How Intellectual Property Rights protect business owners and boost investor confidence

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A conversation with CarIPI and EUIPO representatives on regional Intellectual Property rights

The Trade & Industry Unit sat down with CARIFORUM Innovation and Intellectual Property Rights project (CarIPI) and European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) representatives to discuss the important work that the organization is doing to promote awareness and enforcement of intellectual property rights throughout the region.

Discussion Participants

Participating in the discussion for the Trade and Industry Unit were Director of Trade and Industry, Brickell Pinder and Trade and Industry officers, Samuel Campbell and Farrah Styles. Representing CarIPI was CarIPI IPR Expert and Activity Coordinator, Dr. Wendy Hollingsworth, who was joined by European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) IP Cooperation Specialist, Alexandra Mayr, and Communications Expert, Ana Lopez.

CarIPI IPR Expert and Activity Coordinator, Dr. Wendy Hollingsworth, describes CarIPI’s work as the strengthening of IP protection and enforcement for the entire region with the objectives of creating an enabling environment and ensuring that private sector stakeholders have a strong understanding of what IP is and what systems exist at the national, regional, and international levels to facilitate business.

“We want to create stronger IP offices,” says Dr. Hollingsworth. “You can have local creators and innovators developing new products and services, but if your IP system isn’t up to scratch, then IP protection may be limited. The availability of effective IP rights enforcement mechanisms contributes to the development of a sustainable, innovative private sector, which enhances creative products, facilitates ease of doing business, and enhances the competitiveness of regional businesses.”

CarIPI currently works closely with EPA coordinators, IP offices in the region, judiciary systems, police forces, customs departments, and other government agencies, as well as private sector stakeholders and international agencies like WIPO, FAO, and CEDA to create synergies and work towards achieving shared IP-related objectives.

“What we are seeing in the region is that many larger businesses may be able to hire an attorney and navigate the IP-related processes pretty well, but many SMEs and micro businesses are unaware of the ways they can protect their intangible business assets.”

Shortly after its launch, CarIPI was forced to shift most of its activities to digital venues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this has not prevented the CarIPI team from doing its work to engage stakeholders across the region. Throughout 2020 and 2021, CarIPI has hosted a number of capacity building and training exercises with public sector agencies and IP offices, as well as private sector events held in collaboration with regional partners to make local businesses aware of the ways they can benefit from IP protections.

“What we are seeing in the region is that many larger businesses may be able to hire an attorney and navigate the IP-related processes pretty well, but many SMEs and micro businesses are unaware of the ways they can protect their intangible business assets.”

Chiming in on this trend was EUIPO IP Cooperation Specialist, Alexandra Mayr, who highlighted CarIPI’s key areas of focus as being on trademarks, designs, geographical indications, and new plant variety rights – all areas of IP that are more accessible to private and public sectors in the region, compared to patents which require perhaps more research and development and investment in the early stage. But patents are nevertheless addressed by the project in activities related to IP enforcement or technology transfer, she says.

“It is important to prioritize the protection of intellectual property, such as the names they use to identify and distinguish their goods and service from those of others (trademarks in other words), so that their creative and innovative concepts are not easily copied by international competitors..”

“We want to not only share knowledge on how to improve practices, procedures, and IT tools, we also want to streamline processes and procedures and close the gap in requirements between regional jurisdictions to make it easier for businesses filing in multiple countries.”

Alexandra went on to outline why local businesses should be excited about the prospect of an improved IP framework.

“Throughout the pandemic, people are using online platforms more than ever. This gives them access to clients from around the world. As they are marketing and selling to these customers, it is important to prioritize the protection of intellectual property, such as the names they use to identify and distinguish their goods and service from those of others (trade marks in other words), so that their creative and innovative concepts are not easily copied by international competitors. This is something we have seen even from small vendors selling their products on some online marketplace, only to find out that a larger, better resourced international company has copied their product and is cutting into their market. Stronger IP protections and enforcement prevents these kinds of situations from occurring.”

Other benefits highlighted include fast registrations in other countries and treaties that can facilitate IP protection in export markets. The CarIPI team stressed the need for local businesses to learn as much as they can about how to protect their business’ intangible assets within domestic and international markets with the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and IP protections to ensure that the fruits of their labour are not replicated by opportunistic businesses.

Regarding the Bahamian government’s intentions to upgrade its IP framework in alignment with the recommendations of the Economic Recovery Committee, Alexandra was very complimentary and encouraged the government in its efforts, while offering the EUIPO and CarIPI’s support.

“EUIPO was selected as the most innovative IP office by the World Trade Mark Review three years in a row (2017-2019) and we are aiming to share the experience and systems we have with other IP offices. That is one of the strengths we can bring to the CarIPI project. Specifically, there are a number of databases, including the TMview database (the world’s largest free-of-charge trademark search engine) showing trade marks registered and applied for in 75 participating IP Offices worldwide. This database, available free of charge 24/7 is of great help for SMEs looking to build their brands globally. “

The Bahamas was also encouraged to continue to explore potential treaties like the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) with the eventual goal being the streamlining and harmonization of IP rights, systems, processes, and payments for all member countries so that a single portal could be used for businesses to gain international protection of their intellectual property. The team mentioned that other treaties could also be considered like the Madrid System for the international registration of trademarks and the Hague System for Industrial designs that can help Bahamian entrepreneurs to extend IP protection internationally and become a part of an ecosystem of over 100 countries benefitting from these cooperative efforts.”

EU data indicates that IPR-intensive industries account for 38.9% of all jobs, 45% of GDP, and are associated with significantly higher wages. Companies that own IPRs have 20% higher revenue per employee for all businesses and 68% more revenue per employee for small businesses. In Latin America and the Caribbean, 18% of all jobs are created by IPR related industries and they pay their employees up to 57% more. These numbers paint a very clear picture regarding the potential of an improved IP framework in The Bahamas.

“We want regional entrepreneurs to know: your products have uniqueness and value that is recognized nationally and internationally. It is important to wrap it in the protection of some form of intellectual property, whether through a trademark or GI, and be able to develop a strong system of protection as you trade that commodity as a group.”

CarIPI is currently in the process of reaching out to regional entrepreneurs, especially young entrepreneurs, to educate them about the importance of IP protection and the opportunities that may open up to them. An upcoming initiative that will be launched soon is the One-on-One Mentorship program where selected producer groups will be given advice from IP experts. This is a powerful programme that Dr. Hollingsworth believes will be helpful to local entrepreneurs.

“We hope that through the mentorship program, we can better explain these concepts in a one-on-one setting. We want regional entrepreneurs to know: your products have uniqueness and value that is recognized nationally and internationally. It is important to wrap it in the protection of some form of intellectual property, whether through a trademark or GI, and be able to develop a strong system of protection as you trade that commodity as a group.”

The Mentorship programme is expected to be launched in June of this year.

About CarIPI

https://internationalipcooperation.eu/en/caripi

Funded under the EU’s 11th European Development Fund, CARIPI was launched in November of 2019 to aid CARIFORUM states in strengthening their respective intellectual property (IP) frameworks to stimulate innovation and competitiveness in the private sector and to further the implementation of their Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) commitments. This includes upgrades to the systems for IP creation, protection, administration, and enforcement.

About EUIPO

https://euipo.europa.eu

EUIPO is the EU’s agency responsible for granting trade mark and design rights valid thorugout its 27 member states. The EUIPO is also active in IPR enforcement, conducting studies, and at the international sphere maintains fluent relations with other IP offices.
worldwide. The Office cooperates with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and
participates in TM5 and ID5, which groups the Japanese, Chinese, US and Korean national IP offices.
Also, EUIPO has a number of cooperation agreements with other countries such as Russia, Mexico,
Canada and Brazil.


1 https://www.worldtrademarkreview.com/enforcement-and-litigation/singapore-ranked-worlds-most-innovative-ip-office-in-exclusive-research

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