaries.
Registrar of the Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office (CAIPO), Heather Clarke, while adding that a business’ intellectual property assets referred to the different groupings of intellectual property owned by the business, said these included the business’ trademarks, trade secrets, industrial designs, copyright, geographical indication and patents.
“Like any other property, however, these assets have value which businessmen and women can use to increase economic return for the business. As it relates to the owner, you take into account the effort, investment, sacrifice, time, energy, human and financial resources that would have been devoted and expended in building the business from scratch.
“There are also the economic returns to the business, itself, which ought to be utilised in facilitating further research and development so you can further enhance the products and also market and develop a presence in other jurisdictions,” she explained.