MSMEs need to tap into benefits of IP in the digital age

Protecting intellectual property (IP) is a must for the success of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the age of the digital economy and amid the dominance of e-commerce, according to an international IP expert.

Peter Willimot, officer-in-charge of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), underlined the importance for MSMEs to understand what IP is and why it is crucial to their business and success.

“Ideas are the cornerstone of business,” said Willimot in a recent presentation at the MSME Week 2022 event, adding that good ideas must be protected through IP to ensure the company benefits from its original inventions, designs or brands financially.

Willimot said MSMEs need to make an effort to understand IP not just to protect their intangible assets, but also to avoid getting into trouble and infringing on others’ rights, and to deter counterfeiters.

IP is also important as a means to create new revenue streams through licensing and to add credibility to the business operations, as Willimot noted that “every satisfied customer adds value to your brand.” Meanwhile those who are thinking of selling their company will find that a registered IP can add value to their business.

Willimot stressed that every MSME owns intellectual property, which is a legal right to intangible things such as inventions, logos, brand names, designs, literary and art works, photographs and the like. Just like physical property such as cars and houses, IP can also be bought, sold or licensed.

For most companies, including MSMEs, intangible assets are more valuable than tangible ones, Willimot pointed out. But he clarified that IP is not like insurance but more of “an investment in you, your idea, and your business.”

This also means there will be costs involved in investing in IP, but this will help protect the asset, just like one’s physical investments are protected by insurance.

Further, Willimot said an IP strategy is essential especially for MSMEs that operate on e-commerce platforms to protect themselves from copycats overseas. These platforms often have mechanisms for reporting the infringement of IP rights, which usually requires an IP registration or trademark to prove the existence and ownership of claimed rights. Moreover, the use of ® and ™ symbols have the added benefit of deterring would-be copiers.

The expert said that to start off, MSMEs should do their research on IP then take steps to register their logo as trademark, protect their inventions with a patent, and secure their original designs with an industrial design registration.

He also advises tapping an IP professional to help navigate the intricacies of IP protection and avoid costly errors, and to talk to the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL)—the government agency that strengthens and protects IP rights in the country—to check out all its programs for MSMEs including available fee reduction plans.

The WIPO is a United Nations specialized agency created to promote and protect IP across the world by cooperating with countries as well as international organizations. Among its key roles are to provide global services to protect IP across borders and to resolve disputes.

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