Advisory Column: Get up, stand up for your intellectual property rights
When Bob Marley and the Wailers laid down the opening track on Burnin' in a Kingston recording studio some four decades ago, they likely had
little idea how far their simple, straightforward tune would resonate, becoming an enduring international anthem for human rights
- World Intellectual
On April 26, Jamaica will join the world
in celebrating World Intellectual Property Day, or WIP Day.
It will be a special occasion for us as the global theme for 2015 is 'Get Up, Stand Up For Music', which was inspired by the Bob Marley and the Wailers hit song that implored people to enforce their rights.
While much attention is being given to music this year, the purpose of WIP Day is to encourage awareness and discussion of how intellectual property affects innovation and creativity in all facets of life.
Here's why entrepreneurs should care about intellectual property (IP).
For the vast majority of persons wanting to start businesses, especially young people, their ideas, talents and raw ambition are the only assets they have. They don't own land, equipment or machinery. They have very little money in the bank, if any.
Their business ideas, inventions, designs, and creative works are what many rely on to build successful businesses, create employment, improve their quality of life and hopefully amass wealth. With IP, many of these intangible assets can be recognised, valued and protected.
In the absence of such protection innovative entrepreneurs and others would stand to lose their only assets, and the prospects of dynamic enterprise and self-actualisation will be severely diminished.
Jamaica's economic fortunes also rest heavily on our ability to harness our human capital, natural creativity and resourcefulness to enable the creation of innovative products, services and high growth potential companies that can compete globally.
Now let's deal with how to stand up for intellectual property rights.
First, become educated and informed about intellectual property. There is vast amount of information about IP readily available online. This is the advice from Joan Webley, an entrepreneur and attorney-at-law who founded Nanook, a social enterprise to help Jamaicans profit from their culture and creativity.
The World Intellectual Property (WIPO) website - www.wipo.int - and Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) website - www.jipo.gov.jm - have a wealth of information on IP registration and protection.
Second, protect before you pitch or launch. Lilyclaire Bellamy, acting executive director/legal counsel at JIPO, strongly recommends that entrepreneurs seek guidance from JIPO before they pitch their ideas to angel investors, venture capitalists or banks, and where possible register their IP.
"People who are honest often never take the appropriate steps to protect their IP because they don't believe someone would really steal it. Unfortunately, they are the ones who end up without the evidence they need to take action. Whether it be a trademark, design, invention or copyright, come talk to us and we will guide you," says Bellamy.
Third, create an intellectual property registry in your company. Just as companies maintain a register of physical assets, it is important for businesses to have a schedule of the intellectual property it owns. It is also helpful to establish internal policies and procedures surrounding intellectual property.
Fourth, use non-disclosure and non-compete agreements. Trade secrets can be hard to protect because they can't be registered as IP. However, Bellamy noted that many recipes and formulations for juices, sauces, and condiments, etc, are trade secrets. Webley suggests that businesses separate processes or formulations where possible so that no single person knows the entire process.
"Many manufacturers now do this by keeping their suppliers a secret, and asking them to package raw materials in non-descript packaging so that no one knows which company it's coming from," says the JIPO director.
Both Bellamy and Webley strongly recommended the use of non-compete agreements and non-disclosure agreements to prevent employees, contractees, and others who may be privy to your trade secrets from disclosing or exploiting them. Unfortunately, JIPO does not provide templates for these legal documents, nor do they recommend that entrepreneurs use online forms.
"As a responsible attorney, I could never advise that online templates and forms be used. IP is valuable and it is best to seek the assistance of an attorney who specialises in intellectual property law," says Bellamy.
Fifth, respect the intellectual property rights of others. I know what it is to have trusted parties steal your intellectual property and use it to compete fiercely with you. It's an injustice that frustrates, demotivates and disenfranchises trying entrepreneurs. It's not enough for entrepreneurs to seek protection for their IP, they need to go further to help safeguard and stand up for the rights of others and develop a culture and environment where intellectual property is valued and respected.
And finally, enforce your rights. The fact is IP protection won't prevent persons from trying to steal and profit from what you created.
However, it does serve as a disincentive to such theft and provides a legal leg to stand on if your rights have been breached. According to Bellamy, Jamaica has several laws to protect intellectual property, including the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office Act, The Copyright Act and The Trade Marks Act.
Tomorrow, April 20, JIPO will launch Intellectual Property Week. I encourage entrepreneurs to contact JIPO to learn more about how they can safeguard and stand up for their intellectual property rights.
n Yaneek Page is an entrepreneur and trainer in entrepreneurship and