Barbadians have been reminded that with precious few natural resources to boast of, they must tap into their ingenuity to create businesses and brands that are competitive globally, and they have also been urged to manage the associated intellectual property.
This advice came yesterday as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Sonia Foster, addressed the start of a three-day workshop for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) on managing intellectual property (IP) assets, at the Harbour Industrial Estate.
She was speaking on behalf of Minister Donville Inniss at the workshop that ends tomorrow and is jointly sponsored by the World Intellectual Property Organization and the Barbados Investment & Development Corporation.
While noting the treasure trove of ideas and opportunities existent in the room, Ms. Foster asked the business professionals: “But how do we make IP work for us in ways that can yield financial returns and prosperity that can be shared with our fellow citizens?”
She told them there were enormous opportunities for SMEs across all sectors and endeavours, as well as beyond the traditional IP revenue methods, and these were “ideas just waiting to be unleashed, latent opportunities that we’ve sat on for many years”.
“There is clear evidence that in places like India, Africa, and Japan, IP-intensive industries like Information Communications and Technology and Entertainment deliver significant returns in terms of well-paying jobs and GDP. The creative industry has been tagged as an area of great opportunity for the region but it is yet to generate the level of earnings that is due,” she explained.
Stating that the region had been heavily dependent on traditional forms of business like manufacturing, tourism and international business for investment revenue and export earnings, the Permanent Secretary added: “As we in the region know only too well, all of these sectors are easily impacted by world events and developments beyond our control. If we will make any meaningful headway in building more resilient and innovation-driven economies, we must look at diversifying our areas of enterprise and revenue earning ventures. We must go beyond the “make-it-sell it” model.”
Acknowledging that intellectual property rights in the region tended to focus primarily on cultural resources (our music and other related areas) and led to “a seemingly very narrow view of IP in relation to its potential economic impact”, Ms. Foster urged that some interest be placed on the game of road tennis.
“Look at our road tennis for example. It is a sport that is indigenous to Barbados – uniquely Bajan – and yet we have no patents on our “poor man’s tennis” …There is no reason why we should not be actively pursuing ownership of this sport via patents, etc. We should be generating revenue from the sale of branded rackets and balls, even mobile courts that are made locally and are fully endorsed by top athletes around the world,” the Permanent Secretary suggested.
Noting also that in September 2016, Barbados made its first application for Geographical Indication for its rum, she urged that Barbados take its ideas “beyond the parade ring” and “cross the finish line”.
“Issues of Intellectual Property are of utmost importance to SMEs in Barbados as this sector is increasingly being encouraged to use innovation and Research & Development to drive their businesses to success. Yet, we are still a far cry from what is necessary to ensure that the relevant framework and business environment exist to handle IP-related issues,” she stated.